The Microsoft near-term strategy to win the virtualization market is clear: deliver a low cost hypervisor with basic management capabilities to attract SMBs, deliver a centralized management console which simplifies the migration from VMware ESX to Hyper-V to attract the Enterprises, call for support and interoperability the entire partners ecosystem to attract both.
Today at the Microsoft Management Summit 2008 the company puts on the table another piece of this strategy, opening the much awaited beta program of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008.
The product was expected not only because it can finally manage Hyper-V hosts, but mostly because it promises to seamlessly manage VMware ESX hosts as well.
Microsoft hopes that its customers, already implementing the competing hypervisor, stop using VirtualCenter and turn to SCVMM 2008 for any task (including VMotion!). Unfortunately this goal seems hard to achieve considering some limitations that plague this first attempt.
For instance there are no current plans to manage the ESX hosts patching, which is a critical feature demanded for years by VMware customers and finally implemented in VI 3.5 through the new Update Manager (VUM): even if Microsoft WSUS can easily patch the guest OSes, until it will also patch ESX itself customers will still have to open the VirtualCenter console every day.
On top of that, there is the evident “feature-delay” that Microsoft will suffer forever: in any moment VMware can deliver new VirtualCenter capabilities so to maintain its console a mandatory component or at least a highly desirable one.
It would be much different if SCVMM could directly control the ESX hosts: at that point Microsoft could win the customers offering the product at a fraction of the price. But this seems unlikely since VMware offers the ESX management APIs only through VirtualCenter.
Nonetheless SCVMM 2008 is very interesting: besides managing Hyper-V and ESX, it now includes a new feature called Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) which continuously monitors the virtual infrastructure and suggests how virtual machines should be improved (upgrading the virtual hardware) or moved across the available virtualization host to achieve the best performance.
The PRO engine is influenced by some pre-defined policies and SCVMM administrators can decide to approve/ignore each suggestion or automate the process.
Additionally, PRO is extensible through 3rd party management packs, which can give further indications to SCVMM on how to move workload in the virtual data center.
Other features include the one-click configuration for guest level clustering (which influences the SCVMM intelligent placement capability) and a new granular permission system (with administrative delegation capabilities).
Microsoft is expected to add further functionalities in the second beta of SCVMM 2008.
Enroll for the beta program here.