There are times when something just hits me that I can’t figure out why the fact wasn’t more obvious to me from the very beginning. Of course, over time, various aspects of the newly uncovered fact have been there at which point longer-term thinking kicks in to make me think a bit differently.
This week, as I considered what Microsoft is doing with their hypervisor, I realized that this isn’t about the hypervisor at all, but rather, it’s all about the cloud. While I believe that Microsoft may have initially begun war with VMware in order to ensure ongoing control of the data center, that battle is unimportant in the long-term grand scheme. Eventually, more and more organizations will turn to cloud providers for more and bigger workloads. The easier that Microsoft can make the transition for these customers, the more likely it is that existing customers will simply take the path of least resistance and shift workloads from private data centers into Azure.
Microsoft is attacking this market on a number of fronts:
- Hyper-V itself. There is a reason that Microsoft has expended a great deal of money on bringing Hyper-V as close to par as it is with vSphere. In order for enterprises to even consider adopting Hyper-V, feature parity was essential. While vSphere remains superior when it comes to administrative tools for the hypervisor, Microsoft seems to be proving to be “good enough” for many that are looking to reduce their overall hypervisor spend.
- Management tools. System Center 2012 supports the inclusion of vSphere systems as managed entities inside VMM. This serves Microsoft on two levels. First, for organizations that want to deploy Hyper-V but that are already running vSphere, enabling multi-hypervisor management can streamline this introduction. Second, it makes it easier for Microsoft to help customers shift those workloads into the Azure service. By the way, Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2 use the exact same virtual machine format.
- Direct cloud-based services. Obviously, Microsoft has made it obvious that they aren’t backing down in the face of public cloud providers. Besides their own Azure public cloud, Microsoft has created cloud services intended to either replace or complement on-premises deployments. Office 365 and Windows InTune are two examples of these kinds of products. Of course, in many data centers, on-premises editions of these services continue to run on either vSphere or Hyper-V infrastructure.
- Partnership with Oracle. Yes, Microsoft and Oracle are competitors in many ways, but the two companies seem to have come to understand the old adage that “A rising tide lifts all ships.” The two companies recently signed a deal that brings to Hyper-V and Azure fully supported Oracle deployments. Even for those that ignore the cloud today and choose to run Oracle in Hyper-V, the door is certainly wide open to shift that workload to a fully supported Azure instance at some point in the future.
- Eliminating TechNet subscriptions. As I wrote recently, I believe that part of Microsoft’s cloud strategy came through the elimination of subscriptions to TechNet as a way to force IT pros to move their learning activities to Azure. In addition, many of Microsoft’s learning tools come in the form of already created virtual machines that can be downloaded into a lab. As one would expect, these virtual machines are of the Hyper-V variety.
- Hyper-V Replica. Introduced in Windows Server 2012’s version of Hyper-V and improved in the R2 release, Hyper-V Replica now allows administrators to target an Azure instance as a replica repository. This allows organizations to leverage Azure rather than having to build out a DR site or worry about taking tapes off site and is another way that Hyper-V hooks into Azure.
It’s obvious that the cloud is the future while the hypervisor represents the present and the past, but also provides what is becoming an ever-widening doorway to the cloud. With everything Microsoft is doing, the company is easing the transition from on-premises infrastructure to cloud services based on Azure or Microsoft’s other products. Hyper-V represents a critical opportunity for Microsoft to capitalize on Hyper-V’s growing popularity to push the Azure agenda.
For CIOs, this and other “gateways” – such as VMware’s vCloud Hybrid service – provide the ultimate in service deployment flexibility and enable all kinds of operational scenarios that won’t take much in the way of additional IT staff effort to realize. For CIOs looking for platforms that are flexible, these emerging trends may be of interest.