Similar to the question my colleague Robbie Wright asked in his blog post, Has VMware® Ceded the SMB Market to Microsoft Hyper-V?,” Microsoft®'s announcements at Microsoft Management Summit 2012 have me wondering if Microsoft has ceded the SMB management market.

Microsoft Targets Cloud and Large Enterprise

With their new announcement, Microsoft is bundling eight different management products with a heavy focus on implementing private clouds. In an article by Charles Babcock titled, “Microsoft System Center 2012 Focuses on Private Cloud,” Brad Anderson of Microsoft is quoted as saying, “Systems Center 2012 has been restructured, not only to help IT and operations managers handle large sets of Windows Server systems, but also to give System Center a more private-cloud-like approach to datacenter management.” Those statements around cloud and large environments illustrate Microsoft’s extreme focus on larger enterprises. Combine that with the fact that customers can no longer pick the capabilities they want but are forced to purchase all eight products as a bundle (there is no option to purchase individual components) and that doesn’t sound like a mid-market or SMB-centric strategy to me.

Microsoft and VMware in a Battle Royale for the Enterprise Datacenter

Both Microsoft and VMware are clearly battling it out for ownership of the virtualized enterprise datacenter. Both are putting all their effort not just into control of the enterprise datacenter but sole control of the datacenter. In this battle royale, both vendors are driving higher and higher up the stack to focus on cloud and very large datacenter consolidation projects. This mirrors the moves that VMware has made recently that were the focus of Robbie’s post. These kinds of forced bundles are clearly designed to lock out competition (by both Microsoft and VMware), and aren’t good for the market in general. While the battle in some ways provides choices (Hyper-V or vSphere), both vendors are clearly doing what they can to use their respective market positions to make it difficult for customers to make a choice based on the technology that is really best for them. As Steve Beaver notes in his Virtualization Practice blog, “A Call to Action with One Voice – Cross Hypervisor Management,” as opposed to working on locking out competitive options and battling each other, it would be better if the vendors focused on enabling easy cross-hypervisor management with monitoring for both VMware and Hyper-V.

Where does this Leave the Small or Mid-Market Customer?

This leaves the mid-market or SMB customer with a take-it or leave-it choice. As a matter of fact, that’s about where it leaves the enterprise customer too, but they may at least see some benefit out of the large enterprise cloud components being stuffed into Systems Center. At $3,607 for a two-processor socket license, that can be a steep increase over what current customers are paying if they are only using one or two of the current System Center components. And the larger question is, can Microsoft really provide simple, easy to use and easy to buy products focused on the real pains of smaller customers or departments at the same time they are focused on the large enterprise customers? With the two behemoths battling it out for the enterprise cloud datacenter, the SMB customer may feel that they got left out in the cold.