As Microsoft and VMware Square Off, Keep Your Eyes on OpenStack

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 25, 2010

Over the past two years, Microsoft has steadily increased its focus on cloud computing, not just by aggressively pushing its Azure platform, and stepping up its focus on competing with Amazon, but also by exploring ways to leverage its dominance in office productivity applications in the cloud, and more. Amazon is hardly Microsoft's only significant competitor in the cloud, though. VMware looms as a big competitor for many reasons, and there are signs that Microsoft sees open source strategies as key tools in competing with the likes of VMware. Here is how competition between VMware and Microsoft is increasing.

Not long ago, I met with some of the key people at VMware, and when I asked them about competition from Microsoft and from free, open source hypervisors, they made the point that virtualization--which is VMware's bread and butter, and a key part of its cloud strategy and Microsoft's--is "inherently difficult as a computing problem." They did not buy into the idea that one can simply offer a free hypervisor and gain acceptance at enterprises.

Microsoft would like to get its Hyper-V virtualization platform, and Azure, entrenched in enterprises, and, as we noted last week, it is pursuing an open source-focused strategy that may give it an advantage in these efforts. Specifically, Microsoft is working with the open source OpenStack cloud computing community on integration of Windows Server (which incorporates Hyper-V for virtualization) and OpenStack's platform

“Support for Windows Server Hyper-V on OpenStack reinforces Microsoft’s commitment to delivering choice and flexibility to customers in the cloud,” said Ted MacLean, general manager for the Open Solutions Group at Microsoft, in a statement. “Giving customers the option to use Microsoft’s enterprise-ready virtualization platform, Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, when they deploy OpenStack as their cloud solution is a win for all.”

While VMware doesn't necessarily take pure open source virtualization strategies so seriously as direct competition to its proprietary offerings, it should take a close look at the clout with enterprises that a combination Hyper-V/OpenStack platform could have. 

VMware is trying to build proprietary application strategies around its core virtualization offerings, including cloud applications. Microsoft serves Hyper-V up as a bundle in Windows Server, though, and the OpenStack platform could offer enterprises a flexible way to customize public and private cloud strategies.

ZDNet's Dana Blankenhorn sums the issue up nicely, and also makes the point that a breakup of Novell, with SUSE Linux going to VMware, could have an impact on this competition between VMware and Microsoft:

"Microsoft is now an enterprise company, and that’s where VMWare is strong. The battle is over the cloud and enterprises dig the cloud. VMWare has been expanding from hypervisors into a full cloud stack, and stacks are where Microsoft is at. Clouds are what its enterprise customers are talking about, and Microsoft needs to be in that discussion."

 Microsoft sure does need to be in that discussion, and it won't help that Ray Ozzie, who steered the company's Azure platform to fruition, is leaving. VMware doesn't leap to everyone's mind when considering Microsoft's biggest competition, but let's also not forget that VMware's CEO Paul Maritz was a long-time Microsoft executive. He knows everything about the company's Windows-centric strategy, and has been trying to compete with it for years now. Look for ever more competition between Microsoft and VMware--focused on the cloud, with open source possibly being Microsoft's trump card.