VMware cries foul at Microsoft's virtualisation move

VMware has posted a list of complaints about Microsoft on its Web site, accusing the software giant of unfairly using its operating systems dominance to try to gain customers in the virtualisation market.

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VMware has posted a list of complaints about Microsoft on its Web site, accusing the software giant of unfairly using its operating systems dominance to try to gain customers in the virtualisation market.

In a point-by-point argument contained in a white paper, VMware claimed that Microsoft is "leveraging its ownership of the market-leading operating system" to restrict customer choice. VMware also detailed "tactics" that it said are an "attempt to force" users to buy bundles of Microsoft products.

Srinivas Krishnamurti, VMware's director of product management and market development, said in an interview that the EMC subsidiary is trying to bring its concerns to the attention of customers in the hope that they will seek changes from Microsoft.

"We want to highlight the terms that are not in the best interest of customers," Krishnamurti said. "The hope is that the industry evolves and provides a much more open and interoperable environment in the virtualisation landscape."

VMware, by its own estimate, controls more than 80 percent of the virtualisation market. And the company has been so confident of its market position that at its annual VMworld user conference last fall, it allowed competitors, including Microsoft, demonstrate their wares on the show floor.

VMware's white paper points to seven specific issues, including customer support. For instance, VMware asserts that Microsoft requires VMware users to have its Premier-level support if they run into an issue with Windows or other Microsoft products in a virtualised environment. Otherwise, Microsoft may request that a user first replicate the problem on a physical machine. Krishnamurti said there is no technical reason for that requirement.

Another issue, according to VMware, involves the application programming interfaces for the upcoming Longhorn Server version of Windows "that manage communication between Windows and Microsoft's hypervisor" -- its virtual machine software.

Microsoft disclosed specifications for the APIs at its WinHEC conference last June "but is not permitting use of these APIs by other virtualisation vendors or open-source projects," VMware claimed. The only exception, it added, is Novell, which signed a technology licensing and joint development agreement with Microsoft in November.

In response, Mike Neil, Microsoft’s general manager for virtualisation strategy said, "Windows server licensing offers a level playing field to all.

"To encourage interoperability, we openly share technology and have published a set of APIs for all our commercially available virtualisation products today, and provided documentation on APIs for the hypervisor that will be part of the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn.

“We desire open dialogue among industry vendors and will talk with any company wishing to discuss licensing for future products."

Neil went into more detail about Microsoft's virtualisation strategy in a blog posting, dated 24 February, in which he said he is confident that Microsoft "will provide customers with the most integrated solutions and the most cost-effective platform."

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