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Readers Chime In: "Why vSphere is King..."

Some of you wrote some interesting comments -- some with questions -- to my last post, "Why vSphere is King of Hypervisors." Instead of isolating the discussion to the comments section, I figured I would reply here, as those questions merit some answers that everyone should see. Without further ado...

Does VMware vSphere provide enough value for the price?
The answer is a resounding "Yes!" VMware vSphere 5 provides enough value for the asking price. I think what many IT professionals are still struggling to come to terms with is that virtualization is not just another piece of software, it is not just another application. Virtualization is the new infrastructure, so carefully selecting it is not a matter of price -- it is a matter of flexibility and agility. Selecting a virtual infrastructure is a decision you make after examining the supporting products for this infrastructure, after designing your strategy and where you are trying to go from a business standpoint. It is not about IT, it is about which infrastructure to deploy that allows IT to respond to the business's needs effectively.

Let me give you an example: In the old days when I worked in IT in corporate America, we would get HP, Cisco and many other manufacturer briefings. They would come in once a quarter, once a year, etc., and do a deep dive with us into what their new platform offered and why we should continue to use them. I remember when HP (or was it Compaq? now, it doesn't matter) for example introduced the ability for us to hot-swap memory while the server was powered on (not that I ever even tried it). The first thing that came to my mind was, "this is cool; can I add more memory to my SQL Server (yeah, right) without powering it down? No interruption in service?" I automatically connected the technical feature with a business use case for it. What I am trying to say, is we chose infrastructure that was flexible and allowed us to offer something different to the business -- in this case, no down time.

Some of us are still treating virtualization as a server consolidation play. Virtualization has moved beyond server consolidation and containment and more into the cloud, into a highly virtualized, highly automated and orchestrated infrastructure that provides services on demand. If you subscribe to this school of thought, then you can't look at the hypervisor isolated from everything else.

The hypervisor is at the core of many other services that compliment it and serve your goals. Again, when making this decision consider security: How are you going to address security in a virtualized world? How are you going to address antivirus? What about virtual networking? That is important, no? That is the handoff that connects everything; you best make sure that your virtual infrastructure has high support from networking vendors and high support from the hypervisor vendor as well. Should I bring up storage? If networking is important for connectivity, the world revolves around storage. In a virtualized world, it is all about storage and storage integration. That will govern your performance and your ability to be agile. I can go on for a while and talk about orchestration and automation, about monitoring, etc.

Now, some of you will say, all of them have this support. Do they really? Make sure you demo all these products and how well they integrate together. Many companies go through acquisitions and some go through several, so how well are these products integrated after those events? Furthermore, what is this company's plans for these products? How will they evolve? What is their vision and where are they planning on taking you? Ask yourself: Are they innovators or imitators?

Let's move on to another question: Am I forced to make poor choices because of VMware's new licensing model?
We all beat VMware very hard it released its initial licensing model. I was not at a loss for words and for those that claim I am advertising for VMware, please read my blog on licensing before VMware revised it. No, I was not very nice. That being said, VMware has changed its licensing and has positively responded to its customers. What else do you want? The new licensing model is a fair model. Again, we have to examine why VMware changed its licensing model to start with. The old one was based on cores and CPU chip manufacturers were about to overrun VMware's licensing models with more cores per CPU. It is the natural hardware evolution, so the licensing had to change. They seemed to get it wrong the first time around, but they addressed it adequately the second time around.

Now, if you are having a hard time with the new licensing model, it is more than likely because you have not subscribed to the cloud model yet and are still treating virtualization as though we're in a version 1.0 world, where virtualization was all about being a server consolidation play. VMware's strategic vision is cloud. As a result, this licensing model is closely aligned with the new unit of measure in the cloud -- VMs.

If you do not subscribe to this vision or your organization is not interested in it, then maybe you are right, you should look at an alternate hypervisor that suits your needs and vision and there are plenty out there that are great.

Do other hypervisors provide good capabilities for less cost?
Absolutely, there are other hypervisors out there that provide fantastic performance, great capabilities and features at a less expensive price point. You are spot on: Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, Red Hat Linux are a few that I can name that I have extensive experience with. I can say without a shred of doubt that these can deliver excellent virtualization infrastructure if what you are looking for is a simple server consolidation play.

Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0, for example, will now have support from Cisco with the Nexus 1000V, so these features will slowly make their way to all hypervisors. The question is, can you wait and how long? The bigger question is, will your business wait?

Can VMware keep its lead in technology without ratcheting up costs every release? I feel like in a year we'll be talking about how we need Enterprise Plus Plus Plus licenses per vCPU divided by vRAM, times VM count.
Yes, absolutely. VMware cannot keep raising the price of vSphere, it just does not work or make any sense. It's why you'll see add-on products like vCloud Director, vCenter Operations and others that complement vSphere in a tightly integrated way.

In VMware's defense, they introduced Enterprises Plus once. There haven't been that many Enterprises Plus license models introduced and if I was a betting man, VMware will start adding more features into these editions without a price change. It might be a model similar to Citrix's Subscription Advantage, where, if you have support you get the updated version for free.

What is VMware's strategic vision?
One reader commented that he has asked VMware many times for its vision and in return he has received a wishy-washy answer. For starters, you probably asked your VMware sales rep. Some of them are good and can deliver the message and answer your questions, while some are just order takers, the "what would you like today, sir?" kind of rep. I would not pose this question to my sales rep. A few ways to understand VMware or any other tech company's vision, for that matter, is to attend conferences like VMworld. Another, easier way is to seek out an executive briefing where you get to interact and listen to the company's strategic vision from non-sales reps.

VMware as a company is focused on the cloud -- all its efforts, all its products are aligned to conquer the cloud space. At VMworld 2011, it was very clear from the product announcements, positioning and messaging that all VMware cares about is the cloud. As a result, its virtual infrastructure is no longer positioned or suited for customers who are looking only for server consolidation and that is it. If that is what you are looking for, then I am telling you: vSphere is not the product for your business. If you are looking beyond that, then vSphere is most certainly your only choice. It's just my honest opinion.

What about RHEV?
I applaud Red Hat's efforts in this space and I think the acquisition of Qumranet in 2008 was the right move and has significantly improved its virtual infrastructure. I just don't see it having a significant effect. Red Hat in my mind will always spell Linux and while it could virtualize Windows very well, it is going to be very difficult in my opinion to persuade someone away from VMware to RHEV. I think Hyper-V and XenServer have more mindshare and are better positioned to take advantage of a virtual infrastructure swap. Although RHEV has some really cool features coming out soon, I just don't see Red Hat changing the landscape very much.

In my closing notes, I just wanted to address some accusations that were thrown about VirtualizationReview.com being biased in VMware's favor. While I typically don't respond to these type of comments, it was written against my blog so I feel as though I have to answer them:

This publication is a very respectful one. I have never been asked to write anything in anyone's favor. Doing so would affect my credibility and integrity and I would not do it for anyone, not even VirtualizationReview.com. My thoughst are my own. I have written countless blogs on Citrix XenDesktop, XenApp, PVS, NetScaler, Web Interface, Microsoft RemoteFX, etc. I am technologist, interested in good technology. I am opinionated, therefore, sometimes you will see pieces like this where I talk about how I see things. I have an open mind and welcome your comments, so join the conversation. (And thanks to those who have joined already, even those whose opinions differ greatly from my own.)

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 10/11/2011 at 12:49 PM


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