Microsoft’s Get Virtual launch

By admin, September 9, 2008 9:33 am

The message in Bellevue yesterday was clearly "VMware! We're coming for you!" at the Microsoft "Get Virtual" launch event, hosted by Microsoft executives Bob Kelly, Bob Muglia, and Kevin Turner. And from what I saw, after a few years of fumbled attempts and mixed messages out of Redmond, VMWare finally has something to be worried about. Senior executives at Microsoft have finally latched seriously onto the concept of virtualization, a concept they are broadly embracing from top to bottom in its various guises from cloud-based services to individual application virtualization, and they are deploying the vast powers at their command to sweep those markets as cleanly as they have the enterprise software market.

Turner, during his keynote, unveiled the company's new mission statement, "Create experiences that combine the magic of software with the power of Internet services across a world of devices." When he says "world of devices" he's not kidding; the graphic he provided while outlining Microsoft's strategy encompassed everything from your phone to your computer to your kitchen table, all backed by various Microsoft software and services solidly based around the concept of virtualization. In combination with new licensing changes and across the board product integration (notably with the System Center management console, which seamlessly manages both virtual and physical devices), it's clear that the company is intent on taking the broad base of Windows and using it to leverage customers to the company's "Software+Services" vision of utility computing.

It's relatively easy to talk a good game of course, but the reason VMWare should be scared is that Microsoft is beginning to execute well too. The demos I saw were frighteningly boring… boring because they represented day to day work on the part of the average user, only under virtualized application or machine conditions, and there was no significant difference. And it all ties together out of the box in ways that competitors have always cried foul over, but has rarely actually been achieved by the frequently bumbling Microsoft team.

Microsoft is taking a page out of their old playbook to take on VMWare; they're selling their products for less, making them easier to use, and making them easy to integrate with existing VMWare installations. You can use System Center to manage VMWare ESX installations as easily as Microsoft Hyper-V installations. This is exactly how they wormed their way into the network server market and eventually swept away Netware: reducing the barriers to change.

For most customers, of course, there is no change involved at all… they are already running Microsoft-based systems and have not heavily adopted virtualization as a business strategy. With extremely aggressive pricing, a management console offering that will also cover everything they've already bought, and services and performance which, as of the 2008 Server R2 release, will be comparable to those offered by VMWare, the obvious move is to go virtual with Microsoft; why bring in another vendor, at greater cost?

This is bad news if you are VMWare, of course, but I think it's a great thing for the market. With Microsoft putting some serious skin in the game, businesses will be more likely to adopt virtualization as a serious operational approach, and more comfortable taking advantage of the opportunities it can offer. The ensuing flexibility represents a significant sea change in the state of information technology today; and I believe it represents the future of the industry.

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