Solution providers say there's little chance that Microsoft's imminent release of its Hyper-V server virtualization technology will pose a challenge to VMware and other server virtualization vendors for the next couple years.
However, they said customer acceptance of the new Microsoft technology combined with how the vendor advances technology has the potential to impact VMware et al over time.
Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., on Thursday said it is releasing its Hyper-V server virtualization technology to manufacturing, the last step before it becomes available to the public.
Hyper-V will compete with market-leading ESX from VMware, Palo Alto, Calif., as well a host of products from multiple vendors large and small, including Citrix Systems, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Sun Microsystems, Santa Clara, Calif.; Virtual Iron Software, Lowell, Mass.; and even Oracle, Redwood Shores, Calif. and Symantec, Cupertino, Calif.
For some solution providers, one way to look at the potential impact of Hyper-V on the market is to examine Microsoft's own history.
Bob Murphy, northeast divisional president of Presidio Networked Solutions, a Green Belt, Md.-based solution provider, said he expects a noticeable impact from Hyper-V, but it will be a long process.
The first impact will be in the small business sector, similar to how other Microsoft products have made their marks, Murphy said.
"Look at Terminal Services," he said. "Everybody thought it would crush Citrix when it was introduced. But it didn't. Microsoft never developed all the functionality that Citrix had. But who did use it? A lot of smaller businesses."
Murphy said he expects to see the same adoption rate with Hyper-V. "A lot of small businesses will say, 'oh wow, I didn't know we could do that,'" he said.
Ron Kramer, vice president and COO of All Computer Solutions, a Portland, Mne.-based solution provider that uses the free VMware Server product to virtualize servers for his smaller business customers, said the main impediment to the adoption of Hyper-V could be cost even though Hyper-V technology will be included as part of Windows Server 2008.
"Why has Microsoft Vista stalled?" Kramer said. "It can't run effectively on older machines. It's the same with Windows Server 2008. You need new hardware. I need a compelling reason, a business reason, to switch."
Kramer said that his typical configuration for smaller business customers is a ProLiant ML350 server from Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, Calif., configured with six 80-Gbyte hard drives in three RAID 1 pairs, with the 64-bit Windows XP as the host operating system. It is backed up with the desktop version of the Symantec LiveState System Recovery software. Microsoft Small Business Server is running on one pair of hard drives, and the others run multiple virtual servers with VMware Server software.
For his customers to change to Hyper-V, they would have to purchase Windows Server 2008, change to the server version of LiveState which costs about $1,100 to $1,200 compared to $80 to $90 for the desktop version, and replace the free VMware Server, Kramer said.
"Just look at what's happening to Vista," he said. "I can't convince customers to spend the money to just upgrade their desktop operating systems."
The fact that Hyper-V is a brand-new product, one that lacks many of the functions of Hyper-V, could dilute near-term impacts to VMware and other established server virtualization technologies.
When Microsoft comes out with Hyper-V, it will initially be a good choice for server consolidation, like the other technologies, said Presidio's Murphy. "But when we sell VMware, we don't target multiple machine consolidation," he said. "It does consolidation. But people want solutions like disaster recovery. That's a top solution for customers."
Until Hyper-V, like any new technology, becomes available, it is hard to tell what its impact might be, said Francis Poeta, president and chief technical architect of P & M Computers, a Cliffside Park, NJ-based solution provider.
Poeta said he doesn't expect Hyper-V to cut into the market of the other server virtualization vendors as much as it will increase the overall market for server virtualization.
"You have a huge amount of people out there reluctant to try virtualization," he said. "This is just another vendor saying, this is a real thing, there are huge advantages to doing this. But you will have people who have invested years in Microsoft technology who will say, well, this is not just another Linux thing."
Customers who currently use technologies like VMware or XenServer will not move to Hyper-V, Poeta said. "They are already using a lot of tools that Hyper-V won't have at first, so they're not going to drop what they have," he said. "But with server virtualization only being used in, what, 7 percent or 8 percent of the potential market, Hyper-V will have no big impact on other technologies."
Furthermore, Poeta said, Microsoft is the last player in the game. "Microsoft has its constituencies, and Microsoft can say, here's our hypervisor," he said. "But Microsoft has had other virtualization products including [the free] Virtual Server. Few people adopted it."
In the end, however, Poeta said that Hyper-V will build the market. "It makes the market more robust, and makes more things virtualized," he said. "It's good for all of us. Microsoft will take their piece of the pie. But it will build a bigger pie in the long term."
Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider which works in Microsoft and Solaris environments, said that VMware is a great product for heterogeneous environments, but that there are a lot of Windows-only infrastructures that can benefit from Hyper-V.
"In the end, it comes down to price," Teter said. "If customers don't need the high-end management tools of VMware, Hyper-V will be good enough for many of them. Not everyone needs all those elegant management tools."
For other solution providers, the potential impact of Hyper-V could be huge under the right conditions.
Hyper-V will be a great technology for customers looking to integrate Microsoft Exchange and other products, said Zeki Yasar, CTO of Intellistore, a Mountain View, Calif.-based solution provider.
"So Microsoft becomes the one-stop shop," he said. "It will be neat to have the various servers for security, communications, and redundancy running on software from a single operating system company. It's attractive to companies used to working with Microsoft for total support."
While Hyper-V will be a hit with Microsoft-focused customers, how it will impact VMware is hard to tell at this point, Yasar said.
"A lot of companies have come to market touting lower prices than VMware, but VMware is still growing," he said. "Time will tell. But VMware is pretty well established. There's still a lot of share for VMware to take."
Hope Hayes, president of Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider, said all Microsoft has to do is say, "Here we are."
"A lot of customers are running all Microsoft products," Hayes said. "So their admins are probably Exchange or SQL gurus, and they can say, we might as well do Hyper-V."
While VMware has the lion's share of the server virtualization market, that is no guarantee that it can remain at the top forever, Hayes said.
She cited the example of Data Domain, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based pioneer of the data deduplication market.
"Data Domain was the first with dedupe," she said. "They built the market. Now the technology is a part of storage offerings from everybody. Server virtualization is the same. Years from now, it will be built in. I hate to see it happen. I love the competition. It's good for innovation."