Microsoft thinks it can manage VMware better than VMware itself

As announced in September 2007, Microsoft is already preparing the second version of its System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) with a major, unexpected feature: the capability to manage VMware ESX Server and some Xen-based (probably the one from Novell) hypervisors.

The opening to 3rd party products is something uncommon in the Microsoft strategy, so why this decision? And why with a such popular market player like VMware?

One reason may be that this simplifies the migration of large-scale VMware deployments to Microsoft technologies once Hyper-V will be ready. A mandatory requirement for all the enterprises which adopt VMware Infrastructure today.

Another reason may be that Microsoft thinks it can do a better product than VMware VirtualCenter, looking at virtual infrastructure management from a different perspective. A confirmation of this comes from Rakesh Malhotra, Group Product Manager for SCVMM at Microsoft, which provides some details on his corporate blog:

At the end of the day, it’s not about managing virtual machines. It’s about managing applications and services and today, many if not most of those run on Windows. Understanding the application in detail is absolutely critical to making intelligent management decisions. For example, migrating a VM when the CPU spikes to 80% for 10 minutes is not a particularly smart way to make that decision but if the VM is a ‘black box’ to you, it’s the only choice that you have. With our management tools, you’ll be able to set policies and rules based on application specific criteria. For example, if the average amount of time it takes for your order entry system to process an order exceeds 10 seconds and CPU is the reason, add more CPU capacity to the VM. Our customers are telling us that this is much more powerful and relevant. We feel strongly that with Hyper-V, our platform and our management tools provide an excellent end to end solution. With that said, we know that you have investments in VMware but even in that case, our management ‘engine’ can make better decisions on the VMware platform. In addition, the System Center family of products gives you the ability to manage physical servers right alongside your virtual machines with a single set of integrated tools rather than creating a new silo or island within your organization…

Microsoft is clearly looking at virtual machines as applications containers, and aims at managing the entire virtual computing stack instead of just the hypervisor and the virtual hardware. Using the well-known products in its portfolio, System Center Operation Manager (SCOM) and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), the company has a chance to provide a complete and unified management solution, a strategy similar to the one that VM lifecycle management startups (Embotics, Fortisphere, ManageIQ, Platforms and others) are building.

It’s yet to be seen if this will be enough to make the enterprises switch from ESX Server to Hyper-V.