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Could Microsoft Hyper-V usage boost VMware vSphere adoption?

Steve Kaplan, Contributor
Synopsis: Smaller organisations reluctant to deploy virtualisation are being enticed by the prevalence of Windows Server 2008 to experiment with Hyper-V. While many will remain with the Microsoft hypervisor, others will inevitably switch to vSphere as their virtualisation initiatives move toward IT as a service, or building an internal cloud.

Organisations with existing partial virtualisation deployments may face increasing pressure to evaluate converting to Hyper-V rather than renew their ESX subscription and support contracts. The evaluation process, though, helps substantiate the significant benefits of a data centre virtualised with IT as a service in mind, making it more likely that these companies not only stay the VMware course, but upgrade and expand their vSphere environments.


Microsoft and VMware have very different perspectives when it comes to virtualisation. Microsoft has a vested interest in maintaining the data centre status quo, and advises customers, "

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Rather than undertaking a costly revolution, you should evolve your environment in a way that preserves and extends existing investments…" Virtualisation doesn't even register on Microsoft's home page, which instead emphasises consumer products.

VMware, on the other hand, stands to benefit most when IT organisations fully embrace the myriad benefits that a virtualised data centre enables, and its website focuses on educating organisations about the technology. It's latest UK website, Get IT off the Board Agenda, encourages organisations to not only use virtualisation to transform the data centre into a private cloud, but to transform IT itself along with the role of the CIO.

While Hyper-V's ubiquity in Windows Server environments certainly is leading to increased market share, it doesn't appear to be slowing VMware's sales which are expected to climb around 20% to $2.5 billion for 2010. And surprisingly, I'm coming across situations where Hyper-V is leading to increased vSphere business.

Accelerating the virutalisation journey
Smaller organisations in particular are experimenting with virtualisation utilising the Hyper-V hypervisor bundled with Windows Server 2008. Many will likely have experiences similar to that of Denton County, Texas, which I wrote about last year.

As a Microsoft shop, the county initially virtualised 24 servers using Hyper-V. But once IT management realised they wanted the "whole virtualisation enchilada," they found vSphere a more compelling architecture and switched virtualisation platforms.

As of late last year, Gartner said that only 16% of workloads are running in virtual machines, the vast majority on VMware. IT organisations can easily become stuck in a virtualisation deployment as a point solution, expanding it slowly as new use cases arise. While certainly better than remaining completely physical, this tactical approach results in lost opportunities not only for a much faster reduction in data centre costs, but also in a lack of context for optimally choosing virtualised data centre components such as virtualisation software, compute, network and storage. It can also increase overall complexity by necessitating management of both physical and virtual infrastructures.

The majority of CIOs are probably at least thinking about virtualisation as a possible enterprise solution. Hyper-V is forcing the issue by prompting a reevaluation of their initial investments in ESX to determine whether or not a hypervisor switch is warranted. The resulting outcry from systems teams unhappy about relinquishing their VMware product helps flag the CIO's attention. The CIO then elevates the hypervisor comparison to a strategic evaluation of a virtualised data centre complete with defining objectives and careful financial analysis of the big picture costs and on-going savings.

These evaluations inevitably show the merit of adopting not only a virtualised data centre, but embracing it as a foundation for the private cloud efficiencies of providing IT as a service. This strategic virtualisation approach plays into VMware's camp; it has focused on building vSphere and associated products to incorporate the performance, reliability and capabilities required for a data centre platform. VMware's top-of-the-line product, vSphere Enterprise Plus, has advanced to the point that it can enable these attributes on a level that is superior to that of the physical data centre model.

On the financial side, a comprehensive return on investment (ROI) analysis quickly reveals vSphere as the more cost-effective solution for a virtualised data centre. As a result, organisations are abandoning their partial deployments of ESX and are instead embracing vSphere as an enterprise-wide transformative platform.

Disclaimer: This article expresses the views of the author and is not endorsed by INX nor the vendors mentioned.

Steve Kaplan is the vice president of the Data Centre Virtualisation Practice at INX. Kaplan can be reached at steve.kaplan@inxi.com. You can also follow Steve on Twitter.