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Network World - VMware has enjoyed a long run as king of x86 server virtualization, and the pioneering vendor remains the one to beat when tallying enterprise market share. But its competitors, particularly Microsoft and Citrix Systems, are gaining ground as IT executives begin to view server virtualization not only as a means to cut costs in the data center but also as a baseline technology for enabling cloud computing.
VMware introduced its first x86 server virtualization products in 2001. It wasn't until a few years later that the first commercial versions of the open source Xen virtualization hypervisor hit the market, and Microsoft's release of Hyper-V followed in 2008.
With its generous head start, VMware started winning customers, particularly among large enterprises looking to save money and gain efficiencies by consolidating data center assets. As interest in the technology rose, so did VMware's marketshare. In early 2008, researchers estimated that at least 50% and as many as 80% of enterprise customers were using its hypervisor.
Despite the high numbers, the race to virtualization is by no means over. Virtualization deployments have been expanding over the past several years, but plenty of workloads remain to be virtualized. At the end of 2009, only 18% of enterprise data center workloads that could be virtualized had been virtualized, according to Gartner. The number is expected to grow to more than 50% by the close of 2012.
Vendors including Microsoft, Citrix (which acquired XenSource in 2007), Oracle (which acquired Virtual Iron in 2009), Parallels, Novell and others are gunning for new virtualized workloads, and they're using management capabilities,
automation technologies and vendor partnerships to sweeten and differentiate their offerings.
These tactics are timely. As today's IT buyers mull virtualization technologies, they're considering a lot more than just the hypervisor used to create virtual machines. IT teams need tools to manage virtual server technologies from x86 environments back to the mainframe, across multi-platform hypervisors and consistently alongside physical machines. They also need security and monitoring tools, and capabilities such as live migration to maintain business continuity.
Enterprises have learned they need to carefully track the configuration of virtual machines to ensure compliance with business policies and prevent virtual server sprawl – particularly as they get their IT infrastructures ready for cloud computing.
Virtualization is a critical step in the journey to the private cloud, according to Matt Eastwood, group vice president of enterprise platforms at IDC. "Customers are quickly moving beyond the core hypervisor and focusing on mobility, self-provisioning, and metering and chargeback capabilities," Eastwood said in a statement. “As a result, IDC believes that automation tools increasingly represent the battleground in determining the winners and losers in a marketplace which is rapidly reshaping itself."