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Microsoft takes on VMware in virtualization market

Despite Microsoft gains, VMware remains dominant

Almost two thirds of organizations that use virtualisation use VMware, despite Microsoft making gains. According to a survey, VMware is utilised by 58% of businesses that use x86 virtualisation software, with Citrix and Microsoft's Hyper-V splitting the rest of the market.

Commissioned by virtualization management vendor Veeam and conducted by research group Vanson Bourne, the V-Index survey of more than 500 large businesses found that 92% have adopted virtualization, and deployed an average of 470 virtual machines. Although VMware is still the most widely used, it turns out multiple hypervisors in the same data centre is fast becoming the norm. And with VMware's latest price increases, Microsoft and Citrix have a chance to chip into its lead.

Fully 58% of companies using virtualization call VMware their primary hypervisor, while 20.2% put Citrix at the top of the list and 18.6% count Hyper-V first.

Yet when counting all virtualization use, 84% of virtualizing companies use VMware, 61% use Hyper-V, 55.4% use Citrix's XenServer and 12% use other hypervisors. Only 3% use an "other" hypervisor as their main one.

Global survey: what's the best virtualisation software?

Vanson Bourne surveyed IT decision makers at 544 organizations in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany, each of which has at least 1,000 employees. Exactly half of the companies use virtualization.

The results suggest that Microsoft, until recently an also-ran in the virtualization market, is making progress. But with VMware being counted as the main hypervisor for nearly 60% of customers, it seems VMware is still the top choice for running mission critical applications.

Veeam said it will update the survey every three months.

While Veeam's survey provides a snapshot of today's usage, IDC's latest quarterly numbers show that customers are continuing to buy VMware products at a rapid pace.

In Q1 2011, worldwide sales of new virtualization licenses deployed into production on new or existing servers was 58% VMware, 26% Microsoft and 8% Citrix, with others accounting for the remainder, according to IDC.

Overall, 20% of new x86 servers have virtualization technology pre-installed or installed at the time of deployment, IDC also says. While Veeam's numbers suggest that most enterprises are using virtualization, the IDC survey shows that doesn't mean most of their servers are virtualized.

In fact, Veeam's survey also showed that just under 40% of servers are virtualized, with an average consolidation ratio of six virtual servers per host.

Microsoft's share could continue to increase because of anger among VMware customers over new licensing prices. In postings on a VMware community forum, one customer professed to be "totally floored" by the new prices, while another used the phrase "still in shock" and claimed to be emailing a VMware sales rep to complain.

VMware increased the number of licenses required to virtualize systems that meet certain thresholds of sockets and memory, causing one customer to call it a "penalty on density."

"Our team prefers vSphere over Hyper-V, but with this new pricing we might be forced to switch," one customer wrote.

Hyper-V explained

Hyper-V is free as a stand-alone product and comes with Windows Server, which many or most VMware customers buy to begin with. The analyst firm Gartner recently placed Microsoft and Citrix in the leaders portion of its "Magic Quadrant," behind VMware, meaning their tools aren't as robust but are enterprise-ready.

Veeam's virtualization management tools only support VMware's hypervisor today, but the company is planning a backup and replication product for Hyper-V in Q4 2011, and some of its VMware tools are compatible with Microsoft's System Center management platform.

"Because we're a virtualization company, we want to support a market-leading hypervisor or hypervisors," said Doug Hazelman, Veeam's senior director of product strategy. "We have always felt it was going to be a race between VMware and Microsoft, but at the same time we can't count out Citrix."

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