Well, it's usually entertaining to watch two companies compete. Duking it out and all that. The customers (a group which I often find myself a part of) usually win no matter which company wins anyway so I enjoy it. Ahhh, economics.
Today's headlines hi-light a battle between virtualization giant VMware and bigger software giant Microsoft. VMware has dominated the niche market of virtualization and even grown it beyond a niche by convincing the world that it would solve all your problems and save your company millions. While such situations do exist, most small companies impliment virtualization only to wonder later if it really was worth the time and is really saving them any money (alas, in some cases it can really hurt a company if implimented for the wrong reasons).
Getting beyond the back story though, we have the battle. Titan #1 being the incumbant VMware with it's array of specialized products. Titan #2 being the circumspect Microsoft, wanting a piece of this market that has been historically very profitable for VMware. A few years ago Microsoft started offering it's own virtualization technologies with Microsoft VirtualPC and VirtualServer. VirtualPC was as still is kinda handy for developers to have test environments...but VMware has stayed ahead of the curve in offerings for that niche and really is a separate discussion from what we have on the table for today. Microsoft virtualserver was just plain bad. It was hard to administer and performance was shall we say "less then desirable". Adoption was very limited and VMware continued to dominate.
Then along came Windows Server 2008 with "Hyper-V", the replacement for Microsoft VirtualServer. The initial looks were wary but there was some things about it that had people starting to talk. I'm sure VMware started watching closely at that point. They responded by offering their most basic server software for free. Then a couple weeks ago, Microsoft finally released the Hyper-V module for Server 2008 to production. The final product was impressive. Not only is compatability with microsoft operating systems more tight, but also many of the more high end features are now available and performance is impressive to say the least. And to top it off, it's a free download for Windows 2008 server. Which brings us to today, and this latest announcement from VMWare that they will now offer their ESXi server software for FREE!
I'm sure there will be many that get very excited about ESXi being free. Certainly for anyone who was already planning to buy the specific hardware that can run ESXi server. But for my company at least, it is just an interesting news article. First of all, too little too late. They should have done this a few weeks ago...BEFORE Microsoft released Hyper-V. We made our decision to commit to Hyper-V then given the economics of the situation at that time. Secondly, it is still a decision to be considered carefully for some: does one commit to buying very specific hardware (such as the Dell lines that support ESXi server), or does one allow for more hardware flexibility and go with Hyper-V??? One could really muddy the waters and throw in VirtualIron as an option...but they are not well known and have the same drawback of limited hardware support that ESXi server suffers. Anyway, not to digress I will move on.
If VMware really wants to stick it to Microsoft, they are going to have to do something even more drastic...like making the full blown ESX server free and just charging for the add-on features and support.
I will continue to watch with interest, even though my personal path will be moving away from VMware. We have already committed to Hyper-V and there is little reason for us to turn back now. I would like to see healthy competition though. There is room enough in the market for both companies to offer good products and make money. But VMware is going to have to be satisfied with a smaller share and Microsoft is going to have to keep on top of it's technology for balance to be sustainable.