Microsoft recycles same old VMware smack


“I’m a virt guy, it’s all I know.” VMlimited’s polyester wearing head salesman, Tad, proudly touts his shortsightedness as part of the extensive Microsoft advertising campaign mocking VMware. Tad warns about the “hidden bummers of going too far beyond virtualization” from highway billboards, banner ads, paid keyword searches, print ads, and the vmlimited site itself.

The premise that VMware is stuck in the virtualization past is nonsensical, but Microsoft may be striving for “cool” rather than reason. Perhaps the folks in Redmond are still smarting from the famous “I’m a Mac” campaign and consider VMlimited as their opportunity to play the hip underdog role this time around.

Comparative Cloud History

“Microsoft believes that, rather than undertaking a costly revolution, you should evolve your environment in a way that preserves and extends existing investments…”

              – Microsoft Virtualization Delivers More Capabilities, Better Value than VMware

The amusing irony of the VMlimited campaign is that Microsoft has always played catch-up to VMware. Its Palo Alto rival was pioneering Cloud solutions before the software giant could even spell virtualization – literally. “Virtulization” was featured in the title of its famous 2009 Myth Busters video.

Microsoft’s own virtualization site didn’t even mention Cloud as recently as three years ago.  In contrast, VMware’s home page already emphasized Cloud as transforming IT. Then, as now, VMware’s site educated viewers on private clouds, public clouds, hybrid clouds, cloud security and management.

While VMware was promoting its cloud services and products, Microsoft was still struggling with basic virtualization vision: “At Microsoft, virtualization means helping IT departments maximize cost savings and improve business continuity.”

Perhaps most tellingly, in 2009 Microsoft was still advocating a cautious, evolutionary approach to virtualization – boasting that its solutions “address both physical and virtual infrastructure.” Conversely, VMware was encouraging 100% virtualization while emphasizing the ultimate end goal: “Virtualization is the essential catalyst for cloud computing”.

As recently as mid 2011, Microsoft still promoted virtualization as a feature of the operating system. It suggested these revolutionary virtualization use cases:

You can use Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 for the following scenarios:

  • Test and Development
  • Server Consolidation
  • Branch Office Consolidation
  • Hosted Desktop Virtualization (VDI)

–    Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Home Page (July, 2011)

Microsoft Advantages

Microsoft marketing is nothing if not persistent. For over three years it has criticized VMware for the same two “weaknesses”: a supposed higher cost and the inability to manage multiple hypervisors.

Higher Cost: Microsoft has been relentless over the years in using its Web site, videos, white papers, etc. to loudly proclaim VMware costs more. Even its Private Cloud Economics Tool compares costs with VMware.

In a recent rebuttal, VMware makes a strong case not just for cost parity, but superiority. But the true value is not measured by deltas in licensing or even operating costs. VMware enables organizations to more easily, quickly and effectively embrace Cloud.

Managing Multiple Hypervisors: Tad’s antics perpetuate Microsoft’s tired refrain that System Center effectively manages vSphere. It does not. More importantly, it’s a bad idea to have multiple hypervisors to begin with from a unified data center objective. It’s an even worse idea if considering Cloud.

Lone Star College System – one of the nation’s largest community colleges with over 100,000 students – runs a very efficient vSphere-based private cloud with only two administrators. A recent internal analysis showed that adding Hyper-V would require a third administrator, making it unfeasable.

Cloud Industry Leadership

Microsoft swaggers as if it leads the Cloud industry, but its actions speak louder than words. The company’s continued refusal, for example, to grant Service Provider Licensing or allow multi-tenancy for virtual desktop Cloud providers severely restricts Desktop-as-a-Service.

Desktop guru, Brian Madden, recently relinquished his long-time Microsoft MVP declaring, “So that’s it. Microsoft is screwing this entire industry with their asshole policies. I’m embarrassed that I supported them for so long. I just don’t have the respect for them that I did in 2004.”

Microsoft’s private cloud messaging makes System Center 2012 appear to be a comprehensive system. But a proclamation does not a true solution make. All eight System Center components must be purchased, and once installed are not even aware of each other.

While Microsoft manufactures an extraordinary variety of products ranging from word processing to video games, VMware remains focused as “the global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure.” Over 100 VMware vCloud service providers enable the world’s largest community of compatible public clouds, and 20,000 people attend VMworld, now one of the largest IT conferences.

Trash Talk in Lieu of Substance

Microsoft never bashed Lotus when it knocked off Lotus 1-2-3 with Excel. It didn’t bad-mouth Word Perfect when it took over word processing. It didn’t denigrate IBM as it supplanted Notes with Exchange. It never knocked Netscape, didn’t take potshots at Novell and didn’t sneer at Sony.

Rather than talk smack, Microsoft simply developed good products that quickly surpassed the market leaders. It has taken a very different tact against VMware, and the VMlimited campaign is its most extensive and expensive salvo yet. VMware nonetheless continues to dominate the industry and is a rapidly growing $4B business with no signs of slowing down.

The only other manufacturer that I can recall Microsoft publicly attacking is Apple – and that didn’t work out so well. While its I’m Not Cool Enough to be a Mac Person and Apple Tax campaigns are completely forgettable, the Steve Ballmer video scoffing at the iPhone remains a classic.

VMlimited is Microsoft’s attempt to ridicule VMware using humor. But the campaign underscores the company’s continued attempts to meet the high standards VMware sets. The folks in Palo Alto must be chuckling.

Whoops – got to run. My pager is going off.


See Also:

Sorry Microsoft; Not Only Does vSphere Cost Less to Buy, It Also Costs Less to Operate. 05/16/2012.

VMware CTO reveals future directions in VMUG vid. 05/09/2012. Simon Sharwood. The Register.

4 Ways Microsoft is Screwing the Desktop Virtualization Industry, and Why I’m Quitting the MVP Program. 03/01/2012. Brian Madden.

Microsoft Makes it Challenging for Cloud Providers to Host Virtual Desktops. 02/21/2012. Steve Kaplan. By The Bell.

The Multi-Hypervisor Fallacy. 02/25/2010. Steve Kaplan. By The Bell.

Is Hyper-V a Casualty of Microsoft’s Innovation Dearth? 02/11/2010. Steve Kaplan. By The Bell.

Don’t Believe Any Numbers You Don’t Make up Yourself. 06/03/2009.  Steve Kaplan. By The Bell.

Microsoft Conjures Imaginary ‘Apple Tax’. 04/11/2009. Rick Myslewski. The Register.

Microsoft ad: I’m Just Not Cool Enough to be a Mac Person. 03/26/2009. Mary Jo Foley. ZDNet.


Author Disclaimer. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect those of my employer which is both a leading VMware and Microsoft partner.


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7 Responses to Microsoft recycles same old VMware smack

  1. Andrew Wood says:

    MS aren’t appealing to large service providers – they’re appealing to their mass audience. For sure, big shops find a clarity in a single hypervisor (although I think that is changing) – but for the larger SMB space – and specific verticals including key markets like education, and government. VMware have created a licensing policy that just doesn’t make sense. In the latest OS releases, Microsoft are going to outplay a lot of the competition – including vmware with MS’ latest features in hyper-v. Not for big shops for sure – but MS don’t need to win big shops.
    To quote 2009/8 pieces as “where Microsoft are at” does them a disservice imo. IT moves fast. It is the fool that *doesn’t* change an opinion, let’s not ridicule a mindset change. Looking at the latest flashy IE add on TV you’d be hard pushed to remember Microsoft ever thinking the Internet would come to much.
    I’m tired of “lack of SPLA licenes” being touted as the chain around VDI’s neck. If VDI was really awesome, sheer weight of demand would have moved MS. It hasn’t. They haven’t. Time to get over it. All desktop OS virtualisation solutions have their place but it is not at the wider forefront of desktop strategies and I doubt it ever will be. But who am I to deny a rage against the machine.
    I’d agree tho’, dissing the opposition is Not Cool. Sadly it appears to be in vogue in the advertising community and there should be a distinct “tut” in that direction. Although I did chuckle at the French eurostar’s latest anti-british-come-to-england campaign: but that’s an aside.
    MS buffeting in the tail winds of vmware? I don’t think so: share price does say no too.
    Still as ever, well written, clearly articulated. Hopefully it sparks some good debate, you’re rightly well followed.

  2. Andrew,
    Thanks for your comment. My purpose in including the older MS quotes was to show how the company has always lagged behind VMware – contrary to the theme of VMlimited. And the lack of SPLA for DT service providers shows, in my opinion, a narrow self-interest, not industry leadership as implied by the campaign.
    My post,though, was about the campaign, not about Microsoft’s capabilities. Anyone who overlooks MS as an extremely astute competitor is not likely to hold their leadership position for long. I remember the way Scott McNeally used to publicly and blatantly bash Windows, Office and MS in general (he referred to MS Office as “bloatware”). Today Sun has been pretty much relegated to a patent litigation vehicle for Oracle.

  3. Andrew Wood says:

    “the lack of SPLA for DT service providers shows, in my opinion, a narrow self-interest, not industry leadership”
    Here I disagree. I think there is a “a virtualisation industry” specifically focused around virtual desktops where there is an expectation of delivery to a market that is not widespread; and based on the services of a supplier who sees no increased profits from changing tack. As a company Microsoft’s focus is to their shareholders.
    I don’t see the issue solely at Microsoft’s door.
    There is a part of me that thinks complaints about desktop VDI licensing is akin to that of a child at Christmas who asks for a $200 gift, and receives a $50 gift. Who is at fault?
    However, since you posted this piece, VMware have intelligently introduced Wanova to their product set. I think this goes some way to showing the crassness of the marketing campaign that MS embarked on that you rightly called foul on.

  4. Eric Feldman says:

    “Microsoft never bashed Lotus when it knocked off Lotus 1-2-3 with Excel. It didn’t bad-mouth Word Perfect when it took over word processing. It didn’t denigrate IBM as it supplanted Notes with Exchange. It never knocked Netscape, didn’t take potshots at Novell and didn’t sneer at Sony.”
    Sorry, really, really have to disagree on this. For example, I was working for Novell when MS was doing things like this:
    To me the MS vmLimited campaign is just more of the same kind of marketing FUD over technical substance. I’m very hopeful that VMware will do a much better job than Novell did in reacting and focusing on both marketing and technology competition with Microsoft than Novell ever did.

  5. Eric,
    Thanks for pointing out the cereal campaign against Novell – I had no idea. The conference truck campaign (or a variation of it) is pretty common among all kinds of vendors including Citrix, Oracle, HP and VMware (though Maybe Microsoft started it all?) – but that cereal campaign was definitely a VMlimited type of attack.
    VMware has a huge advantage over Novell in terms of thwarting Microsoft in that former Microsoft top executives Paul Martiz and Tod Nielsen run the show.

  6. Andrew,
    Thanks for the follow-up comment. While I think the VMware acquisition of Wanova was a brilliant move, I am curious as to why you feel it “goes some way to showing the crassness of the marketing campaign that ES emarked on…” ?

  7. Andrew Wood says:

    I can only really comment on the desktop services component tbh, but:
    “Microsoft believes that, rather than undertaking a costly revolution, you should evolve your environment in a way that preserves and extends existing investments…”
    From a desktop perspective – VMware have been limited in only providing fully virtualised desktop services *up until* they bought Wanova. I think this purchase gives View an option of truly being able to offer an enterprise desktop environment.
    The innovative feature that Wanova’s offering can deliver is a management option to offer a mix between virtual/physical environments.
    Its one example where “the present and near future” is about being able to join internal/external services together and treat them as one. Microsoft’s campaign is crass in that it highlights “external” as “wrong”, but then simply punts “internal” as “right”.

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