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VMware-Microsoft battle taking shape

Forrester Research analyst says that VMware has a good head start in virtualization, but says that Microsoft has a broader vision that is more compelling, if Redmond can deliver.

That Microsoft has its sights set on the virtualization market dominated today by VMware is nothing new. However, the announcements Microsoft made on Monday show that the company is putting a tremendous amount of resources toward moving from vision to reality, analyst say.

Microsoft's approach of having a data center that can respond dynamically to business needs, while still years off, is compelling, said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett. Virtualization is a key component that can take the Dynamic Systems Initiative of a few years ago and make it approach reality.

Now, Microsoft is far from alone in this vision. I've heard similar talk over the years from Hewlett-Packard, Veritas (now Symantec), IBM and others.

But clearly a fire has been lit under Microsoft, which was comparatively late to the virtualization game, despite its 2003 purchase of Connectix.

It should be an interesting battle between Microsoft and VMware.

"VMware has a first mover advantage and a head start," Gillett said. "But Microsoft's model-based approach to it is a more appealing ideal."

That ideal, though, will take some time.

"We believe VMware has a broader product portfolio and it will take some time for Microsoft to match the breadth, probably until 2010," Gillett said.

The moves come as virtualization is entering the mainstream on the server side and a looming presence on the desktop. Forrester said a recent survey showed half of businesses using server virtualization currently, with two-thirds planning to by next year. On the desktop, things are more nascent, with just over a quarter of businesses saying they either are using PC virtualization or will do so in the next 12 months.