When it comes to virtualisation, VMware is the unquestioned market share leader, but with Microsoft, Citrix and Oracle just a few of the companies barking at its heels, will VMware be able to keep its crown?
The Xen hypervisor is embedded free of charge in Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, and only one Linux license is needed for all virtual images on a physical server, according to DiDio. Novell tries to differentiate itself with ZENworks Virtual Machine Management, which lets customers manage any virtual environment, whether it be Xen, Microsoft or VMware.
"Novell's positioning is they have very good management tools with the ZENworks suite," Hamilton says.
Like Microsoft, Novell might win over customers because of its expertise in managing an operating system, Burns says.
"The fact that they have a distribution of Linux, they can make changes and say 'the changes we've made here are to make it work better in a virtual environment. But [you need to] use our version of virtualisation at the same time,'" Burns says. "VMware doesn't have that."
Novell made a big move on 25 Feb when it said it will spend US$205m (£102,500,000) to acquire PlateSpin, a vendor that helps customers adopt, extend and manage server virtualisation in the data center.
PlateSpin markets a PowerConvert product, which performs physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversions of Windows source systems into XenSource's XenEnterprise Virtual Machines.
The Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution comes with the Xen hypervisor for free, while the RHEL Advanced Platform includes extra features such as storage virtualization, redundancy and high-availability clustering, DiDio says.
Red Hat's strategy is made more interesting by RHEL recently becoming available on Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service, in which users pay small monthly fees, she adds.
"Red Hat is aggressively advertising the fact that its virtualisation solution is far more economical than VMware's," DiDio notes. Red Hat vice president Scott Crenshaw has claimed businesses can save "US$20,000 (£10,000) to $30,000 (£15,000) on licensing fees" compared with VMware, she adds. Bittman dismisses Red Hat's chances, saying its management capabilities are subpar.
Red Hat is in a similar position as Novell, Burns says, with each having the advantage of distributing its own Linux operating system. "At this point, it's really a matter of who does it first," Burns says. "Who gets it out first and in a reliable, robust fashion."