2009 Channel Contenders: Server Virtualization

When you think virtualization, you likely think of VMware. But there are plenty of other sever virtualization options available to solution providers, according to the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey. The research sought to identify the top vendors that solution providers choose as alternatives to market leaders. Here's a closer look at the challengers.


Microsoft comes in strong as a Channel Contender for server virtualization because of the inclusion of its Hyper-V hypervisor as a component of its Windows operating system, which is included on most servers. Microsoft has made a lot of strides with its server virtualization technology, especially in the addition of management capabilities. But it, like all the contenders, has to contend with the fact that VMware still has more than 80 percent share of the market.


Citrix is also strong as a server virtualization contender thanks to its legacy thin-client channel base and to its acquisition a couple of years ago of the top alternative to VMware's technology, the Xen hypervisor open-source project. Just as important is Citrix's close relationship with Microsoft. Much of its server virtualization technology works either as stand-alone products, or as add-ons to Microsoft's Hyper-V, offering channel partners a choice of how to work with Citrix.


Oracle is a server virtualization Channel Contender due to its strength as a middleware vendor, but it's also at a crossroads. Oracle acquired Virtual Iron, and is in the process of acquiring Sun, both of which are also Channel Contenders. The company seems to be building its Oracle VM hypervisor to integrate with its middleware, which could either make it a server virtualization leader or hurt it with a lukewarm support for market leader VMware.

Sun Microsystems

Sun has both hardware server virtualization in its high-end servers and software virtualization with its Xen-based xVM. However, it is also awaiting a pending acquisition by Oracle, and the fall of its high-end server sales could hurt its hardware-based virtualization efforts going forward.


HP's position as a virtualization Channel Contender comes from two areas. The first is its strength as one of the top vendors of servers, as its higher-end models include hardware-based virtualization. HP is also one of the top resellers of VMware to its indirect sales channel, making it a popular source of that market-leading product for its solution providers.

Virtual Iron

Before its acquisition this spring by Oracle, Virtual Iron had been gaining traction in the channel as an alternative to VMware due in part to its virtualization management technology, one of the strongest of all the Channel Contenders. It is also the primary reason for Oracle's interest in the company.


IBM's placement as a server virtualization contender is because it has pretty much the same attributes as HP. As a top server vendor, its high-end servers provides a strong hardware-based server virtualization offering. This is especially true with its mainframe servers. And, like HP, IBM is also one of the primary go-to-channel outlets for VMware's software-based virtualization technology.

Parallels (SWsoft /Virtuozzo)

Parallels is a server virtualization Channel Contender in large part thanks to its combination a couple years ago of SWsoft and Virtuozzo. A big part of its strength as a Channel Contender comes from a focus on virtualization in the Macintosh market with products that allow Windows applications to run natively on Mac desktops and workstations. It also offers hypervisor-based and container-based virtualization, giving it one of the widest ranges of technologies in the channel.