Starting from today, VMware’s ESXi hypervisor will be offered free, supposedly to counter the threat from Microsoft Hyper-V and there is an interesting article over at virtualisation.info. But dig a little deeper and, as James Staten at Forrester Research notes:
“This doesnâ€™t really address the typical enterpriseâ€™s cost of VMware deployment â€“ just the marketing threat of the low Hyper-V starting price.”
James’s article on the release of “free” ESX is worth a read – he continues by noting that:
“VMware has used this pricing strategy several times to help seed the market, grow its customer base and fend off competitors. VMware Player and GSX server were both made free to respond to the threat of open source and other competitors. Both Player and GSX served as nice onramps to try VMware but had performance penalties and limitations, so customers quickly upgraded when they were through experimenting â€“ stopped a lot of customers from experimenting with the open source stuff. The same is likely to be true here; while free ESXi certainly isnâ€™t crippled (itâ€™s the same code as in the commercial versions) the fact that you canâ€™t manage more than one at a time is the driving drawback.”
But the part I struggle with in James’ analysis is the the summary:
“If you want a more mature solution and the live migration and HA capabilities VMware brings to the table, the cost differential is worth it.”
Is it? Is anybody really failing live production workloads over between hosts using VMotion? Not with the change control processes that most of my customers use. That’s why Microsoft’s quick migration is fine for controlled fail-over – a few seconds of outage is generally not a concern when you have already scheduled the work. As for high availability, I can provide a highly available Hyper-V cluster too. Then there is maturity… VMware may have invented the x86 virtualisation space but dealing with the company can sometimes be difficult (in fairness, that criticism can be levelled at other organisations too).
There’s an old adage that no-one got fired for choosing IBM. More recently no-one got fired for choosing HP (formerly Compaq) ProLiant servers. In the virtualisation space no-one gets fired for choosing VMware – not at the moment anyway – at least not until the CFO finds out that you could have implemented the solution using Microsoft technologies for less money. For that matter, when did anyone get fired for choosing Microsoft?