Comparison ShoppingBy Brian P. Watson Print
Less hardware is good, but immature technology isn't. With new products on the way, companies may find better methods to speed up virtual server deployments and cut costs.Comparison Shopping
VMware leads what is still a relatively small market in terms of competitors. In the Forrester report, companies cited VMware, at 53%, as their vendor of choice, with Microsoft taking 9%. The top hardware vendors—Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell—got write-in votes totaling 28% (none of the three offer an exclusive virtualization software tool). Six percent didn't know, and the remaining 4% mentioned "others." Of those, Forrester says, only one mentioned Xen.
The margin increased when companies interested in virtualization were asked which vendor they'd lean toward: VMware took 60%, with Microsoft garnering only 7%.
But Microsoft is hoping to change that with its next product offering. "In the past, virtualization has been part of the operating system," says Jim Ni, group product manager in Microsoft's Windows server division. The goal with the Redmond, Wash., firm's next release, Longhorn, slated for the second half of this year, is to do just that.
Dave Chacon, manager of information systems technology services for PING, the golf club and equipment maker, says vendors should think of virtualization as a fundamental piece of the operating system—"not just an add-on"—as IBM did with mainframes.
And he sees an opening for Microsoft, since Windows dominates the operating system market. That, combined with pricing, led Chacon to Virtual Server.
In 2004, PING looked for a low-cost way to virtualize its Windows environments. Already a Windows shop, the equipment maker went with Microsoft. Chacon looked at VMware but says the software cost at least 10 times more.
He also considered blade servers—thinner boxes that take up less rack space than x86 servers—but adding hardware costs was a deal-breaker. To install and deploy more physical servers, Chacon says he would have had to fly in consultants, build a test environment and then make a decision based on the results.
Going with virtualization avoided thousands of dollars in consulting fees in the planning stages alone. Still, Chacon wishes Virtual Server were built in to the operating system. If it were, managing virtual machines and the operating system would be one and the same. Instead, he has to manage them separately. Ni says Longhorn will move virtualization closer to being embedded in Windows.
Still, Chacon believes managing virtual machines—whether one or 100—should be an out-of-the-box attribute of any platform. "There's still a whole level of maturity [of products] that needs to happen in the marketplace in general," he says.
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