5 things Microsoft must do to stay in the virtualization game


You all know me as a VMware-oriented virtualization guy but I can also see the market from side of the underdog- Microsoft. While a lot of hype is created around Microsoft’s server virtualization offering (Hyper-V), the truth is that, from a technical perspective a ton of features are lacking when you compare it to VMware vSphere. Besides that, Microsoft seems to struggle in desktop virtualization and cloud computing.

So how can Microsoft stay in the game? Here are 5 things that they can do to attempt to keep pace with VMware in the virtualization game:

1. Consolidate Remote Desktop Product Line

What happened to Terminal Services? Everyone out there has used Windows Terminal Services, if even for remote administration. That has now been renamed Remote Desktop Session Host.

Also in the Remote Desktop product line is:

  • Remote Desktop Connection Broker – for personal virtual desktops and desktop pools
  • Remote Desktop Gateway – formerly Terminal Services Gateway, allows remote users on the Internet to connect to their desktops securely using RDP over HTTPS
  • Remote Desktop Web Access – formerly Terminal Services Web Access, allows users to access remote desktops and apps through their web browser
  • Remote Desktop Virtualization Host – the piece that connects Hyper-V virtual machines to end users connecting through RD connection broker, providing that personal virtual desktop

And, the Remote Desktop product line goes on and on with a handful of other “Remote Desktop X, Y, and Z” products that are less important. My point in this, besides trying to educate you on the various Remote Desktop products from Microsoft, is that this Microsoft Remote Desktop product line is confusing. With VMware or Citrix there is View and XenDesktop, respectively. What’s the answer? Simplify it. If you want to do any kind of desktop or session virtualization, why can’t you just install Microsoft “Remote”? It’s one word and it could do it all.

2. Add more features to Hyper-V, SCVMM, and RD Connection Broker

As Microsoft’s virtualization product line hasn’t been around as long as VMware’s, it just isn’t as mature. Microsoft must close this large feature gap. While I can’t do a feature by feature comparison here (for Hyper-V vs vSphere see this TechRepublic feature comparison), I’ve broken down some of the most critical features that come to mind in the areas of Hyper-V, SCVMM and the RD Connection Broker:

  • Hyper-V – Add memory over commitment, transparent page sharing, storage VMotion / Live Migration, distributed resource scheduler, distributed power management, and fault tolerance. Wow, I know that is a huge / potentially impossible undertaking but Microsoft has made huge advances in short time in the past.
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2– while it isn’t a feature, again, Microsoft is killing me with names. A name with 7 words is just silly. VMware has vCenter and Xen has Essentials. Microsoft’s centralized virtualization manager needs a simple name like “HVmanager”. 
  • RD Connection Broker – Microsoft’s desktop virtualization solution needs more features to even come close to the current version of VMware View. However, the next version of View will have even more features. To even try to keep pace, MS must attempt to match the current version with features like linked clones, greater pool flexibility, richer desktop protocols, and offline desktop.
  • Azure – today, Azure is more of an application-development platform in the cloud, not “Infrastructure as a Service / IaaS”. Why not make it both (I think that MS already has plans to do this) but also allow other put their name on Azure and resell it as their own hosting platform? That brings me to point #3…

3. Use Hyper-V in the Cloud

It has been reported that Microsoft’s Azure service doesn’t use their flagship virtualization product – Hyper-V. Instead, Azure is based on a modified version of Linux. How can Microsoft tout cloud computing and virtualization if they don’t “take their own medicine”? If Hyper-V is supposed to be good enough for the Fortune 5000 companies, then it should be good enough for Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

4. Build a stronger community and create grass-roots excitement

VMware’s VMworld conference is the model for any other virtualization conference in the world. VMware awarded 300 expert bloggers and experts the vExpert award. VMware’s communities and blogs are the best out there. These are examples of things that Microsoft needs to “match and raise” VMware on. They have to do better than “handing out poker chips” (at VMworld 2008), essentially bribing people to get their attention. Instead, how about delivering shocking new features and building a huge base of experts and bloggers that love the product? In other words – create a “vTechEd” for virtualization only and a “vMVP” for Microsoft virtualization pros only.

5. Make SCVMM Free

Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) is their centralized virtualization management solution. Microsoft already gives away Hyper-V standalone and VMware’s vCenter is already much more expensive. SCVMM is only $505 or $869, depending on how many Hyper-V servers you have.

So why should MS give away SCVMM? Because they can and VMware isn’t. By giving away SCVMM, it just makes Hyper-V look that much more appealing (something Microsoft desperately needs to do). Microsoft doesn’t need the extra $500 per SCVMM license. They need market share. Even if they only gave away the workgroup edition (limited to managing 5 Hyper-V servers), they are still providing a totally free virtualization platform – including centralized management (required for a number of Hyper-V features) – and that is something that no other virtualization vendor is doing.


I like Microsoft’s products, in general, but recognize that their virtualization product line up is hurting when compared to the competition. I assembled this article, not only to educate you on the state and pieces of Microsoft’s virtualization platform but also in hopes that Microsoft will listen to some (or all) of these 5 points, improve their virtualization products, and become more competitive. This competitiveness can only benefit all end users and the big virtualization players, alike.

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