I know, I know, the title alone can be misleading, but what I’m thinking here is a result of yet another trip down memory lane. I was talking with a client at the IT Operations and Management conference this week and he was a huge VMware fan (as are many). During the conversation he was completely dismissing the potential impact of Microsoft (or anyone else) on future virtualization markets, so I convinced him to do a little what if analysis with me, just to see what would evolve. I started by putting him in the way-back machine and telling him the short version of “what ever happened to Novell”.
Back in the early 1990’s Novel owned the local area network market – they were as dominant as VMware is today with well over 90% of the market and had an incredibly loyal following (I can attest to this having attended multiple Brainshare events with 10,000+ attendees – and I have the t-shirts to prove it).
But what Novell and their clients loved was Novell’s technology, and the thought that anybody, especially Microsoft running that paltry LAN Manager product, could supplant them was heresy. Every year new products (or plans) were announced, and every year the fan club grew. But in the background there was a small chink in the armor, led by a commodity product that was available everywhere. Windows 95 was released to great fanfare from the media as a desktop OS but bundled under the covers was a TCP/IP stack and some reasonable peer to peer capabilities. Nobody really cared, especially the Novell fans (you can start thinking about hyper-V here, bundled into Windows 7, just as a heads up).
As more and more of those new machines came in with Windows 95, more and more companies began using this free IP stack and good enough networking as a departmental alternative to “enterprise Netware”, or in some cases as a departmental add-on. Novell announced Netware 4.0 with NDS (Netware Directory Services) and while an elegant product in it’s own right, nobody really cared. It became the Betamax of it’s generation – a great technology that was more complex (or complete) than most customers needed and the march towards good enough networking continued. It wasn’t until years later that Active Directory from Microsoft even came close to doing what NDS could do, but by that time it no longer mattered, Netware was on the long slide to Nevermore.
Ok, fast forward to today and ask what the heck this has to do with VMware. Well, let’s see; VMware owns the market, well above 90%, and continues to come out with more and more innovative products. VMware has a loyal following of customers who see no reason to change direction – after all, the product works, the vision is sound, and the future is clear. But lurking in the background is this little thing called hyper-V; not as robust, or as tested as VMware, with almost no install base, and certainly not ready for prime time in most peoples minds. However, it will be an integral part of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 7 in 2010. Why should you (or VMware) care? Because like “free networking”, or “free SharePoint”, hyper-V will get used, slowly at first, but as more and more systems get installed the base will increase and within just a few short years companies will discover “(surprise, surprise!) that they have business applications running on both VMware and Hyper-V.
Do you care? We all run heterogeneous environments anyway, right? But if over time I have two VM’s and need to manage them – which management tool do I use? And here’s the rub – VMware is making great management tools – for managing VMware. But Microsoft’s management suite is designed to manage multiple VM’s from multiple vendors, including VMware. Now, if you find yourself in a situation where VM’s of all types are proliferating with each new system brought in (and they will), the key to reducing your complexity becomes the management tools – and over time standardization of the core products tends to track towards those tools. If the choice is multiple tools to manage multiple vendors vs. a single tool, which decision will most likely prevail? And if you eventually standardize on a single management tool, what’s the likelihood that the “preferred” platform was one designed specifically to run under that vendors tool suite?
Just a thought….It’s VMware’s market to keep. Let’s wish them luck.