The Top Five Virtualization Vendors

With this red hot market in transition, the top vendors are jockeying for position. Here’s a look inside the leaders’ competitive strategies.


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Posted December 26, 2007

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

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Assessing the top five virtualization vendors is like ranking NFL teams this year. There’s the New England Patriots and everyone else. Sure, the Colts, Cowboys and Packers look good, but no one else is close to New England’s level.

The same is true with virtualization. There is VMware and the rest of the pack. Big players like Microsoft, Sun and Oracle have started making their moves, and open-source alternatives are being offered by Citrix, Novell and Red Hat. Additionally, interesting things are happening with startups. Even so, at this point the virtualization game is dominated by VMware.

With that in mind, here are our top five virtualization vendors:

1. VMware

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Why it’s in the top five: Depending which analyst report you read, VMware owns anywhere from 55-85% of the virtualization market. The size of the market itself is in dispute, but the consensus is that server virtualization has a strong foothold in the enterprise and will continue to grow. IDC predicts that the market for virtual machine software licenses alone will grow from about $1 billion today to more than $3 billion by 2010. Those numbers don’t account for nascent markets for desktop virtualization, virtual appliances, and virtualization services. According to Matt Healey, senior research analyst at IDC, the virtualization services market will expand to a nearly $12 billion market in 2011.

VMware is in a good position to maintain its leadership status. Revenues for FY2006 were $704 million, generated from a customer base of over 20,000 organizations, which includes 100% of the Fortune 100 and 90% of the Fortune 1000. Meanwhile, when parent company EMC spun out 10% of its stake in VMware last summer, the IPO netted about $1.7 billion – nearly twice what was anticipated.

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What to watch for in 2008: Will VMware expand beyond the server market to other virtualization opportunities, and will they capitalize on the need for services?

In recent years, virtualization has been about one thing and one thing only: server consolidation. “Now that we’ve containerized our servers and made them portable across hardware platforms, the next real phase is data center automation,” said Chris Wolf, senior analyst, Burton Group. Further down the road, Wolf noted that virtualization has the potential to bring on-demand workload automation and high-availability infrastructures together, which, in turn, could help bring grid computing to the mainstream.

In the near term, something simple like being able to move virtualized systems off of a hardware platform needing maintenance is a boon for IT.

“IT doesn’t need to do server maintenance in the middle of the night anymore. You can move the virtual servers and do the work during normal business hours. Quality of life for IT improves greatly,” Wolf said.

VMware has been out ahead of these trends. The company recently lined up agreements with leading server vendors, including Dell and HP, to embed ESX Server directly on motherboards. The embedded hypervisor gives the company a foundation for further data center automation offerings, while its VMotion product allows IT to migrate virtual machines from one physical server to another (or one storage system to another) with no disruption or downtime. Not only is IT’s life easier, but end users don’t see any downtime at all.

Finally, SAP announced early this month that its enterprise applications will be fully compatible with ESX Servers. “The effects of this deal won’t be felt immediately,” said Gary Chen, senior analyst, enterprise, Yankee Group. “It will take some time for SAP customers to start migrating to virtual environments, but the stamp of approval from SAP is a big deal.”

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