VMworld: Microsoft Ad Warns VMware Customers About Lock-In

As the VMworld show kicks off, Microsoft runs a full-page ad warning VMware customers about the dangers of vendor lock-in and three-year license agreements. Cue the Alanis Morrisette: Isn't it ironic?

By Kevin Fogarty
Tue, August 31, 2010

CIO — Microsoft (MSFT) is warning customers that signing long-term enterprise license agreements can chain them for years to the unpredictable, often self-serving development schedule of an IT vendor—which may not suit the customer's unique needs and priorities.

Yes, that Microsoft.

In a letter published Tuesday morning as a full-page ad in USAToday, Microsoft server-business chief Brad Anderson warned VMware (VMW) customers—just in time for the start of the VMworld conference—that VMware would pressure IT shops to lock into VMware's approach to both virtual servers and cloud computing.

"Signing up for a 3-year virtualization commitment may lock you into a vendor that cannot provide you with the breadth of technology, exibility or scale that you'll need to build a complete cloud computing environment," the letter reads, in part.

At VMworld Tuesday, VMware announced the latest version of its plans for VMware vCloud Director, a management product designed to give customers and service providers long-distance control and automation of hundreds or thousands of VMware virtual servers and clusters connected into cloud-computing structures.

[ What's cool at this week's VMworld 2010 conference? See The Hottest Virtualization Products at VMworld. ]

VMware's technology strategy is comprehensive and long-term, which means not only is not all of it shipping now, but also key parts—including the vCloud cloud-management and automation platform—won't be available until late this year or even next, according to James Staten, virtualization and cloud-computing analyst for Forrester.

Pressuring customers into long-term contracts commits them to a vision of cloud computing that's based on virtualizing servers within a data center using products from VMware, rather than identifying computing platforms and resources on a "pure cloud" basis, according to David Greschler, director of integrated virtualization strategy at Microsoft.

By contrast, Microsoft offers "a global-scale public cloud and online services" from its Azure platform-as-a-service offering, SaaS versions of SQL Server, Exchange and Sharepoint and virtualization products that compete directly with VMware, Greschler says. "What's really important to Microsoft is to communicate to customers that when we say 'cloud' we mean something much different and broader than when VMware says it," he says.

Microsoft Cloud Offerings are Slow to Appear

"Microsoft pressuring people to not sign enterprise license agreements or avoid lock-in is pretty rich," counters Bernard Golden, CEO of cloud computing consultancy Hyperstratus and a CIO.com blogger. "Microsoft does that all the time, including lock-in. If you're talking about that, with Azure, Microsoft is the only one offering it, so that's lock in. VMware clouds you can get from Terremark or Verizon (VZ) or who knows how many other service providers. So that's a little disingenuous."

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