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Fuzzy math: VMware cost calculator can show Microsoft is cheaper

Which is cheaper: Microsoft Windows Server 2012 or VMware vSphere 5.1? Well, that depends on who's doing the math.

A Microsoft general manager recently wrote a blog post pointing out that a cost calculator on VMware's website shows that if a system is configured in a certain way then Microsoft's Windows Server is less expensive for virtualizing workloads compared to VMware's flagship software. "VMware (finally) admits that its costs are higher than Microsoft's," is the title of the post.

At least one analyst is chalking this up as Microsoft "mudslinging" aimed at VMware, but also points out that it could reflect the increasing competitiveness of the virtualization market.

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The cost calculator on VMware's website must be configured a certain way for Microsoft's Windows Systems Server to come out cheaper than VMware. The configuration includes 100 virtual machines, an iSCSI SAN, using VMware vSphere 5.1 Enterprise Plus, with low electricity and real estate expenses. Microsoft says this represents a "common data center virtualization configuration." When doing this, VMware's vSphere 5.1 Enterprise Plus is 19% higher than Windows Systems Center 2012 and 12% higher than VMware's Enterprise edition. VMware's Enterprise Plus is priced at $257,385 compared to $217,226 for the Microsoft brand. When comparing the Windows version to the standard VMware edition, however, VMware comes out to be 7% less expensive than Microsoft.

In the blog post, Microsoft GM for Servers and Tools Marketing Group Amy Barzdukas says Microsoft could be even cheaper. VMware, she says is using a 2011 study which assumes that VMware ESX hypervisor can handle 20% more applications per virtual machine compared to Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization tool. Barzdukas says that's "an assumption with little credibility or real-life customer evidence" by VMware, noting that application memory has been improved in the 2012 version of the software.

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Public relations representatives that work with VMware did not respond to multiple inquiries to offer a response to Microsoft's claims. VMware's cost calculator Web page does note that VMware's Enterprise edition includes more than a dozen features that Windows Systems Center 2012 does not, such as VM fault tolerance, dynamic resource scheduling and distributed networking switching, for example.

ESG analyst Mark Bowker says "this is basically just some mudslinging," by Microsoft. Despite what can sometimes be higher priced products, Bowker says he's hard pressed to find users who are not happy with VMware's services. "It's an investment in licensing, and the hardware to go with it, but people use it because of the management capabilities it gives you to run the shop more efficiently," he says.

It's not the first time Microsoft has taken some jabs at VMware. Earlier this year the company released a series of advertisements featuring "Tad," a fictional salesperson for "VMlimited." As Network World's Jon Gold pointed out in April, it was attempt by Microsoft to paint VMware as expensive and outdated, by portraying VMware as working with only VMware's hypervisors. VMware has changed that since then.

READ: Microsoft takes virtual battle back to the 1970s with sardonic ad campaign

John Treadway, VP of Cloud Technology Partners, a consultancy, says the cost per VM price can be slightly misleading. "Enterprise buyers know that there is a difference between the list price and what the actual price turns out to be." Plus, he says, VMware is trying to play a price game. "That's not their value proposition," he says. "Cheapest isn't always necessarily the best."

MORE MUDSLINGING: VMware and Microsoft are missing the boat on private PaaS, consultant says

Treadway says there are plenty of ways to set up a virtualized infrastructure that would be cheaper than both VMware and Microsoft. Commodity hardware could be used on top of an open source hypervisor to create a system that he guesses could be 20% cheaper than Microsoft's price. The tradeoff is it would take more configuration and management, but it would be cheaper.

That doesn't mean there isn't room for Windows Server 2012 in the enterprise though, Bowker says. More and more, enterprises are turning into multi-hypervisor environments, with Microsoft's Hyper-V gaining traction in adoption. "There's a comfort factor there with Microsoft," he says.

And overall, Bowker says that competition is a good thing to keep these vendors on their toes and ensure that customers reap the benefits of a diversified marketplace.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.


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