Microsoft to benefit from VMware CEO’s departure?

Paul Maritz's departure as CEO of VMware may be badly timed, given that Microsoft looms as a real threat to VMware's share of the virtualisation market.

Microsoft brass must be closely following VMware's just announced CEO shift. Not that Microsoft's obsession with VMware would be anything unusual. The two companies are locked in a death match to rule the virtualisation roost. Competition is so fierce that last year, Microsoft took a swipe at VMware with a billboard on a California highway close to VMware's headquarters which read, "Virtualisation alone does not a cloud make." The phrase suggested that VMware only focuses on virtualisation, while Microsoft has the comprehensive portfolio to deal with the cloud properly.

When I went to Microsoft's Server 2012 workshop last year, VMware was the victim of many one-liners and shots taken by Microsoft staff. In turn, VMware and its loyalists have not been shy about pointing out all of the capabilities that Microsoft's virtualisation technology, Hyper-V, lacks when compared with VMware's offerings. Earlier this year, VMware penned a blog post that took networking and software company SolarWinds to task for claiming that SMBs preferred Hyper-V over VMware.

This battle isn't just simple nerd posturing over who's got the baddest set of virtualisation skills. Virtualisation and the cloud go hand-in-hand. Virtualised systems make cloud infrastructures. There are lots of numbers and percentages being bandied about, but IDC, Gartner, and industry analysts agree: Cloud deployment, including private, public, and hybrid clouds within IT infrastructures saw a rapid upswing this year, and is expected to keep increasing at an explosive rate over the next five years. It's a hot market with lots more money to be made.

VMware currently has the largest market share in the virtualisation space, with Microsoft in second place and making in-roads. However, now we have two major developments that can potentially change that pecking order.

You have VMware's wildly successful and talented CEO stepping down, and rumours of its breaking off Cloud Foundry into a separate company.

Then there's Microsoft's Server 2012, which will soon be released to manufacturing (RTM). There's been so much uproar over the latest Windows Server's interface that not nearly enough attention is being paid to some fantastic new features. A lot of Server 2012's biggest strengths are in the new version of Hyper-V R3 that is bundled into the Standard and Datacentre edition (and in the Hyper-V Server standalone product).

New features such as Hyper-V Replica, shared nothing Live Migration, and the ability to create truly isolated multi-tenant clouds, are just a few of the capabilities that finally make the latest version of Hyper-V a worthy contender to VMware.

Server 2012 is slated for final release by September. With Windows' existing presence in the enterprise, plus the expectations for virtualisation and cloud deployment, some predict that Microsoft could unseat VMware. There's no question about the talents of both Paul Maritz and new VMware chief Pat Gelsinger, but why make that change now, and especially when Microsoft is positioned to actually be a real threat?

If what is being covered as a pleasant exchange of CEOs and a possible spin-off company turns into any misstep by VMware, Microsoft may gain market share even faster than anyone would have expected. Microsoft is hungry for virtualisation dominance and VMware seems almost too satiated.