A Response to InformationWeek’s “Why Hasn’t Hyper-V Achieved World Domination Yet?”

by Mark Campbell on July 31, 2012

Jake McTigue over at InformationWeek has an article entitled “Why Hasn’t Hyper-V Achieved World Domination Yet?”  I thought it was an interesting piece – and thought it was worth exploring its central thesis in this blog.

Jake opens his blog entry as follows:

Despite ongoing innovation by seated virtualization giant VMware, Microsoft continues to match core hypervisor features while competing strongly on price. No surprise, then, that Hyper-V is gaining market share. But I must confess that I’m a bit disappointed in Redmond’s performance, in light of its track record for mercilessly crushing the competition, even in established markets where it previously held no competency.

This seems fair enough.  While VMware is vastly superior to Hyper-V technically at this moment, Windows Server 2012’s implementation of Hyper-V  cuts the gap a great deal.  What’s amazing to me is that Microsoft has been growing Hyper-V virtualization penetration at such a high rate with a product so far behind VMware’s – and what I mean by that is the Windows Server 2008 R2 implementation of Hyper-V versus the VMware vSphere 5 implementation.  I think that Microsoft’s “merciless crushing” through marketing tactics is evident in that growth.

It seems to me that Microsoft is not effectively applying its tried-and-true formula for seizing dominance. And that’s a problem for IT, because the lack of a single industry-standard hypervisor platform is hurting the market from a standards and interoperability perspective.

Of course, this is Jake’s opinion – and he’s absolutely entitled to it.  My opinion is that the hypervisor market is plenty big enough for not only VMware and Microsoft but Citrix and others as well.

Skipping through a little bit of the post, we get to Jake’s central thesis concerning why Microsoft hasn’t done a better job against VMware – that they’ve been lax in executing their “formula” of market dominance.  This formula as per Jake consists of (1) producing a copycat product and pricing it aggressively, (2) building it into Windows as a “built-in” extension.  Jake notes success here.

I’d note the following.  First, I think the gap between prior versions of Hyper-V (the ones based on versions of Windows prior to Windows Server 2012) and VMware vSphere are large enough such that the term “copycat” doesn’t really apply unless the “concept” of a hypervisor is what’s being discussed.  I hope this isn’t the case – because I like the fact that Microsoft (and Red Hat, and Oracle, and Citrix, and others) are competing in the hypervisor space.  Second, I think Microsoft has succeeded in aggressive pricing – which I like because it brings more functionality into the hands of more buyers.  Third, Windows has extended their Windows operating system with Hyper-V – just as other virtualization vendors have extended operating systems.

Finally, Jake notes

Where is the slur marketeering and propaganda campaign? The dirty licensing tactics? The aggressive litigation?

I think if the reader had doubts when starting to read this as to the author’s sincerity, any reader is pretty much past it by this point.  Even so, I’ll take this at face value.  In terms of propaganda and slur marketing – seems to me that there’s plenty to go around between both vendors.  Both are “guilty” of spinning the facts to their advantage – which is what I expect vendors to do.  In terms of licensing, my only comment will be that from a backup vendor perspective, I really like the fact that Microsoft keeps its VSS API’s available for use on the free version of Hyper-V – and hope that VMware will one day make VADP available on the free version of VMware vSphere.  From a broader perspective, I don’t think that VMware helped its case when it went to RAM-based licensing in VMware vSphere 5.0 – although I think Microsoft’s licensing is a Rube Goldberg machine of complexity.  And in terms of aggressive litigation – I’d think Microsoft and VMware are both being careful in terms of patent violations.

So what’s the bottom line?  It really gets back to the central thesis of the piece.  I’m glad VMware and Microsoft are competing with vSphere and Hyper-V – I think that not only the overall industry but users are better for it.  I hope they keep competing for years to come.


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