Is Hyper-V a casualty of Microsoft’s innovation dearth?

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 (, 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 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.

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2 Responses to Is Hyper-V a casualty of Microsoft’s innovation dearth?

  1. Sure, Microsoft isn’t winning any points for innovation, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping them from having success. Microsoft was a non-factor in server virtualization just a few years ago, but now Hyper-V is the clear #2 in the market:,289142,sid94_gci1369150,00.html
    And even some VMware shops are bringing in Hyper-V:,295582,sid94_gci1380832,00.html
    I agree that Microsoft has had some questionable/misleading marketing for Hyper-V, but VMware has been guilty of the same thing:
    Clearly VMware has been the more innovative company. Just wanted to play devil’s advocate on some of the points you made. Looking forward to your thoughts.
    Colin Steele, Site Editor

  2. Steve Kaplan says:

    First of all, thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. As a long-time fan of yours, that means a lot. Here is my response to your 3 points:
    1) Microsoft success: When giving its product away and putting the kind of marketing muscle behind it that Microsoft brings, it better be getting results. There are even (unconfirmed) rumors that MS is seeding its channel with incentives to provide associated services for free. VMware’s ability to maintain a commanding market share lead despite actually charging for its product is testament to its exceptional value as perceived by customers around the globe. And until very recently, VMware has accomplished all of this without any advertising.
    2) Some VMware shops are bringing in Hyper-V: I’ve seen this first-hand. If taking a strategic approach to data center virtualization, however, I believe this is a mistake. I had already started on a blog post about this as a result of a conversation I recently had with industry guru, Greg Shields. When I read Alex’s article yesterday, I decided to key off his piece as a central theme.
    3) VMware’s misleading marketing: Again, I enjoyed your article about this when you published it last year. While VMware (mostly individual employees) have responded to Microsoft’s shenanigans in a manner I think unbecoming of the industry leader, I know of nothing misleading other than, perhaps, the rogue video briefly distributed by an employee – but then recalled and apologized for once brought to VMware’s attention. Microsoft, on the other hand, continues to engage in a broad-based massive attack on VMware as I outlined in my article. Although, as I hoped to convey, this is indicative of a “me too” virtualization strategy that reflects its lack of innovation, Microsoft certainly has every right to go to market in this manner. What I object to is the continued disingenuousness. The whole “extra layer” theme that Microsoft promotes is a prime example. Another example can be found on the blog of Alinean CEO, Tom Pisello, who responded to my criticism last year on Microsoft’s ROI calculator, Don’t believe any numbers you don’t make up yourself. Alinean develops ROI tools for many industry leaders including Microsoft, VMware and Citrix. In his blog post, Tom said, ”As indicated prior, Microsoft was responsible for defining the comparison and configuration criteria…and specified removal of CALS, however, we agree with Kaplan”. In other words, Alinean told Microsoft that its approach was inaccurate, but Microsoft didn’t care.

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