FAQ: Virtualisation in the SMB

Can VMware retain its lead?

Although VMware is the current leader in the Virtualisation market, a number of other companies are giving them a run for their money. Who will emerge victorious in the virtualisation war? We take a look at the competitors.

VMware

VMware has certainly not been standing still in the face of its competition growing larger and more robust. VMware struck a deal in January to buy application virtualisation vendor Thinstall. VMware hosted VMworld in Europe from 26-28 February this year and made several announcements, including agreements with HP, Dell, IBM, Fujitsu and Siemens s to ship servers with a slimmed-down version of VMware's hypervisor embedded in the hardware.

VMware also announced plans to open its hypervisor to security vendors with a set of APIs designed to make it easier to build products that protect virtual machines.

VMware officials aren't worried about the competition, according to Stephen Herrod, VMware's CTO, who says "products from would-be competitors aren't really there yet."

VMware may be forced to lower its prices, DiDio says, but overall it's making the right moves.

"The market is VMware's to lose. And these competitors are going to have to take it away from them," she says.

Beyond those already mentioned, the virtualisation market includes niche players such as Cassatt, Egenera and Parallels. If enterprise customers expand use of virtualisation as much as some analysts predict, even someone holding 1 percent of the market could be quite successful.

"We're just at the precipice of an emerging market. Any of these niche players could be huge," DiDio says.

Hardware advances are making it easier for more vendors to develop virtualisation software. VMware can hold onto its dominant market share, but it'll need to outwork its competition.

"[VMware's] technology is still ahead of the competition. But the side of the road is littered with companies that had superior technology and got out-marketed. Think Netscape," Hamilton says. "[VMware] is going to have to carve out more of a value proposition than just being the only vendor out there."

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Jon Brodkin

PC Advisor (UK)

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