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5 things VMware must do to fend off Microsoft

Jon Brodkin | March 2, 2010
The industry's biggest x86 virtualization vendor is facing a strong challenge from Microsoft, which is enticing IT executives with Hyper-V, an alternative that may not be quite as sophisticated as VMware but is less expensive.

3. Win the desktop war

Desktop virtualization is in the plans of many big companies, opening up big revenue opportunities for VMware and its competitors. Citrix, a tight partner of Microsoft, is making a strong push into this market with XenDesktop, which aims to deliver high-definition desktops to nearly any type of device.

VMware should have a built-in advantage in pursuing desktop customers, because many of them are already using VMware's hypervisor. But many companies that use VMware's server technology have opted for Citrix on the desktop. In fact, many Citrix virtual desktop customers are using VMware ESX servers to host the desktops.

One of VMware's latest moves on the desktop front was to upgrade VMware View with the PC-over-IP protocol (PCoIP), a server-centric system designed to provide great-looking desktops even to users suffering from low bandwidth.

But Citrix delivers desktops in high definition with its HDX technology, and VMware is struggling to convince customers that its own PCoIP is a better alternative.

Lowe of Westminster College is planning a VMware View desktop deployment but is concerned about VMware's ability to deliver multimedia, including Flash applications. "They need to make sure the desktop experience closely mimics a physical desktop experience," Lowe says.

Balkansky says PCoIP is "a big step forward" but stops short of saying that it does the job as well as Citrix. In desktop virtualization, he says, "there is always this tendency to try to boil things down to a single feature and a single silver bullet, and the truth is that there is no single bullet or single feature that is make-or-break."

VMware still has work to do to integrate PCoIP with WAN accelerators like Riverbed's appliance, Wolf says, and give users more options for connecting to desktops. For example, some government users want the ability to connect to a desktop with just a Web browser, without having to install software on a local machine, but have run into roadblocks with VMware on that front, he says.

4. Simplify management

Network director John Turner of Brandeis University in Massachusetts loves virtualization -- but he's puzzled by some of its quirks.

Recently, users on virtual machines experienced a major slowdown, and at first Turner's network team couldn't figure out what was going on. It turned out all of the Windows systems running in VMware virtual machines were set to receive updates at the same time, but VMware's management tools didn't provide notice that this was going to occur or that it might cause strain on storage and other systems.

The problem, he says, is that VMware makes it very easy to deploy virtual machines in large quantities -- an issue often referred to as "VM sprawl" -- but it's not easy to diagnose potential performance problems before they occur.


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