FAQ: Virtualisation in the SMB

Can VMware retain its lead?

While VMware may be the biggest player in today's virtualisation market, we've rounded up the vendors that pose the biggest threats to VMware.

Oracle

Founder and CEO Larry Ellison isn't shy about poking a needle in VMware's eye. He reportedly predicted that VMware will meet the same demise as Netscape.

Ellison is finalising a deal to purchase BEA Systems, which has a partnership with VMware to provide Java virtualisation products.

That move could foil some VMware plans, though it's not clear yet how Oracle intends to fit BEA into its virtualisation strategy, DiDio says. Oracle is a new entrant into the virtualisation market with Oracle VM, which has advanced features such as live migration, according to DiDio's Yankee Group report.

Oracle, well known for its database and application server products, is targeting VM primarily at heavy Oracle customers, Bittman says. "They're doing it as a defensive move," he says. "They don't want VMware or Microsoft to be underlying the Oracle stack. That takes away potential control of an account. ... Oracle VM does not need to make money. The whole goal is defensive."

Yankee Group analyst George Hamilton agrees Oracle's move is essentially a competitive reaction aimed at maintaining its pre-existing customer base, rather than a bold attempt to expand into new markets.

DiDio thinks Oracle is being more ambitious than that, however. Oracle's acquisition history shows it is an aggressive player in multiple markets, and is not about to pass up the opportunity posed by the rapidly growing virtualiaation space, she says.

"Larry Ellison has been on a shopping spree for the last three years," she says. "Oracle wants to grab off a piece of the virtualisation market."

Virtual Iron

This vendor says it has gotten a big boost from hardware modifications developed by Intel and AMD that make it easier to develop virtualisation software. Virtual Iron always supported Linux because the open source operating system could be rewritten to its purposes. Now it can support Windows as well because of the processor upgrades, explained company CTO Alex Vasilevsky.

Every vendor is benefiting from hardware upgrades, though, Burns notes.

"The question then becomes who can support those changes with the most optimised code or the broadest functionality, or who can convince those chip designers they need to keep doing more," he says. Intel and AMD face a double-edged sword, he notes, as further virtualisation-related improvements in hardware would allow customers to run more workloads on fewer servers.

Virtual Iron's management tools have both live migration and live disaster recovery capabilities, DiDio writes. Bittman rates Virtual Iron as VMware's fifth biggest threat, ahead of Novell and Red Hat, whom he ranks sixth and seventh, respectively.

"Virtual Iron has interesting technology, but as a small vendor it's unlikely to survive," Bittman says. "They'll probably be acquired by somebody." Small and midsize companies tend to be attracted to Virtual Iron, Hamilton says. "Virtual Iron's go-to-market plan is simple," he says. "They try to position themselves as having very similar capabilities to VMware at a fifth of the cost."

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