Microsoft vs. VMware: Rumble in the virtual world

Microsoft vs. VMware: Rumble in the virtual world

As Hyper-V marks Microsoft's entry into virtualization, market leader VMware must consider new strategies for survival against the software behemoth

In pursuit of VMotion

VMware's ace up its sleeve is a piece of "live migration" technology, called VMotion, which basically allows users to move a virtual machine on the fly from one physical server to another without interrupting running applications. Live migration is the apex feature for high-availability systems. By contrast, with Hyper-V, such a move requires suspending the virtual machine for a few seconds or minutes and disrupting applications, says Kennedy.

Neither Kennedy nor Wolf thinks live migration is a critical feature for small and midsized businesses, and so Hyper-V can gobble up market share on the low end. VMware's Gilmartin, though, counters that 60 percent of VMware's more than 100,000 customers use VMotion in production applications. "A lot of midmarket companies are looking for cost-effective business-continuity and high-availability solutions," he says.

Microsoft's Hyper-V lacks other features, too, particularly in areas of stability and support. For instance, there's a serious risk that a faulty device driver will crash a Hyper-V server, says Kennedy. Hyper-V also supports Microsoft operating systems and Suse Linux as guests, but not much else. VMware's ESX Server, on the other hand, supports dozens of Linux distributions and Unix variants.

Patrick O'Rourke, a Microsoft group product manager, responded to these Hyper-V criticisms. He told InfoWorld that Microsoft will have live migration in the next version of Hyper-V. And discussions are already under way about how to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.

A head start in technology likely won't save VMware from the Microsoft offensive, says Kennedy. "VMware has pushed their technology pretty far," he says, "but I don't see on the horizon the silver-bullet technology that VMware can achieve to put them light years ahead of Microsoft again."

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