I think VMware is currently well positioned to become the Novell of virtualization. Consider the similarities: technical superiority, “career-safe” choice, large vested corporate user base, complex pricing models, arbitrary price increases in a captive market, Microsoft buying market share with free and nearly-free product. http://www.networkworld.com/community/tech-debate-microsoft-vmware
Recently, the above comment was made by Guy Chapman on an interesting Network World debate over who has the better hypervisor, Microsoft or VMware. With respect to Guy, I’d like to touch on the reasons I think this is not (currently) a fair comparison.
First off, a bit of background on Novell for the younger readers. Novell developed the first network operating system back in the 80’s. By 1990, any business that had a need for networking was using Novell NetWare. In a decade, Microsoft’s massive marketing machine had relegated Novell to the background in the corporate world. MS continued gaining market share with NT, and the Back Office suite of server products. Y2K gave larger customers a reason to upgrade their old stuff, and most of Novell’s larger customers began moving toward Microsoft, which was cheaper than Novell, and GUI based, which attracted enterprise customers.
You have to hand it to Microsoft. NT was a solid product, priced right, and with the introduction of Active Directory in 2000, Novell faded fast.
That was then. Let’s take a look at Microsoft’s track record of innovation over the past decade. What has Microsoft brought to market in the past several years? Zune? SCOM? Windows Mobile? Bing? Each one of these is nothing more than a re-hash of a product that someone else brought to market first. Were any of them better than their predecessors? The market says no.
In contrast, VMware over the past decade has brought incredible innovations to the market faster even than master innovators like Apple. Who would have dreamed 10 years ago that one could vMotion a server onto different hardware, and even different storage? The feature differences between 4.0 and 4.1 releases of vSphere alone are more innovative than anything I have seen out of Redmond for many years.
Microsoft is quite good at commoditizing technologies that have been developed and incubated by others. I suspect this is what Guy was referring to when he made the Novell comment. I think the difference here though is the sheer speed at which VMware is innovating. Microsoft is at least a couple years behind vSphere 4.0, and with new features like VAAI, SIOC, and NIOC, they might have to add another year just to catch 4.1. Microsoft is capable of throwing amazing amounts of cash at the problem, as evidenced by the current pricing structure of Hyper-V. But is it enough?
I submit that if VMware continues innovating at their current pace, Microsoft will never catch them, unless there is a massive shake-up. With the current MS management team and company culture, it is impossible. Even if there were a tectonic shift this week in Microsoft’s management, and the culture change started next week, you’re still looking at a decade before they can innovate like VMware can today. Microsoft is a behemoth of a company, and culture shifts are exponentially harder to pull off as a company grows larger.
Rest assured, if VMware is indeed the Novell of virtualization, they’re going to enjoy a couple more decades at the top before disappearing into irrelevancy.