Web extra: Virtualization management tools are the next battleground

Most observers agree that VMware is leading the pack when it comes to providing sophisticated virtual machine management features

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Most observers agree that VMware is leading the pack when it comes to providing sophisticated virtual machine management features. But in the next 18 months the market will change dramatically because of developments by chipmakers including Intel and AMD. They are building virtualization technology into next-generation processors and Microsoft reached a deal with Xen to run VM written for its open-source hypervisor. Most major Linux vendors already bundle. A hypervisor is a thin software layer that lets a physical server run one or more virtual servers. Microsoft also plans to integrate virtualization more closely into its upcoming Vista operating system.

As the virtualization market becomes more competitive and commoditized, opportunities remain for vendors to distinguish themselves. “The next competitive battleground will be in the management tools for managing virtual machines,” said Javier Vasquez, federal senior technology specialist at Microsoft.

Users agree that more work remains. For instance, Matthew Lutz, a CACI International contractor who is chief architect at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, wants virtualization software to have a built-in feature that can move a virtual server across a wide-area network link for maintenance purposes or as a way to recover from a local server failure. The Office of the Secretary of Defense relies on a third-party product for the capability, but  Lutz said he does expect to see that in future versions of VMware.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see that emerge. “VMware does not want to be the Netscape of virtual machines,” said John Sloan, an Info-Tech senior research analyst, referring to the Internet browser’s early dominance but eventual decline in the market. “They have a tremendous advantage now and they are working hard to keep that advantage.”

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