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Is VMware a Dead Duck?


Today, VMware has about 80 percent of the virtualization market. By 2011, I think it may be lucky to have 8 percent of the market.

I believe that because everyone and their brother are now offering free or open-source virtualization of one kind or another. From the open-source world, youve got open-source software virtualization programs such as Xen OpenVZ, KVM, VirtualBox and UML (User Mode Linux) all coming on like gangbusters. And we all know what a little open-source operating system called Linux did to rival Unix/BSD operating system vendors, dont we?

That would be bad enough for VMware, but theres more. Theres a lot more competition coming. Microsoft, after blowing hot and cold on virtualization, has desired virtualization as an essential part of its future. Three of the Server 2008 line will include its Hyper-V hypervisor technology.

Citrix acquired XenSource, open-source Xens father company. Simon Crosby, a XenSource co-founder and now Citrixs CTO of virtualization and management, is more than ready to take on XenSource. In one of Citrixs first virtualization deals, Dell will be embedding the Citrix XenServer software suite across its PowerEdge server line.

Meanwhile, Red Hat has made virtualization the centerpiece of its latest Linux release: RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 5.1. Red Hat has also made it possible to use its management and provisioning program RHN (Red Hat Network) the master control for RHEL no matter where its running. Real hardware, virtual machine or somewhere on the Internet cloud, its all the same for administrators using RHN.

Last, but by no means least, Oracle, which uses RHEL as the basis for its Unbreakable Linux, has now announced its own version of RHELs Xen-based virtualization: Oracle VM. You can use it for free, or you pay for support if your IT staff needs help with it.

What does VMware plan to do about all this? Well, one thing is to add value-added services that use virtualization to help customers manage their infrastructure more effectively. Thats a nice idea, but I think its too little, too late.

Microsoft, Red Hat and Oracle are already baking virtualization infrastructure management, deployment, and all that jazz into their operating systems and applications. Where will VMware find any room for its offerings?

I honestly dont think theyll be able to find a home for their products within a few years. VMware could take a page from Xen and try the open-source route, but thats not VMwares way. Or, more to the point, its not its business plan.

I know people have suggested in the past that VMware should give the open-source approach a try, but those requests fell on deaf ears. Now, I dont think VMware, even if it were inclined to change its business model, is going to have the time to switch around.

When youve got so many powerful opponents moving in, and with so many of them offering their virtualization packages for free or already incorporated into their main products, I just cant see any company surviving the competition. Even one, like VMware, that has for years completely owned its market.

A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK.

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