Microsoft, VMware Trade Words Over Novell SUSE Support

VMware and Microsoft, two rival virtualization technology providers with little love between them, are now publicly feuding over what VMware's decision to offer an OEM version of Novell's SUSE Linux means.

The latest spat between the two stems from a June 9 announcement that VMware will distribute and support Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system with its vSphere technology, and will standardize its virtual appliance-based product offerings on that operating system, known also as SLES.

At the time, Tim Stephan, senior director of product marketing at VMware, said the agreement makes it cheap and easy for customers of VMware's vSphere Standard and vSphere Enterprise Plus virtualization applications to acquire a Linux distribution.

"Customers can get SLES elsewhere," Stephan said. "But a lot of customers are moving to do more virtualization in the enterprise. This allows them to acquire virtualization technology and Linux from a single vendor, and get support from a single vendor."

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Stephan also said that, by standardizing VMware's virtual appliance such as vCenter AppSpeed and vCenter CapacityIQ on SLES, customers will get faster deployment and improved management of those applications in SLES environments which already have access to over 5,000 certified applications.

For Microsoft, which ties its Hyper-V virtualization technology to its Windows server operating system, the new relationship between VMware and Novel was a chance to reaffirm its Novell relationship, create possible discord between VMware and Red Hat, question VMware's commitment to remaining operating system-independent, and remind customers that Microsoft, and not VMware, has a public cloud offering.

Microsoft, in a June 9 blog posting authored by Patrick O’Rourke, director of communications for the company's server and tools business, accused VMware of further isolating itself in the industry with its Novell SLES agreement.

Microsoft is about to launch support for Novell and Red Hat Linux virtual machines with up to four virtual CPUs in Hyper-V environments, and offers a Server Virtualization Validation Program which provides technical support for servers running in Red Hat, VMware, Novell, Cisco, and other environments, O'Rourke wrote.

He also wrote that the agreement with Novell means that VMware has finally decided that virtualization is a server OS feature. "The vFolks now plan to ship a full version of a server OS with vSphere, and support it, to fulfill their application development and application deployment plans," O'Rourke wrote.

O'Rourke also accused VMware of locking customers into an inflexible offer by threatening to invalidate SLES licenses if they drop their support agreement for vSphere.

Finally, O'Rourke wrote, VMware has no public cloud offering like Windows Azure or Amazon EC2, and is instead "stitching together virtual appliances to fill the void."

Next: VMware Responds

VMware responded to Microsoft this week in a blog post by Alberto Farronato, a product marketing manager at VMware, who wrote that Microsoft is missing the point about the agreement.

To Microsoft's point that VMware has determined that virtualization is a server OS feature, Farronato wrote that his company is providing a cost-effective way to deploy SLES in VMware environments in a way that has nothing to do with the architecture of the hypervisor. "Come on Microsoft -- this is Virtualization 101 level stuff," he wrote.

As to Microsoft's accusation that VMware is isolating itself with a focus on Novell SLES, Farronato wrote that vSphere supports 65 guest operating systems vs. 17 for Hyper-V, and that vSphere supports six times the number of Linux operating systems Hyper-V. vSphere also supports more Microsoft operating systems than does Hyper-V R2, he wrote.

vSphere has supported four virtual CPUs for Windows and Linux guest operating systems since 2006, and added 8-way support in 2009, Farronato wrote. He also wrote that Microsoft's comment that vSphere customers will get locked into an inflexible offer with SLES is wrong because the SLES deal from VMware is about subscription to patches and updates and not about licenses.

Farronato also wrote that the fact that VMware has no public cloud offering is not an issue because VMware actually supports over 1,000 partners and infrastructure-as-a-service solutions to enable them to use VMware technology to offer cloud services.