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Looking Back at Issue No. 1: Would Microsoft Become a Virtual Player?

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Continuing our stroll down virtual memory lane, we're going through some articles from the very first issue of Virtualization Review, from April 2008, getting a view of where the industry was then, and where it is now.

This time, we'll look at the article "Microsoft Reaches for the Virtual Sky," which was part of our cover package on the virtualization leaders of that day. In the story, written by me, the theme is "integration." Microsoft wasn't interested in being a virtualization vendor: It wanted to be an enterprise OS vendor that used virtualization as one more tool to help sell Windows Server.

A Consistent Strategy
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Microsoft still has pretty much the same game plan. Certainly, it's moved forward in a number of areas, but its virtualization offerings are meant to bolster Windows Server. It's never wanted to be VMware, and rarely competes directly (although that's happening more and more as the company goes after areas like cloud computing). Virtualization has remained an ingredient in the pie, but not the pie itself.

As an example of how embryonic Microsoft's virtualization strategy was, Hyper-V wasn't even out yet -- it would be released a few months later, with Windows Server 2008 (how many remember that Hyper-V was code-named "Viridian"?). It was Microsoft's first bare-metal hypervisor, and was a bit late to the party, with VMware ESX and Xen having already been out for some time.

A Bad Omen
And even with its tardy arrival, it didn't arrive full-featured: "Some technologies that were scheduled to debut in Hyper-V were pulled last year so that Hyper-V could be released with Windows Server 2008 (WS2008). Functionality like live migration, which allows a VM to be moved from one physical machine to another with no downtime, and several other key features were dropped." I remember that being a big deal at the time; for such an important product to be stripped down just to meet a shipping date? There were more than a few who thought this might portend bad things for Hyper-V.

Those fears proved to be overblown. In the intervening years, Hyper-V has been substantially beefed up, including the addition of its enterprise management tool, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and has overtaken Xen to be the No. 2 hypervisor in enterprises, after ESXi. But it was definitely a rocky start, and more than a few folks wondered if Hyper-V would gain any traction, given Microsoft's handling of its release.

Justified Optimism
A Gartner Inc. analyst had a more optimistic take, and has proven to be right. From the article:

"I think [Hyper-V is] going to be utilized at a fairly high rate. Clients are waiting and planning on testing it, or have made the assumption they'll be implementing it," says Jeff Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner Inc., who specializes in server virtualization. "Quite a few people are going to be evaluating it, and implementing it once it's available," he predicts.

Enterprises have grown comfortable with Hyper-V. The majority of shops these days are multi-hypervisor, as admins use what works best for a given workload. Although Microsoft is still not thought of in the way VMware is when it comes to virtualization, the company has staked out a comfortable spot, and its modest goals for virtualization have worked out -- in large measure because they were modest from the beginning.

Posted by Keith Ward on 07/06/2015 at 8:44 AM


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