Former Microsoft vice president, Dick Brass, laments in a recent New York Times article titled Microsoft's Creative Destruction that, "Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator." He says, "Its products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason."
While some of Microsoft's applications such as Bing travel and ClearType are quite novel, the same thing cannot be said of its virtualization products. Live Migration, for example, was included in Hyper-V R2 in October of last year – six years after VMware introduced VMotion. And although Microsoft formerly insisted that its lack of memory overcommit was because customers don't want it (SearchServerVirtualization.com), virtualization.info reported that Microsoft will be including it with a future release.
The only real virtualization innovation contributed by Microsoft, if it can be called that, is giving away its enterprise hypervisor version for free. Its virtualization strategy is to try and copy as many of VMware's innovations as possible and then boast about its lower prices, albeit both misleadingly and inconsistently1 . Its virtualization web site, for example, includes no less than seven white papers/brochures2, four videos3 , multiple case studies, a "Microsoft vs. VMware Cost Comparison Calculator" and an ROI Calculator all purporting to show lower costs than VMware.
Next to price, Microsoft flaunts the fallacious advantage of its Systems Center Management Suite to manage both Microsoft and VMware products along with physical servers, telling customers, "…rather than undertaking a costly revolution, you should evolve your environment in a way that preserves and extends existing investments." This is not innovation; it's simply maintaining the Microsoft-biased status quo with broad-based management products incapable of handling the specialized requirements of an enterprise virtualized data center.
Dick Brass maintains that Microsoft's marketing, "has been inept for years." Along with disingenuous price comparisons, it emphasizes a supposed VMware 'tax' asserting that, "With VMware, you need four layers to virtualize…But with Microsoft, virtualization is built directly into Windows…so you only need three layers: the hardware, the operating system and the applications." This isn't inept marketing, it is intentional misinformation unworthy of an organization of Microsoft's caliber.
VMware's Strategic Innovation a Competitive Advantage
After three years of development encompassing over 3 million engineering hours, VMware vSphere debuted last May to tremendous customer and media acclaim. Infoworld, eWeek and SearchServerVirtualization.com all recently bestowed vSphere with their highest awards. It also won the prestigious Wall Street Journal 2009 Technology Innovation Award for software. But a competitive data center platform with superior capabilities and efficiencies is anathema to Microsoft and doubtlessly behind its frantic price-based messaging.
Unlike many industry pioneers that were outflanked by Microsoft before fully realizing the formidability of their foe, VMware's top executives including CEO Paul Maritz, formerly held senior positions there. They understand very well the exceptional capabilities of the software giant – and that maintaining VMware's industry leadership requires long-term strategic planning and continuous technology innovation. This puts Microsoft at a disadvantage that even giving away its virtualization product for free cannot overcome. As Cisco CEO John Chambers said, "If you're reacting to what a competitor does, you're looking out the rearview mirror. You're three to five years behind."
My first real exposure to the workings of the Microsoft organization came in the mid-1990s when my company at the time was a high profile Lotus Notes partner. A couple of Microsoft personnel visited in order to recruit us to sell Exchange, and they told me that employees meeting with Gates and Ballmer were prohibited from discussing their successes. The Microsoft leaders wanted to hear about problems so that they could solve them. I thought this was a remarkable way to run a business and indicative of a truly great company. I can see why Dick Brass is dismayed.
1Contradictory price comparisons on Microsoft's virtualization web site
Microsoft web site: "VMware is six times more expensive than Microsoft"
Microsoft video: "A cost comparison between Microsoft and VMware: Approximately 1/3rd the Cost"
Microsoft White Paper: "VMware typically costs three to five times more than Microsoft solutions."
2Microsoft white papers comparing costs with VMware
How Customers are Cutting Costs and Building Value with Microsoft Virtualization
Why Companies Switch from VMware to Microsoft Virtualization Whitepaper
Business Comparison Brochure: VMware and Microsoft
Technical Comparison Brochure: VMware and Microsoft
Debunking VMware's Top 10 Virtualization Myths
Comparing Virtualization Technologies of Microsoft and VMware
Virtualization Reality: Why Microsoft Virtualization Solutions Deliver Value When Compared to VMware
3Microsoft videos comparing costs with VMware
Top Facts VMware Does Not Want You to Know About Microsoft Hyper-V
Microsoft Virtualization Without Taxation
Microsoft Myth busters – Top Ten VMware Myths
A cost comparison between Microsoft and VMware
Author Disclaimer: I work for a leading VMware partner, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own and are not approved or endorsed by my employer.