VMware is a success for EMC, getting the venerable storage company closer to customer I/O generators, their servers, as it can without actually selling servers.
NetApp’s Dave Hitz has recently posted about VMware and how NetApp customers are using it.
What problem does VMware solve?
VMware enables a single server to run multiple virtual servers on a single real server. While it is popular in development and test environments when a large number of configurations need to be quickly available, a major use case is server consolidation, specifically Windows server consolidation.
Sysadmins decided long ago that Windows works best when it is running only one app, hence the proliferation of underutilized servers. At some point, my eternal optimist believes, Microsoft will get reliable multi-tasking on Windows (Vista?) and VMware’s raison d’être will be much reduced.
The other option is that someone figures out how to use a cheap system-on-a-chip to build microservers that can cheaply run those apps at 70% utilization instead of 5%. The latter is much less likely in my mind, but I’ve been wrong before. Lest you scoff, consider this little server. Dozens could be packed into a 1U pizzabox, creating a high-density, high(er)-utilization infrastructure – if you don’t use Windows.
The StorageMojo take
VMware’s success for EMC will continue due to the huge overhang of underutilized Windows servers out there. Microsoft may fix the problem, though they have little financial incentive to do so, with Vista, yet even then it will take years for customer behavior to change. So EMC has a cash cow that also gives them a front-row seat looking at their customer growth and deployment plans.
VMware does nothing for clusters, even less than fully utilized ones, because it only puts multiple instances on a single machine, not a single instance on multiple machines. Going forward I expect clusters will be the bigger win, starting about 2010. So EMC has years to consider their next act in server virtualization.
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