Friday, February 27, 2009

Virtualization Big Dog: VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, or Red Hat?

I was catching up on industry news today when I saw the following eWeek post: Red Hat Is Getting Ready to Take on VMware

It has been a while since I've written a "Big Dog" article, but this topic is worthy; so here goes.

Who is the virtualization big dog?

VMware is the incumbent big dog, of course. They have a compelling portfolio of offerings that are proven, feature-rich, and getting better all the time. Moreover, while I was at Princeton Softech, I was an avid and happy user of VMware's products.

Virtualization is big business these days and will only get bigger since it plays a fundamental and foundational role in cloud computing. VMware is faced with competitors interested in chipping away at their market dominance:
Just for fun, I've compared/contrasted the players in the Virtualization market with the players in the Enterprise Middleware market back in 2003/2004:
  • VMware and BEA: Early/dominant market leaders driving innovative technology
  • Microsoft and IBM: Huge players who think/execute over the long term
  • Citrix and Sun: Xen ignited these market dynamics; Java made the middleware market
  • Red Hat and JBoss/Tomcat: The power of bottom-up market groundswell
The middleware market leader was BEA Systems. IBM was the much bigger player applying top-down market pressure and working its usual long-term plan to gain market dominance. Sun was the vendor responsible for the technology that made the market but never became the market leader. And JBoss and Tomcat were generating significant and unyielding bottom-up market groundswell.

How did it play out? BEA became so focused on fighting IBM at the high end that they ignored/denied the bottom-up groundswell: BEA Chief Downplays Open-Source Alternatives. Alfred Chuang never gave credence to the JBoss or Tomcat threat and ultimately BEA got swept up by Oracle.

Bob Pasker (founder of Weblogic) had an interesting post after BEA got acquired by Oracle: JBoss (and possibly Tomcat) should never have happened. "JBoss launched an innovators dilemma attack against BEA, not with a revolutionary product, but with a revolutionary business model, one that BEA couldn’t hope to copy without cannibalizing its existing revenue stream. BEA fell right into the trap."

That Was Then But This Is Now
While there are some interesting similarities between the middleware and virtualization markets, the market dynamics today are clearly different. The open source model has clearly made its mark across many software markets. Neither Microsoft nor VMware are denying the power of open source or the threat that companies such as Red Hat pose to their business.

Add in the fact that VMware has Paul Maritz (ex-Microsoft executive) as their CEO and that changes things as well. While I don't like the article's title, I do agree with much of Chris Mellor's points in: VMware's one-trick pony: Destined to be a platform?. Chris highlights Maritz as an inspirational leader who has a great feel for where the market is heading.

So with all of that said, my answer to the question:

Who is the virtualization big dog?


Bottom-line: As long as VMware stays focused on creating great solutions to customer problems and honestly assesses the threats posed by the other market players, they should be able to retain their market leadership status for many years to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post Shaun.. Burton Group has created hypervisor evaluation criteria and vendor scorecards: