On January 29, 2013, VMware® posted a blog comparing their VMware Go Pro™ bundle with SolarWinds®, as well as Microsoft® Windows® & InTune™ and other vendors. While a bias toward their own offering in the evaluation criteria is fairly obvious, I thought the more interesting questions are, “Why is VMware doing this?” and “Why are they doing it now?”


In a post almost a year ago, SolarWinds asked the question, “Has VMware ceded the SMB market to Microsoft Hyper-V?” It appears that VMware is now being forced to answer that question with increased attention to the entry-level user.


Much has changed in the last year; in particular, Microsoft released Server 2012 with Hyper-V® V3.0. Prior versions of Hyper-V were not really an option for many IT shops, as they were more resource-intensive, less mature, and lacked key features like VMotion®. As a result, VMware had little competition in the production data center space. With Hyper-V V3, Microsoft has closed the gap significantly, bringing Hyper-V closer to parity with VMware and even adding a few capabilities that VMware doesn’t have (e.g., storage features). Because the majority of servers run Windows, most companies get Hyper-V for free with the Server 2012 platform.


As many of us have learned, however, free isn’t always free. For an IT shop built around VMware licensing, technology, processes and skills, switching hypervisors isn’t a trivial task. As a result, the more common point of entry for Hyper-V adoption is keeping VMware in place for existing production environments, and using Hyper-V in traditionally lower risk environments such as Development/Test or for smaller branches or departments that are already Microsoft-centric. The other primary entry point for Hyper-V implementation involves new adopters of virtualization where there are no switching costs.


While these points of entry won’t be a threat to VMware’s dominance in the production data center for quite some time, they do provide Microsoft a foothold for the future as they siphon off much of the growth VMware needs to maintain its market leadership. Increased hypervisor competition is also introducing more and more heterogeneous hypervisor environments into the picture.


Another interesting point is that neither VMware nor Microsoft are competing directly with their core hypervisor offerings, but instead see management as the key requirement for the customer. Given the increased competition within the hypervisor market, heterogeneous management in particular is becoming increasingly important.


It is an old story that the infrastructure vendor wants to add management capabilities into its solution package to ensure customers stay locked in. The same thing was true back in the early days of x86 server adoption: While hardware vendors pushed their proprietary management tools, independent heterogeneous management vendors such as BMC®, CA®, and Tivoli® became the management tools of choice.


The same thing is happening today in the virtualization space, but with a new set of players. You just have to look at VMware’s comparison chart to tell you which companies they see as their real competition in the virtualization management space.


So what does this mean for the end-user? This is good news. Both VMware and Microsoft are investing heavily in their hypervisor technology. Increased competition is good for both the market at large and the individual user. This also fosters competition in the IT management market, generates innovation, and keeps companies like SolarWinds pushing hard to deliver powerful but simple virtualization monitoring products shaped by customer needs and market demands.


As far as VMware’s comparison goes, our experience is that even entry-level customers want powerful solutions; they just need them to be easy to use and affordable. Why invest in and implement a minimal-functionality product today, only to outgrow and replace it six months from now?


All SolarWinds products come with a free, fully functional trial and take less than an hour to download, install, and deploy. After you have it up and running, SolarWinds software is incredibly easy to use and simple to understand. Try a free 30-day trial of SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, Patch Manager and Web Help Desk™ today, and decide what works best for your environment.