UPDATED 22:35 EST / DECEMBER 29 2012

Analysis: Microsoft Is Squandering Its Hyper-V Opportunity

Last week, Chad Sakac released his My Crystal Ball for 2013 article in which he discussed his top 10 industry prognostications about what he sees as happening in 2013.  His analysis runs the gamut from the hypervisor to the cloud to Hadoop to convergence and more.  There was one item, however, that caught my attention and for which I wanted to provide some of my own thoughts:

“Hyper-V 3 in Windows Server 2012 is potent.   While still far from the capabilities of VMware overall (things like Storage DRS as an example, VDP, vSphere Replication, etc), it catches up on so many, and even surpasses on some (like the frustrating 2TB VMDK limit).  So why won’t it surge?   In my opinion, Microsoft can’t seem to get out of its own way.   The various business units like SQL Server, SharePoint, and Exchange can’t seem to get their heads wrapped around how advantageous it could be if they embraced the Windows Core team and Hyper-V.   I’m talking about more than just “works with”, more like “works better with”.   At least, make Hyper-V the centerpiece of the go-to-market – the underlying “strata” for Microsoft-centric enterprises… And yet, they just don’t.  I don’t get it.”

Chad is a smart guy and he’s spot on with his analysis regarding Hyper-V 3.  Personally, as the title of this post indicates, I believe that Microsoft is completely squandering their significant opportunity with Hyper-V 3.  Hyper-V 3 is a massive leap forward from the Hyper-V that shipped with Windows Server 2008 R2 and brings to the hypervisor enterprise grade capability that makes it a real contender in the space.

I don’t think that Microsoft realizes that IT workloads no longer run on servers built by Dell, HP, IBM and other vendors.  Today’s workloads run on the hypervisor abstraction layer that separates running workloads from the underlying hardware.  Server vendors are simply providing a commodity product to facilitate this abstraction.  Want proof?  Open any virtual machine running on vSphere and take a look at that virtual machine’s platform details and you’ll see references to the processor and to vSphere, but nary a mention of any physical server vendor.
From this perspective, VMware currently owns the server market and that should worry Microsoft.  VMware is working hard to delve further and further into the application space, which Microsoft currently owns, not to mention potential damage that could be inflicted by the likes of Google, although I don’t believe that Google will ever truly understand the enterprise.

How has Microsoft squandered their potential with regard to Hyper-V 3?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Holding System Center 2012 SP1 for two full months after Windows Server 2012/Hyper-V 3 RTM.  I fully understand the need and the desire to get the software right, but Microsoft was out there battling VMware with an unsupported solution based on beta software!  And the pundits, many of whom are squarely in VMware’s corner, didn’t let the company forget it.
  2. Bundling System Center into a single suite.  I believe that this was a strategic mistake by the company.  While the components will likely become more integrated over time, it’s a shame that those interested in Hyper-V 3 can’t just buy Virtual Machine Manager 2012 at a lower cost than the full bundle.  Given Microsoft’s need to capture hypervisor market share, creating what might appear to be a more substantial barrier to entry did not seem to be in the best interests of the company.  System Center is a complex beast and some organizations may not want to use all of the pieces.  This decision could force organizations to buy software they don’t want or need.  Personally, I think Microsoft would have been better served to change the product bundling once Hyper-V was a hit.
  3. The company isn’t continuing to scream Hyper-V everything at the top of its lungs. While I believe that Microsoft should continue to support all reasonable hypervisors, every unit at Microsoft should be ordered – yes, ordered – to make Hyper-V 3 the platform of choice for everything that the company sells.  Provide customers with exacting guidance around Hyper-V 3 for everything and make Hyper-V the first-class citizen that it deserves to be.
  4. Publicly fighting with VMware over features and capabilities.  Just… STOP.  Let the product sell itself… and it can!  It’s capable and is an impressive display of what the company can do when they’re behind the curve.  While it may not be quite up to VMware standards in every way, it is more than capable and beats VMware in others.  The battle of the blogs over vSphere vs. Hyper-V just serve to remind people that there is a difference.

With a new year comes a new opportunity for Microsoft to push Hyper-V 3 on all fronts, particularly now that System Center 2012 SP1 has hit RTM.  If history serves as a guide, this is Microsoft’s battle to lose.  If they can execute well, perhaps Microsoft can topple vSphere as the world’s largest server provider.

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