Virtual Lab Automation is one of a handful of important management applications for server virtualization — others being HA (High Availability), DRS (Dynamic Resource Scheduling), Capacity Planning, etc. As more and more of the largest software providers (Oracle and Sun being the most recent) enter the virtualization market, the market fully anticipates further commoditization of the hypervisor. As a result, value is quickly “moving up the stack,” and customer focus is now shifting to those virtualization management applications.
VMware has done quite a nice job of building out its portfolio of management applications, preparing itself for the imminent battle to come. They have accomplished this primarily through acquisition, and smartly picked up Akimbi in June 2006 to address the important Virtual Lab Automation space. Because of VMware’s dominant share in today’s hypervisor market, and the scale of the channel pushing their lab management offering, VMware has made it difficult for best-of-breed vendors like VMLogix and Surgient. The VMware challengers try to educate prospects and customers on the importance of openness/heterogeneity when it comes to support of multiple virtualization platforms. And while this logically makes sense to customers, it often did not redirect their decisions because VMware was the only platform game in town – heterogeneity might matter some day, but customers weren’t sure when.
Until now. It is increasingly obvious that VMware’s 80-90% market share is going to be reduced dramatically over the upcoming 12-24 months. The acquisition of XenSource by Citrix created a formidable competitor and a viable alternative to VMware. And Microsoft’s surprise early announcement (four words you rarely see together in one sentence) of Hyper-V last week should really put the fear of God into Diane’s army.
Now that customers are seeing real competition and alternatives in the virtualization platform market, they are going to rethink their plans in the management application areas – including Virtual Lab Automation. They are not going to want to be locked into VMware (its Lab Manager only works on VMware), and will instead look to open VLA providers who provide broad platform support.
Citrix has already partnered with VMLogix to deliver a compelling virtual lab automation solution with the lowest total cost of ownership to compete with VMware ESX Server and VMware Lab Manager. Although the joint solution is currently in beta, VMLogix is planning to make it available to Citrix customers and channel partners early next year. So anyone who has been holding back on going with Citrix XenServer can finally have a sigh of relief, knowing that they will have access to a leading virtual lab automation solution: Citrix XenServer Enterprise with VMLogix LabManager.
Microsoft is also already working with both Surgient and VMLogix who currently provide support for Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2. Given the strength of partnership both companies have with Microsoft and their commitment , there will be no surprise when both virtual lab management vendors announce official support for Microsoft Hyper-V in 2008.
Finally, we have VMware who continues to dominate the virtualization space, but for how long? With its focus on the data center, the question is, can we expect to see as much innovation from VMware (on VMware Lab Manager) as we have seen from Akimbi (on Akimbi Slingshot) before it was acquired. Time will tell, but VMLogix and Surgient winning customers on VMware’s own platform is a sign that both virtual lab automation vendors have built valuable capabilities that make the decision of going with the same vendor (VMware) for a single solution a sub-optimal one.
In the end, we believe that open and heterogeneous support will win out over closed and proprietary. This is sure to be true, now that it’s clear to customers that there will be more than one provider of virtualization platforms.