Raghu Raghuram has had years of experience in the industry, with spells at Netscape, AOL and latterly VMware. V3.co.uk caught up with him at VMworld 2009 to discuss the virtualisation market, the effects of green computing and the skills IT managers will need to keep their jobs in the future.
V3.co.uk: We've heard a lot about Microsoft
and its moves within the virtualisation field. Can you outline the key
differences between VMware's approach and Microsoft's?
Raghu Raghuram: We've got a couple of distinct differences in how we approach virtualisation and how Microsoft does that. Microsoft sees virtualisation as something that has to do with primarily partitioning a server and delivering the benefits associated with that.
We see virtualisation as a fundamental way to transform the datacentre; we see this as a datacentre platform that isn't just about servers but about storage, about networking, about management, about security. So that's the first difference.
The second difference is in terms of the capabilities and the solutions we deliver to the customer. Our solutions are not just about core server partitioning and server consolidation, it's about delivering disaster recovery, about delivering mobility into the cloud, about delivering development solutions and application delivery etc etc.
The third aspect is about the choice that customers have. So we are not talking about Microsoft's scenario of Hyper-V running with Windows and serving Windows applications. This is about a datacentre platform providing customers with extreme choice in a range of operating systems and applications and hardware, and even extending into the cloud and delivering not just an internal cloud but working with over 1,000 providers.
The last one is cost of ownership. Because we provide extreme scalability and deliver new technologies for resource management, networks and storage we're able to deliver on a cost-per-application basis more capabilities at less cost than Microsoft.
It does seem that Microsoft is tying in the operating system to its
virtualisation. Is that a strategy that will work in the long term?
No. That's been a historic Microsoft strategy and in this case it works very clearly against customer interests because by definition it constrains the solution to be a very narrow partitioning solution that you add on to Windows as opposed to a datacentre solution. That's why we think that solution is flawed from the get-go.
The other interesting aspect of this is that every security vulnerability that affects the Microsoft operating system by implication will require you to look at your Hyper-V environment to see if there is impact as opposed to an operating system-independent solution.
Microsoft has a history of giving competitor products away free, as
you saw at Netscape. Do you see VMware having a competitive advantage by being
more up front about pricing?
Yes. If you talk to customers, licence cost is one aspect of what they are looking at. They step back and say: 'hey, I have this problem. I have 100 physical machines and I want to convert them to 100 virtual machines. What is it going to mean in costing?' So it's the licence, it's the hardware, it's everything put together. So if you look at that on a cost-per-application basis - ultimately that's how customers look at these things - it turns out we're actually cheaper. That was not the case with Netscape.
Secondly we're talking about a very low level of datacentre foundational software. Customers are loath to switch that out at will because what happens when you change your datacentre foundational software is that there are a lot of processes in the datacentre to change. How you run your datacentre day to day will become very different in a VMware versus a non-VMware environment.
Thirdly there is a maturity aspect to the software. With consumer software you are willing to tolerate – you know it's beta software and I don't care. But with datacentre software, and especially virtualisation there may be 10 or 15 applications running on top of your software, so you better be darn sure that this thing is extremely robust, extremely battle-tested and that takes a long time.
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