A survey published at The Hot Aisle this week purports a shift in the virtualization market that we've heard about from Microsoft and Citrix more and more over the past few months: people are adopting more than one virtualization technology in their environments.
VMware has had an impressive run as a near-monopoly in the server virtualization space for the past several years. And, the competitors have been saying that any day now they will begin chipping away at VMware's dominance. Truth is, data points making that case have seemed few and far between. Now either that's changing, or data supporting this view is getting more visible.
Having more hypervisor vendors is likely to have an impact on how all this stuff gets managed. But first, some data:
Only one hypervisor? Not really.
Just before VMworld, I saw some figures (source long since forgotten) that Microsoft's installed base for Hyper-V was growing quickly. Andi Mann from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) pointed me to survey results that his firm has done as far back as 2006 saying that having multiple virtualization vendors is actually pretty commonplace. According to Andi's 2008 research, 90% of organizations (large & small) have multiple virtualization vendors, with 2.4 being the average number of vendors. "Only 2% of all enterprises are dealing with a simple, homogeneous virtualization environment comprised of one platform, one technology, and one vendor," says Andi.
And, this week's survey at The Hot Aisle from the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) adds fuel to the fire: 44% of respondents to the poll use two or more hypervisors in their IT environment. 16% use three or more.
Why more than one hypervisor?
Why would organizations want so many types of server virtualization in house? ESG's Stephen O'Donnell blogged that he didn't think this was a result of maturing products from Citrix and Microsoft, but rather because of licensing moves by vendors and license management practices by customers. ESG was also running a second poll while I was viewing their survey results, asking "Why is your organization running more than one hypervisor (e.g., Citrix/Xen, KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESX)?" The most common answer when I looked (24%) said that pressure from people like Oracle and Microsoft is pushing them to support multiple hypervisors. 13% say it's just departments doing their own thing. Both contribute, I'm betting.
Another reason is likely to be acquisitions, something that's becoming more common with the downturn. Sure, you didn’t set out from the start with more than one hypervisor vendor, but mergers tend to mean you get plenty more than you bargained for. Why should server virtualization be any different?
We asked similar questions at the beginning of the year in the last (Cassatt) Data Center Survey. We found that as much as IT wanted to standardize on one hypervisor, they believed that it wasn’t going to be possible. I always figured our data was a bit ahead of the curve (Cassatt's database -- the source of the survey responders -- was always filled with early adopters). These other existing and more recent data points might say that things are, indeed, moving this direction.
What having multiple hypervisors means for management
Whatever the reason, if this is indeed the reality -- that there is a broadening set of hypervisor vendors in the enterprise -- it means management of virtualization is going to need to change. Up until now that conversation has been primarily about detailed management of a VMware-specific stack. With a broader set of virtualization players involved in server virtualization, cross-virtualization management tools become a lot more important.
Why do I say that?
Sure, it seems to make logical sense. But again: data. When we asked about how people wanted to manage virtualization in our early 2009 survey, Cassatt heard pretty clearly that people wanted one management stack. And that wasn't just for all of their virtualization technology, but for their physical environments as well. Clearly, customers weren't doing that yet, but that's what they said they wanted. Silos were bad; integrated management was good. Maybe that world is getting closer now. In any case, you can read more details on those results here.
I'll be interested to see (as more data appears) how much serious marketshare movement is underway -- and how much of it is wishful thinking by VMware's competitors. The real indicator, then, might well be an uptick in interest, discussion, and implementation of broader management tools.