by TM Arun Kumar

Frankly Speaking: The Gloves are Off

Dec 20, 20125 mins
Cloud ComputingEnergy IndustryEnterprise Applications

The battle between Microsoft and VMware is heating up. Caught in the crossfire, confused customers are wondering whether to buy bottled water from VMware or go for free, normal, water from Microsoft.

Arun has covered the IT industry in India since the time 80386 was cutting edge, MS DOS was the predominant desktop OS, and Internet was still a few years away. Follow him on twitter @aruntm

As for Microsoft, apart from a strong product and a compelling proposition, it has pedigree on its side—a pedigree of driving established companies off the market.

Would you pay for something when the same thing is available for free? Or, to put it differ­ently, would you buy an alarm clock, in today’s day and age, when the alarm function comes as an in-built feature in even the most basic of mobile phones? The answer, I would suspect, would be an emphatic NO.

But, for the sake of argument, let us take a slightly different scenario. Would you order for bottled water in a restaurant when the establishment serves regular, filtered, water for free? The answer to this would possibly be a yes or a no depending on the kind or quality of restaurant you are visiting, or who you are visiting the establishment with, how paranoid or picky you are about the water you drink, etcetera.

So, this may, in essence, mean that you are sometimes will­ing to pay for something that is available for free—one can obviously justify paying a small amount for the bottled water now rather than risk the prospect of paying a much larger sum to a doctor at a later date.

But you would be wondering, and rightly so, why is it that I am talking about freebies, alarm clocks, and buying bottled water in a restaurant. The reason for the different scenarios and compari­sons is because something similar seems to be happening in the battle between Microsoft and VMware to take control of the vir­tualization market—especially if you look at the arguments and counter-arguments posed by the two firms in question.

With the launch of its Windows Server 2012, Microsoft has upped the ante (to use the trademark Ravi Shastri phrase) and taken the battle to VMware, which hitherto has been sitting atop the virtualization market seemingly unchallenged by anyone.

Microsoft is touting the Windows Server 2012 as an operating sys­tem that is “built from the cloud up” (in case you understand what that means, please do educate me). It is being billed as the only thing that offers a consistent platform for all your cloud demands; a dynamic, multi-tenant infrastructure that goes beyond virtu­alization—a kind of a panacea for all your datacenter demands. And yes, you don’t have to pay separately for a hypervisor since it’s already built in. So, why pay for something when it’s virtually (pun intended) available for free?

Having suffered constant jibes such as the VMware tax and VM Limited from its rivals in the past, it was inevitable that VMware would stop ignoring and start fighting. And that’s exactly what the company seems to be doing now.

So, VMware hits back by asking customers to get the facts, not the Microsoft hyper-bole (yes, it’s hyphenated by VMware) and handily lists a few “facts”. Chief among them is that VMware deliv­ers greater value and lower TCO. According to VMware, Microsoft looks only at the software acquisition costs, whereas it should be looking at the total infrastructure cost. And since one can pack more VMware VMs on a physical host than Hyper-V ones, VMware would need fewer servers, less datacenter space, less power and cooling, and so on, thus pushing the total cost down.

To prove its point, it also handily comes up with a third-party analysis—commissioned by none other than VMware itself—which shows that, compared to Microsoft, VMware delivers 20 percent higher scalability and 91 percent lower operational costs. See, why you should buy bottled water?

Both companies have certain things going for them. VMware has a huge installed base of customers who, in the past, have tasted the real benefits of its virtualization offerings and so are unlikely to immediately jump to rival solution. At least, not before giving VMware a chance to prove its point. In addition, switching to a rival offering will come with its own set of challenges and complexities, which many may want to avoid.

As for Microsoft, apart from a strong product and a compel­ling proposition, it has pedigree on its side—a pedigree of driv­ing established companies off the market. If there are any doubts, think about Microsoft’s history and what it did to companies like Novell, Lotus, and Netscape. And VMware is fighting to precisely avoid the same fate, that of a ‘has been.’

So, while both the companies are trying to convince the mar­ket, what, in essence, they are doing is just muddying the waters and confusing the customers. And, while the battle continues, there is no sign of a clear winner as yet. However, one thing seems certain. We haven’t heard the last word in this battle as yet. Meanwhile, you can ponder if you want to pay for your water or not.