Take Five With Tom Fenton
Impressions of Microsoft in the Cloud
By now, everybody knows that Microsoft is making a big push into the virtualization/cloud computing market via Windows Server 2008 R2, the free Hyper-V and a little help from Citrix, who's more than happy to share its technology and customers with Redmond. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that Redmond's building some serious momentum as more and more Microsoft customers become familiar with its virtualization and cloud wares.
Microsoft is definitely gunning for VMware. You can't talk for long with anyone on the Microsoft virtualization team before the comments and comparisons with VMware start popping up. This whole us-versus-them attitude was made crystal clear during VMworld when Microsoft took out a full page ad in the form of an open letter to VMware customers in USA Today. It claimed VMware is trying to lock customers into three-year license agreements for virtualization projects, which would not be in customers' best interests because VMware "cannot provide you with the breadth of technology, flexibility or scale that you'll need to build a complete cloud computing environment."
Microsoft is surprisingly low-key on its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Suites, which the company describes as a "collection of technology to help organizations deploy the basic infrastructure for VDI." Redmond says that Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 is the virtualization platform of choice for both the standard and premium versions of VDI Suites, and that management of the virtual infrastructure is handled by various components of System Center. Applications are handled by App-V because the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack is also included in the Standard Suite. Microsoft says the suites are well-suited for small to midsize businesses, but at the same Redmond says there's no problem scaling. It all seems rather murky for Microsoft customers wanting to know more about VDI.
Redmond talks a good game when it comes to cloud, saying the company has learned a lot from running such gigantic cloud services as MSN (600 million unique users), Bing (more than 4 billion search queries monthly), 500 million-plus active Windows Live IDs and 20 million users of the Xbox Live gaming service. Throw in more than 500 government entities and 10,000 Windows Azure users in 40 countries, and Microsoft has a pretty good cloud argument to make.
Bob Muglia, president of the Microsoft Server and Tools Division, which reigns over the company's virtualization/cloud operations, says all the right things about Microsoft's future plans, noting his company's goal is to offer customers everything they require to move into the cloud "on their own terms." This translates to: "Don't worry -- we won't mess with your legacy applications."
Ouch. Back in May, David Greschler, director of Microsoft virtualization strategy, told members of the Microsoft Partner Network about the availability of a "profitability monitoring tool" in the form of an interactive spreadsheet designed to depict the advantages of adding a Microsoft virtualization practice to their business. What would these Microsoft partners find if they dutifully used this tool? According to Greschler, "As much as we'd like to tell you otherwise, if you plug your numbers in to look at your work on a project-by-project basis, the numbers could favor VMware."
Let me know what you think about Microsoft's virtualization and cloud offerings: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.