Archive for November, 2008

It is Veterans Day

Virtualization Critical Comparison – Chapter 10

As I write this, it happens to be Veterans Day. No, I never served, but have friends and family that have and did. I don’t have any family or friends in current service, but I wanted to say to those that maybe Veterans, that happen to read this blog… Thank You. If I had been able to serve, I would have. I believe all citizens of the United States should serve, as all citizens do, in Germany of today for example do. I take a very deep sense of pride in America, when non-citizens, became citizens, in serving in the Armed Forces. And to be clear, I thank you for every type or era of service from every armed service, from the Revolutionary War, to Civil War, to WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, etc. I do not make delineations between peace keepings, police actions, or world wars, combat is combat, this is one lesson I learned at a young age listing to family and friends that participated in the various conflicts throughout recent history.

Moreover, I had close relatives on both sides of WWII, German and American. So I feel I have unique perspective from mein Grossvater who served in the German Technical Corps in Poland, in active combat with the Russians and Americans, as well as a Great Uncle, a pig-boat man and medic, who lost the back of his knee on a beach on Iwo Jima, because when they lost all the medics at one point, he was volunteered. There is nothing honorable or romantic, or even glorious, about combat. Saying thanks, and meaning it, I know has special meaning to all veterans that only they can appreciate.

As my best friend in high-school said, a former Marine, once said…Semper Fidelis, or Semper Fi, meaning Always Faithful, is a state of mind, not a motto. Thinking of this fact, I realized VMware is at a moment of truth, since it is facing an intense battle, a Battle Royale, really, against all comers. I discussed this at length with a good friend of mine at VMware recently, just after VMworld 2008. No, I will not name this person here, since to do so would not only violate their respective privacy, but since my blog is at times critical of VMware solutions, it would not be appropriate to create a perception of association, beyond our friendship of course, here, or with my, at times, intense views of VMware products. The basic discussion was an honest debate, in policy context, about how VMware should combat the threats, VMware sees in the virtualization sub culture of the Information Technology (IT) industry.

A standard SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis model is illustrative of the debated items within our discussion. MBA students hate these; I did when I got my MBA as well, professors love them, or so it seemed at the time. The itemization here is not exhaustive, but illustrative. I am sure many readers of this blog will find more items then are listed here, feel free to comment on such in reply to this blog as you would. All feedback is good, even that which we don’t enjoy, VMware are you listening? Sorry, was just too easy to say or type rather.


  • Market Share, VMware owns officially, last I looked at the various reports something close to 60% of the market? But with Datacenter adoption rates of only 10% or so, is this significant enough? The competition is getting stronger; well, Microsoft not withstanding, maybe VMware should acquire Citrix, Ironworks, Parallels, etc., just to eliminate confusing options to the potential customer base? VMware should focus on virtualization, even developing its own application instancing solution, which, is not based on VI? Something new and radical?
  • Product Feature Set, no doubt VMware VirtualCenter (VC) is still key to the success of VMware, even with its scaling limits and top-heavy implementation of today, single point of failure (SPOF), it is, for now the best Ease-of-Use (EOU) solution for virtualization. HA, DRS, and UM have all added to this model, for EOU, while detracting from VC scaling and SPOF issues. Not to forget (Storage) VMotion, and VMware SRM. True, VMware IV 4 promises to address these issues, improve integration, but only time will tell how successful this is, or how well received.


  • Lack of focus on Enterprise client base, this is changing in VMware, but it took a long time for it to become reality, years in fact. As the economic situation worsens, it is only the Enterprise and strong growth segments in Healthcare, Financial (cough, those that survive), etc., which for the most part are very big globalized entities, which will have the resources to continue with VMware.
  • Cost, VMware in comparison is expensive. Unlike Apple Computer, Inc. VMware can not survive on only the top 10 or 20% of the market share that will always need or be able to justify VMware cost over other solutions.
  • Loss of true innovation? Has VMware lost its ability to innovate? Yes and No. Yes, in that we are not seeing the great insightful leaps from VMware as a leader in virtualization, but what new big advances are still to be made? Hypervisor, operating system isolation virtualization, is quite mature. Application instancing, streaming, and state-less solution delivery appear to be eclipsing virtualization. Cloud computing, utility computing, even Grid computing are all gaining acceptance, if slowly as concepts that Enterprise entities are struggling to define, delineate, and implement, of which virtualization as we know it today, is only part of the overall strategy that is typical.


  • Innovation? Well, VMware is still acquiring or should I say is now almost completely, acquiring solutions, not really creating new solutions? Is that a fair statement? I think so, now. VMware has learned from Microsoft, that it is easier to purchase rather than innovate? This is an opportunity to be sure, but also a weakness.
  • VMware cost model is its greatest weakness but also an obvious opportunity. But does VMware have the strategic will to convert a weakness to an opportunity? Can this opportunity offset the impact of the significant threat, Microsoft? Will VMware continue to be a high-priced option, and elite solution? Or will VMware become the Walmart of virtualization? Which strategic direction will force Microsoft to re-think its strategy?
  • VMware must differentiate its self from the competition, showing values of its solution as superior thus, worth the investment. This is an opportunity that VMware only has as long as others continue to goof up, who are goofees, or is it goofies? Microsoft, with its rather weak, compared to VMware, Hyper-V solution, has established yet another opportunity for VMware to get crazy and surprise all of us again?


  • Microsoft, is not the Borg, they are not that efficient or effective yet…I fear we have awoken a sleeping dragon, is just not accurate yet, and VMware knows this. Not to be confused with the famous phrase…I fear we have done nothing more than awaken a sleeping giant. I leave it to the readers to discover the famous context of the later phrase; the hints are WWII and Pear Harbor. Microsoft has goofed twice, well three times, first the failed to acquire VMware, then they never got Microsoft Virtual Server right, then Hyper-V was released, as was ESX 3i, before, in my view it was ready. This does not mean that Microsoft is not a threat, only that it is more potential than reality at this point. Hyper-V is weak, but System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) for all its potential, is a disappointment to me. I really expect more from the Borg, I expect Microsoft to adapt much faster than they have so far. Still an emerging threat.
  • Xen (Citrix or Red Hat), Virtual Iron, Parallels, Solaris Zones, etc., the various virtualization container models and smaller organizations all are threats that will become more significant over time, as long as VMware cost model is significantly higher than the others, but will they survive when VMware and Microsoft own virtualization? I would say they are a declining threat.

Well, Gartner is not as outspoken on this topic as they could be, which strikes me as odd. Maybe no one wants to predict what will happen? As for me, I am going back and look at VI 4 again, now that I just completed the deep dive on Hyper-V, and look at VMware VI 4, including ESXi, yes, I said ESXi, with a fresh perspective, being a good critic means revisiting conclusions and assumptions, no solution is static so no critic should be static. I also plan to look at the latest version of Xen, again, in light of pending VI 4 and recent Hyper-V analysis, and see if my original SWOT analysis as noted above holds true or not.

Oh, as for my friend at VMware, what were the applicable conclusions from their perspective? In brief, agreed with the strengths, and to some extent saw reasonable merits in the opportunities, especially the idea of differentiating value of VMware quality and depth of offering over cost, but disagreed to some extent with most of the weaknesses and threats, noting that Microsoft was an obvious future threat.

Since this person is my friend, I would not wish to offend, therefore, I did not ask…Did you enjoy the cool-aid?  Instead, I thought to myself…What flavor was selected for next month, hoping the flavor selected would be agreeable. Cherry is just horrible, if I remember right. I am hoping for Grape, after all, I will be drinking it as well, because friends should never drink alone? Or I should say… I will be drinking it, at least until a strong and significant threat to VMware materializes. It is a question of when, not if, of course. All suggestions for future flavors of the month for cool-aid should be posted to this blog, the flavors the next 18 months or so, thinking of Microsoft for some reason since it took about that to get Hyper-V off the drawing board, are still open for selection. Don’t even suggest Cherry, yuck.

Add comment November 11th, 2008

Hyper-V, No Warp Drive, Struggling With Impulse Power Still

Virtualization Critical Comparison – Chapter 09

Well, I did it, I did the deep dive into Hyper-V, it was demanded, it was not an option, and when I came up for air, I felt like I was covered in dirt, well to be more specific, not dirt. The stuff was brown, but it had an odd smell, and it did not come off easy, too greasy for my liking, more like something unexpected that oozed out of the cracks of a weak impulse propulsion engine design prototype. Which I am not sure was what Microsoft was hoping for? Or was it? Microsoft released something that was better left stuck to the bottom of my pressure suit magnetic boots, rather than introduced into my virtualization lab. But in reflection this is what Microsoft intended, yes, intended. How so? Microsoft wanted to avoid looking like they were standing still, that they had not completely lost the Hypervisor market for at least another 18 or so months?

Look at Microsoft goals and objectives, from the past, they have done this before. They almost never have a winner out the door, but something that is functional, or looks to be anyways. Something that can be built up and refined, and polished into a mirror finish of Brass. Not Gold or Silver, at least not yet. Hyper-V gets you from Earth to Saturn and back again. But if you need to leave the Alpha quadrant, such as VMware has already done? For get it. Of course, along the way, Microsoft gets just enough of a following to make the solution look passable, if not viable at some scale or degree. Look at WordPerfect and Lotus, they dominated their respective markets, and Microsoft took them down hard, over time.

The gloves are off, that is obvious, and Microsoft has VMware in the phasers targeting array, and is locked on. The interesting thing is that VMware is a moving target, at warp speed, so Microsoft is having trouble getting a kill. Microsoft is still not strong on the feature set, no matter how many their sales teams decry the faults of VMware or Microsoft otherwise discounts the gaps in Hyper-V to cool-aid sipping CIOs of firms world wide, VMware is still the best of breed, still avoiding assimilation or destruction. And I am not just referring to VMware VMotion, or what Microsoft has tried over and over to rename as transparent migration. Lets be real, quick-migration is not quick, if any reboot is required, and in Hyper-V, that is what is required, be it planned or as a recovery on a cluster, it is not HA (High Availability) but AHA (Almost High Availability).

Let us dig a bit deeper. If some of that brown stuff gets into your suit vends, sorry about that, but when you decided to read about Hyper-V, you should have expected the brown stuff would get all over the place. The incomplete features that hurt Hyper-V are as follows:

  • HA (High Availability), well sort of, Microsoft Cluster running VMs (Virtual Machines) as a resource is not HA, it is really a band-aid, no matter how you look at it.
  • QM (Quick Migration), a reboot is a reboot is a reboot. This was discussed above, so no need to itemize again here.
  • One VM (Virtual Machine) per LUN? Are You Kidding? What bozo thought this up? Did I say band-aid again? Microsoft does not have a shared IO model that is really a shared IO model. VMware VMFS is not perfect, but it did set the expectation of standard high. Even in the Microsoft Clustering model, Microsoft says that disks should be duplicated not shared, the old X-Cluster versus Y-Cluster argument. Well, even if shared in a Y-Cluster, there are scaling problems, for anyone with 1000s of VMs. Like 1000s of LUNs?
  • Networking? It is horrible in Hyper-V, and Microsoft says, well, we depend on vendors to develop new or better drivers. Bull. Microsoft has all the leverage, the design is weak. For example, HP is still working on getting teaming to work right with Hyper-V, to which HP PSP 8.2 will support teaming in Hyper-V. Dell and IBM are silent so far on the issue, stating that they rely on the NIC drivers as provided. But simple teaming to avoid Single Point of Failure (SPOF) is not the issue I am yelling about here, it is the fact that Hyper-V does not do load-balancing or even an active/active pool of NICs, similar to VMware Bond, for me, that just yells weak design out of the space dock.
  • You have to have VMs with IDE for boot? But can have SCSI for other VM disks? Dumb. I think Microsoft did this to make transportation between VMware ESX and Hyper-V and back again, which will be a key trick for enterprise scale organization, as painful as possible.
  • Microsoft Clustering is horrible. Yes, horrible. When it works it is great, when it is ill or sick, you often will find it easier to take a node offline and shoot it with a phaser, because recovering a node that is whacked is one step short of a digital miracle. How do I know this? I have been supporting and designing solutions around Microsoft Clustering since 1998!
  • The entire Hyper-V solution is dependent on MOM, SCVMM and other Microsoft tools, so Hyper-V is not free, in fact, if you need to scale Hyper-V, it is not inexpensive. Anyone look at the cost of SCVMM and MOM? They are expensive and going up in price, with each new version, are they not?

The single most disappointing issue, well more of an architectural concept to be fair, with Hyper-V, for me, is the SPOF (Single Point of Failure) issues. With VMware ESX, to eliminate SPOF, I just double my components, and of course when needed, add an additional VMware ESX servers, maybe one or two or three, etc., and I am done, yes, done. No SPOF, unless I don’t know why physical switches and/or storage processors are. I can have as many physical NICs as the given hardware can handle, and I can map the physical NICs as I see fit. The same for HBA channels to the fabric, as long as I have shared-storage, I am good to go; a Virtual Cluster is just a few clicks away… Make it so, Number One. Microsoft, I need so many other components, applications, and layers of integration, it takes a Xenomorphic degree to keep things straight.

VMware VirtualCenter (VC) server? Sure if you need it, but not required, to achieve about 80% of the benefits of the virtualization architecture we need to avoid SPOF. VC components and features are integrated into one interface, where as with Hyper-V, you really need to use three (3) different tools just to match VC for configuration tasks, lets see, 1) the Cluster Administrator, 2) SCVMM, 3) Hyper-V MMC plug-in, because? Why Cluster Administrator and SCVMM don’t talk or play nice, you end up in Hyper-V MMC, to figure out what the heck has gone sideways. I will not itemize the other features in VC, which would only kick more of the brown stuff into the Microsoft fans suit cooling system, while they are reading this. Now I ask you? Does Hyper-V look that appealing, or is this a case of the old adage…You get what you pay for?

True, I am not the biggest fan of VMware, and at times I hammer VMware in this blog, to get things right, to improve, to be a better steward of the virtualization cutting edge, to boldly go where no, man, cough, virtualization company has gone before, sure. But compared to Hyper-V? This time I am going to praise VMware, a bit. VMware has a better solution; it may not be perfect, from my perspective, but compared to Hyper-V? VMware has achieved warp drive, where Hyper-V is still stuck on impulse drive. Maybe Microsoft should hire a few Vulcan technical experts? Hey, I wonder, VMware, Vulcan? Is it just me? Or is there a connection here? How many years did it take Star Fleet to get out from under the guidance of Vulcan? Vulcan developed 2nd and 3rd generation warp systems under the support of the Vulcan Science Directorate, I mean VMware developed VI 3 and 4, while Microsoft is still trying to get out of the space dock without training wheels. It was 3, maybe 4 years at least, right? Well Microsoft has already had 3 years already, and the training wheels are still welded to the side of the hull of Hyper-V, at best it is embarrassing for Microsoft, at worst, again for Microsoft, Vulcan, cough, I mean VMware has escaped the Borg, yet again!

3 comments November 4th, 2008


November 2008
« Oct   Dec »

Posts by Month

Posts by Category