Reality Meets Vision:Hewlett-Packard Strengthens its Alliance with VMware

Source: Aberdeen Group
June 16, 2003
Hewlett-Packard is significantly expanding its partnership with VMware, currently the leading provider of server virtualization technology.

Why Server Virtualization?

Server consolidation, even IT consolidation, is an extremely hot topic among CIOs and their IT infrastructure suppliers - HP, IBM, Sun, and Unisys. During the 1990's, there was a proliferation of small- to medium-size servers throughout the enterprise. Departments bought their own machines to run individual applications, a practice that has created an administrative nightmare as companies now attempt to manage their IT resources in a more organized, cost-effective, manner. Enterprises are trying to consolidate resources, reduce their infrastructure costs, and cut administrative overhead. It is to the point where doing more with less has become an IT mantra.

The server suppliers are hardly oblivious to today's economics. The way to sell product is to convince buyers that they must "spend money to save money." IT consolidation fits the bill, and the idea is, "here is a strategy whereby you can save money."

Server virtualization is an extension of the mainframe concept of virtual (or logical) machines, in that a single physical server (or multiple servers) can be mapped into many distinct virtual machines that are isolated and protected from each other and can even run different operating system environments. Virtualization is a key enabler of the immediate priority fo IT consolidation.

Lots of Vision and Lots of Jargon

The major server marketers, probably faced with too much free time while their customers deliberate whether the slowdown will ever end, have presented an impressive set of visions and strategies regarding the data center of the future. Whether it's IBM's e-Business on Demand or HP's Adaptive Enterprise or Sun's N1, we hear a lot about virtualization and provisioning. At times, the jargon in PowerPoint slides seems interchangeable.

Real Stuff - and a Good Move by HP

VMware, on the other hand, is quite real - real products, real customers, and real revenue from its virtualization software. Its business is growing, with over 5,000 customers running Windows and Linux applications on its GSX and high-end ESX server products. It would not be a stretch to call them 2002's "emerging technology company of the year," for those disposed to making such pronouncements. A recent BusinessWeek article cited Vmware's profitability, projected 2003 revenues would top $50 million, and predicted the company's IPO in 2004.

VMware technology is not a mere vision of the data center of the future, but real stuff that solves customer problems today. True, it is currently limited to industry-standard, 32-bit processor architectures, and HP, IBM, and Sun offer 64-bit RISC and industry-standard systems, as well. But HP's expansion of its relationship with VMware is a very good move.

VMware's products allow companies to junk (or, more elegantly, consolidate) their outdated servers running NT Version 4.0 applications and run them in virtual machines on a single server running up-to-date Windows applications, as well. Companies experimenting with Linux can run Linux apps on the same machine at the same time. VMware enhancements, to be announced later this month, play right into the visions of global IT consolidation and provisioning. HP brings to VMware its broad sales and support organization and substantial Intel base of ProLiant customers. This partnership makes sense for both parties.

Microsoft: A Wrinkle or a Roadblock?

One potential complication in VMware's march to "gorilla status" involves Microsoft's recent acquisition of Connectix, whose competing technology will offer virtual machine partitioning for Windows Server 2003. This could also present a tricky political problem for HP's sales and support organizations positioning VMware and Microsoft's offering at the same time. But, as always, the customers should prevail. There is immediate demand for VMware; if customers demand Microsoft's virtualization, then HP will certainly support it. For now, though, VMware is way ahead of Microsoft on this one. This is a hot technology and it fits right in with HP's vision and its jargon.