It was two year ago this week that I published an article calling out Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure (Gartner agrees with me… Hyper-V is for real!).  I was thrilled that Gartner (a completely independent unbiased industry observer) evaluated Microsoft’s Hyper-V 2008 R2 and determined that it was indeed an industry leader.

Last week Gartner released its newest analysis of the same category, and determined that Microsoft is once again in the Leaders box, and has indeed advanced since the release of Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012.  In fact, the piece seems to agree with me that functionally Microsoft has surpassed VMware.

Microsoft can now meet the needs of most enterprises with respect to server virtualization. Its challenge is not feature or functions, but competing in a market with an entrenched competitor, VMware.

Interesting…it is as if they read my mind!  Of course, I have been shouting it from the rooftops for nearly three years, but as I said it is great to hear from someone who is not paid to do so.

Microsoft was certainly not the first player in the virtualization space, but as I have been saying for years it is not about who is first… if it was we would all be listening to Marconi radios in our Daimler automobiles.  Just like I always say that IT should not be about religion, it should be about the best tool for the job.  Five years ago I was counseling all of my clients to virtualize their datacenters on ESX, but when Microsoft released a comparable solution at a much more reasonable price I switched.

Of course it has gotten even better with the recent release of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012.  As Gartner says:

Enhancements include significant scalability improvements (matching or passing those of vSphere for the first time), Hyper-V Replica for effective disaster recovery, the Hyper-V Extensible Virtual Switch and Network Virtualization, a more flexible live migration and storage live migration, Hyper-V clustering and clustered live migration, and improved Dynamic Memory.

So indeed, Microsoft may have come late to the table, but they are certainly seated in a place of respect.  In fact they are actually winning a lot of customers who also came late to the virtualization game…

Microsoft is now winning a good percentage of enterprises that are not heavily virtualized yet — especially those that are mostly Windows-based

Of course, with an estimated two thirds of server workloads already virtualized, they are going to have to find their way into companies that are already entrenched.  What they need to do is get a foothold into those organizations – whether that be a proof of concept, a test environment, or a niche.  As the Gartner article writes:

A growing number of large enterprises are finding niches in which to place Microsoft — for example, in stores, branch offices or separate data centers. This strategy of "second sourcing" will enable these enterprises to evaluate Hyper-V for further deployments and perhaps leverage the competition in deals with VMware.

I have spoken with hundreds of companies and partners over the past three years, and that is a common theme – either build a POC or a test environment.  While few companies that I have spoke with have completely replaced their entire VMware infrastructure, the vast majority of them now have some Hyper-V footprint in their organization.  It will continue to grow, and those footprints will continue to swell.  Some of them will eventually replace all competitive solutions, but that is a long way off.

The one point that i do not agree with in the piece is one of the notes of caution… the lack of centralized management.  The vast majority of an admin’s time for the virtual infrastructure will be spent in VMM, while the reporting will come from OpsMgr.  This is akin to the VMware world where the majority of infrastructure time will be in vCenter Server, and the reporting will either be in vCops or a third party solution.  And as a colleague of mine wrote recently:

VMware does not have one console. Service manager, vCloud Director, vCloud App Center etc. all have different UI’s. Definitely the vCenter UI is very rich and by virtue of having just that UI for managing the infra (vs. Hyper-V manager, Cluster manager and VMM in our case) helps them.

In short Gartner agrees that it is still an uphill battle, but there is no question that Microsoft is better equipped for that fight than ever before; they are hungry, they are innovative, and they have put their minds and resources to a goal.  As I have been saying for some time, I would not bet against them winning in the long run!