The options for firms buying server virtualization tools opened up enormously following the launch of Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 about one year ago. Later this month the Microsoft will release Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. This update adds some vital functions, notably Live Migration, which will force many IT organizations to ask themselves why they are not using Hyper-V instead of possibly more expensive options such as VMware vSphere. To counter this challenge VMware must offer things that Microsoft cannot.
For example, earlier this year the focus from VMware was on its vCloud initiative. The idea here was to let firms package up their VMs and have third party hosting providers run them on some kind of pay per use model. Following the launch of the VMware vSphere suite in April the focus shifted to how vSphere could make better use of your hardware and therefore stave off expensive upgrades.
For example, VMware vCenter Server can monitor your VMs and move them to different ESX hypervisors to optimize performance and datacenter power consumption. The technology that underpins all of these capabilities is VMotion, and until the launch of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, Microsoft had nothing comparable to offer. However, R2’s Live Migration is pretty much identical to VMotion, and together with free PRO packs from Microsoft and others, a Hyper-V 2008 R2 server farm could to do most of the things a vSphere cluster could do, and arguably at a much lower price.
It’s time for VMware to pull out another trick, and fortunately for the virtualization giant, it has several more up its sleeve. The next wave from VMware will focus on the new VMsafe API, which is a really exciting development that’s likely to be welcomed by nearly all VMware’s customers.
The idea behind VMsafe is to support a new range of security products that run in a protected environment outside of individual VM operating systems. But although they run outside the VM, they can see inside the VM in a way that current network based security tools cannot. This ability to inspect what’s happening inside the VM means they could easily spot viruses and prevent them from running. And because the VMsafe tools run outside the VM, viruses inside the VM cannot disable or bypass them.
For a long time VMware has argued that running software inside VMs is better than running it on traditional hardware. Previously the company supported this claim by citing things like low cost snapshot backups, disaster recovery and VMotion.
With VMsafe it can add unrivalled security options. The VMsafe API was released to third party vendors at the same time as the first vSphere products, and it won’t be long now before the smaller vendors come to market with products based on the technology. It could turn out to be an enormously important technology, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes Microsoft to add a similar feature to Hyper-V.