With the annual Tech-Ed conference being held this week, there's obviously a lot of speculation about how well Microsoft is doing pushing its Hyper-V virtualization platform as an alternative to virtual machine market leader VMware.
At the event, Microsoft previewed upcoming service packs for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7. Those two service packs should go a long way toward increasing the appeal of those platforms, and Hyper-V along with them, as customers gain confidence in both of Microsoft's latest client and server platforms.
But as we watch Microsoft and VMware evolve, it's clear the two companies are taking divergent paths to undermine one another. Microsoft's focus is squarely on delivering a free virtual machine that is widely seen as an extension to the operating system. In fact, Microsoft is relying more and more on a cadre of third-party vendors, such as Virsto for storage management and VM6 Software for high availability and advanced management tools.
In contrast, VMware appears to be focused on delivering those capabilities and other systems services as a layer of comprehensive software, most commonly known as VMware vSphere 4, that essentially replicates most traditional system services above the virtual machine layer. As a result, VMware's inclination to build a third-party ecosystem around its offerings appears to be in decline as more functions get rolled up into the VMware platform.
Which approach will ultimately prevail is still very much in doubt. But it's also conceivable that both approaches are fundamentally flawed. What most IT organizations are going to be looking for long term is the ability to deploy system services across heterogenous virtual machine platforms that will not only include Microsoft and VMware, but also Citrix, Red Hat, Oracle and any number of other virtual machines.
Nobody appears to be directly stepping up to this opportunuity at the moment, but it seems that as we move toward the next generation of virtualization in the cloud, both Microsoft and VMware might soon find themselves trying to explain their relevancy, especially in the wake of some new distributed approach to managing IT services that isn't particularly anchored around a single platform, but rather the idea that system services are ultimately going to be delivered independently of any underlying platform.