I believe it is now obvious that VMware is trying to become an OS vendor, or a platform vendor — if you think that OS has a too narrow definition. Here is why:
1. Virtual appliances — With virtual appliances, VMware is sending a clear message to ISVs — you develop for, run on, deploy on and service your applications on VMware – not on Windows or Linux. The OS is just a library or at best a middleware like Java or .NET, but not really a resource manager, which was always considered a primary OS function and value. And we all know that tools and libraries vendors never enjoyed nearly as much success as platform vendors. Moreover, VMware created its Virtual Appliance certification program, similar to application certification programs available from any OS vendor.
2. Hardware alliances — VMware is striking partnerships with hardware OEMs like HP and IBM. Again, much like OS vendors, VMware is certifying computer hardware for compatibility with VMware. You can now buy an HP or IBM server with only VMware ESX and no other OS installed – not even Linux or Windows.
3. Advanced OS features — VMware is including more and more sophisticated management and core features into its products, often way ahead of general-purpose OS vendors. For example, VMware already does CPU scheduling, memory management, storage management with its proprietary file system, network management, QoS management. With Virtual Infrastructure 3, VMware has added an array of very advanced management features including Distributed Resource Scheduling, High Availability, Consolidated Backup and a few more — features that OS vendors have been slow to develop but very appreciated by IT departments. Also, VMware has started to create its own data formats (Virtual Disk) and Management APIs — a clear attempt to establish VMware as a platform, not just a transparent system management middleware.
VMware is up for the big fight. Microsoft and Linux won’t give up easily, and even technically, it’s very hard to remove value from these two prevalent platforms, each with many thousands of APIs used by millions of software developers. On the other hand, Microsoft and Linux companies do recognize this threat. Why else would such a bitter foes like Microsoft and Novell make any sort of virtualization-related strategic pact? They know that despite the thousands of APIs and millions of developers, they, in all likelihood, won’t be able to beat VMware in its own game. Trying to catch up with VMware in hardware virtualization technology and tools is mission impossible – VMware is at least 3 years ahead of any competitor, and the gap is not shrinking.
This new OS war will have negative effect on almost everyone. ISVs will have to learn a new platform and change the way they develop applications. Users and IT professionals will be confused until the battle is over and they will have to change the way they use and operate computers, too. Virtualization is definitely a paradigm shift, but are all these drastic changes really necessary?
Virtuozzo is an alternative solution. OS virtualization provides the same benefits as hardware virtualization and more. Often, the benefits are delivered in a much more efficient manner. But most importantly, Virtuozzo naturally extends capabilities of existing platforms instead of replacing them, allowing everyone – from users to IT pros to developers – to go through virtualization paradigm shift with little stress.
What do you think is going to happen? Looking forward to your comments.