Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 R2 was a major release, delivered in October 2013, and during the last year and a half, that release has become mainstream. Microsoft has effectively closed most of the functionality gap with VMware in terms of the x86 server virtualization infrastructure. Differences continue to be price (favouring Microsoft, although customers report that VMware has slightly better hardware density), ease of management (Microsoft’s multiple management tools make operations more complex, and the parent OS architecture tends to drive more planned downtime), and features (Microsoft’s Dynamic Optimization is impractical for most organizations, and VMware’s broader OS support is often critical to enterprises).
Microsoft’s efforts in enabling Azure-like capability have been attracting enterprises interested in leveraging Azure and managing both on-premises Hyper-V and Azure services. There is a growing interest in using Hyper-V for Microsoft-based development teams, especially due to its Azure affinity.
Microsoft can now meet the needs of most enterprises with respect to server virtualization. Its challenge is neither feature nor functions, but competing in a market with an entrenched competitor, VMware. Microsoft is now winning a good percentage of enterprises that are not yet heavily virtualized — especially those that are mostly Windows-based (while Linux support is improved, especially in Windows Server 2012 R2, there are few customers using Hyper-V for Linux). However, few enterprises that are heavily virtualized with an alternative technology are choosing to go through the effort to switch. A growing number of large enterprises are finding niches in which to place Microsoft — for example, in stores, branch offices or separate data centres. This strategy of “second sourcing” will enable these enterprises to evaluate Hyper-V for further deployments and perhaps leverage the competition in deals with VMware. While Microsoft’s technology is capable, winning the larger and more mission-critical deployments will be an uphill battle and will require more proof points. Hyper-V will likely be more successful in development teams interested in Azure, but requiring on-premises deployments. As Microsoft further improves its support for Azure affinity, and adds support for Windows containers in a future release, its success with development teams will continue to grow.
- There is a large installed base of Windows servers and a large number of Windows-only enterprises.
- Microsoft’s virtualization products are offered at a low price.
- Hyper-V and System Centre have a growing interoperability and integration with Azure.
- Microsoft will find it difficult to convert the entrenched VMware installed base, especially in large enterprises.
- While improving, Microsoft’s management tools have some ease-of-use weaknesses.
- Microsoft faces growing competition with open-source-based solutions, especially in the service provider market.