Microsoft Takes Aim At VMware In Virtualization Throw-Down

Microsoft is throwing down the gauntlet against virtualization powerhouse VMware.

Cindy Bates, vice president of U.S. SMB and Distribution for Microsoft, kicked off the XChange Solution Provider conference Sunday night by proclaiming that the software giant offers better end-to-end virtualization systems management at a consistent 33 percent savings over rival VMware.

With Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Microsoft is "the strongest choice in the industry for virtualization," said Bates. "Not only are you leveraging a platform you know, integrated for your customers from the server room to the desktop, the total cost of ownership is dramatically different." She said Microsoft can "very confidently say that we are consistently one-third (less than VMware) or cheaper."

That does not even take into account that many customers already have Microsoft Software Assurance pacts which means they already own the licenses to deploy Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization offering, said Bates. That opens the door for Microsoft partners to "close the deal quicker and free up dollars to put to your services," said Bates.

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The Microsoft throw-down comes with the software giant in the midst of a major recruiting campaign to double the number of partners that have Microsoft's virtualization competency from 200 to 400 over the next three months. The $62.4 billion software giant is also using its financial muscle to get more partners to challenge VMware, which weighs in at about $2.9 billion.

Bates offered partners an XChange Xcel pack to incent them to attain the Microsoft virtualization competency with e-learning and test vouchers worth as much as $2,000 for solution providers that complete Microsoft virtualization competency testing in April and $1,000 in offers for those that complete it by June.

If that isn't enough, Microsoft plans to roll out substantial customer services subsidies starting in April to help drive Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization demand. Partners can take advantage of the special Microsoft offers by emailing: [email protected].

NEXT: Bates Says VMware Comes Up Short On Virtualization Management Functionality

Bates took direct aim at VMware's virtualization management functionality. She said information technology market researchers Gartner and Forrester both have singled out Microsoft for its end-to-end virtualization management superiority over VMware.

There simply is no other company besides Microsoft with its System Center Suite that can manage from a single pane of glass "physical, virtual, private and public cloud," said Bates. She called Microsoft's Systems Center Suite the "killer app" that bests VMware's scattered approach to virtualization management.

VMware recently legitimized Microsoft's virtualization prowess, said Bates, with a technical preview of an add-in that manages Microsoft's Hyper-V. "Actions sometimes speak louder than words validating Microsoft's importance in the virtualization space and our approach to management," she said.

Bates is referring to VMware's release of a technology preview for a plug-in called vCenter XVP Manager and Converter, which offers basic virtualization management for non-vSphere hypervisors. It also offers a unified management pane for heterogeneous virtual environments and speeds virtual machine migrations from other virtualization platforms.

Solution providers said they are ready to look more closely at Microsoft as a virtualization partner.

Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a Charlotte, N.C. solution provider, said he is ready to "seriously" consider Microsoft as a virtualization partner. "If they are talking about a real partnership to get this done, I am going to pay attention," he said. "VMware is the gorilla in this market. Microsoft is the comer. But there is no question that Microsoft Hyper-V is a very good product, and it's getting better."

Ben Maschan, director of consulting services for All Covered, the SMB managed service IT power that was acquired by Konica Minolta earlier this year, applauded Microsoft's customer subsidies strategy. "Customer subsidies kill it," he said. "Over the last two years, we have had eight major deals that weren't going to go and were approved because of customer services subsidization by Microsoft."