Category Archives: David Dennis

Will Microsoft’s ‘walled-garden’ approach to virtualisation pay off?

Microsoft's approach to virtualisation: Strategic intent or tunnel vision?

Microsoft’s approach to virtualisation: Strategic intent or tunnel vision?

While the data centre of old played host to an array of physical technologies, the data centre of today and of the future is based on virtualisation, public or private clouds, containers, converged servers, and other forms of software-defined solutions. Eighty percent of workloads are now virtualised with most companies using heterogeneous environments.

As the virtual revolution continues on, new industry players are emerging ready to take-on the market’s dominating forces. Now is the time for the innovators to strike and to stake a claim in this lucrative and growing movement.

Since its inception, VMware has been the 800 lb gorilla of virtualisation. Yet even VMware’s market dominance is under pressure from OpenSource offerings like KVM, RHEV-M, OpenStack, Linux Containers and Docker. There can be no doubting the challenge to VMware presented by purveyors of such open virtualisation options; among other things, they feature REST APIs that allow easy integration with other management tools and applications, regardless of platform.

I see it as a form of natural selection; new trends materialise every few years and throw down the gauntlet to prevailing organisations – adapt, innovate or die. Each time this happens, some new players will rise and other established players will sink.

VMware is determined to remain afloat and has responded to the challenge by creating an open REST API for VSphere and other components of the VMware stack.  While I don’t personally believe that this attempt has resulted in the most elegant API, there can be no arguing that it is at least accessible and well-documented, allowing for integration with almost anything in a heterogeneous data centre. For that, I must applaud them.

So what of the other giants of yore? Will Microsoft, for example, retain its regal status in the years to come? Not if the Windows-specific API it has lumbered itself with is anything to go by! While I understand why Microsoft has aspired to take on VMware in the enterprise data centre, its API, utilising WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), only runs on Windows! As far as I’m concerned this makes it as useless as a chocolate teapot. What on earth is the organisation’s end-goal here?

There are two possible answers that spring to my mind, first that this is a strategic move or second that Microsoft’s eyesight is failing.

Could the Windows-only approach to integrating with Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation platform be an intentional strategic move on its part? Is the long-game for Windows Server to take over the enterprise data centre?

In support of this, I have been taking note of Microsoft sales reps encouraging customers to switch from VMware products to Microsoft Hyper-V. In this exchange on Microsoft’s Technet forum, a forum user asked how to integrate Hyper-V with a product running on Linux.  A Microsoft representative then responded saying (albeit in a veiled way) that you can only interface with Hyper-V using WMI, which only runs on Windows…

But what if this isn’t one part of a much larger scheme? The only alternative I can fathom then is that this is a case of extreme tunnel vision, the outcome of a technology company that still doesn’t really get the tectonic IT disruptions and changes happening in the outside world. If it turns out that Microsoft really does want Windows Server to take over the enterprise data centre…well, all I can say is, good luck with that!

Don’t get me wrong. I am a great believer in competition, it is vital for the progression of both technology and markets. And it certainly is no bad thing when an alpha gorilla faces troop challenger. It’s what stops them getting stale, invigorating them and forcing them to prove why they deserve their silver back.

In reality, Microsoft probably is one of the few players that can seriously threaten VMWare’s near monopolistic market dominance of server virtualisation. But it won’t do it like this. So unless new CEO Satya Nadella’s company moves to provide platform-neutral APIs, I am sad to say that its offering will be relegated to the museum of IT applications.

To end with a bit of advice to all those building big data and web-scale applications, with auto-scaling orchestration between applications and virtualisation hypervisors: skip Hyper-V and don’t go near Microsoft until it “gets it” when it comes to open APIs.

Written by David Dennis, vice president, marketing & products, GroundWork