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VMware CTO worried about competition? Nah

Hypervisor will become part of the hardware, Stephen Herrod says

By , Network World
March 06, 2008 02:24 PM ET

Network World - Stephen Herrod, the CTO of VMware, is responsible for the company's new technologies and technology collaborations with customers, partners and standards groups. He recently spoke with Network World's Jon Brodkin about VMware's market-leading server virtualization technology and the competitive landscape facing the company. For more information about the seven vendors that pose the biggest threat to VMware's market dominance, check out our feature story.  

How would you rate VMware's competition?

Products from would-be competitors aren't really there yet. It's hard to comment too much on them. The space is so big and growing so rapidly. There will be a lot of offerings in this space. But there's really not a lot of competition today.

Who poses the biggest challenge?

I'm super-confident in where we are. Obviously Microsoft is the giant company that has great reach and I expect they'll be in the market quite a bit when they get their product out.

Hardware upgrades developed by Intel and AMD have embedded support for virtualization at the chip level. This makes it easier to build virtualization software, and some observers think this gives newer software vendors a better chance to compete against VMware. Do you agree?

No. What they've done is make extensions to the CPU that make certain features easier. It makes it easier to build entry-level virtualization to basically get things going. To do industrial-strength virtualization you would run your critical applications on, there's a huge gap. We really like the hardware features. A lot of what it will do [for us] is give higher performance when you're running a lot of virtual machines on the same box.
You can run higher-end workloads.

How will VMware differentiate itself over the next two years?

As you talk to people there seems to be a buzz that the hypervisor is a commodity. I don't like the term commodity at all because it implies that they're all equal. While the price will go down for a single machine that's being virtualized, the differences in approach will be stark. In December we released a new architecture for virtualization that we called ESX 3i. It's a very thin hypervisor that's based on 10 years of work we've done and is embedded with hardware from server vendors [chiefly HP, Dell, IBM, Fujitsu and Siemen]. We've fundamentally believed that virtualization should be part of the hardware. That's a big difference between us and Microsoft, which seems to believe that virtualization is another part of the operating system. I personally fully expect within a few years all servers will come virtualization-enabled, ideally with VMware.

We also have things like VMotion, moving virtual machines from one server to another with zero downtime. Your people will never know the workload has moved from one machine to another. Let's say you have to replace a [storage-area network] or do scheduled maintenance. It used to be you'd go in at 2 a.m. and take down a box. With VMotion you would simply migrate the virtual machines.

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