A problem for VMware: If it’s “good enough” then why pay more?

I have often commented to my coworkers that VMware is facing a “good enough” problem.  Even though I believe in VMware and their software, I’ve said there is day coming soon that competing products will be “good enough” and customers will no longer see the need to buy VMware’s vSphere suite, even though it is the better and more stable technology.  As a customer, I might put up with an occasional glitch or headache from the competitor if I didn’t have to pay much higher prices for similar technology.  And looking at how much Windows is deployed on VMware, there is a serious threat to consolidate it all to Microsoft and their famous Enterprise Agreement as we move forward.    As a customer, I might overlook a feature here or there that does not exist, even if its a feature I would make use of.

I am not a VMware basher, just the opposite actually.  I serve as a primary VMware advocate in my company.   But, my company has not embraced the vCloud vision of VMware.   I am a VCP3 and VCP4 and hope to be a VCP5 in the near future.  I know their products well and use them on a daily basis, both at work (vSphere) and at home (Fusion).  But it is harder for me to make a technical or business case for their product.  The first issue is cost.  The second is the “good enough” factor, since we are not using some of the additional value they have added to their product in vSphere 4 and 5.

There are already good cases in the datacenter where all the advanced VMware features don’t matter, and in those cases my company has already adopted XenServer as a secondary hypervisor.  And XenServer works well, which becomes a problem.  We have proven its ability to run our workloads and consolidate servers.    In some cases, the applications we run on it were built with high availability and fail-over and the tried and true VMware features like clustering, HA and DRS do not matter, specifically our XenApp servers .

In other some ways, VMware is erroding the existing value of their vSphere product suite by pulling features its customers are using.  The primary reason I have heard to do this is because there is overlap with new products they have purchased or developed.  Guest patch management is an example of this.  Since their Configuration Management product handles patch management, a feature that has existed in vSphere for two generations, Update Manager is now being downgraded to only patch vSphere hosts.  But the kicker in this case is that Configuration Manager does much more than patch management and is priced as such.  We aren’t seeking the additional features and VMware has priced themselves out of the game for us.

VMware’s decision on patch management leaves companies with a big void to fill.  But no solution, including the VMware Configuration Manager, fills the void as seamlessly as the Update Manager product that once patched my systems.  Because we have firewalls in between our vCenter and hosts, Update Manager worked well because it used the same vCenter ports for patching.  Configuration Manager and other solutions do not, which is actually kind of a pain.

VMware has cast a vision of the vCloud and added API sets for storage, security and networking that help to pave the path to the cloud for companies.  In our case, we have not embraced the cloud vision and while we may in the future, today, the enhancements added to vSphere have not added real value to us.  Unless a company embraces VMware’s vision and adopts these technologies, the vSphere suite continues to erode value.

The cloud is a vision I have written about before and I stated then that it’s one that systems administration groups have little to do with influencing in organizations (see my original post here).  This is a particular challenge for VMware and its advocates.  It is, frankly, a problem that worries me as a VMware believer and administrator.  But, as the tides change – such as the transition from Netware to Active Directory, we as administrators move where we need to and adapt, like the chameleons that we are.  But I am also wondering what other VMware administrators are feeling?  There was a time my company used all the features in vSphere.  Has VMware left you to in a corner while they focus on the cloud?  Talk back to me…

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3 Responses to “A problem for VMware: If it’s “good enough” then why pay more?”

  1. ChrisFricke #

    That exact “good enough” conundrum is exactly what led our organization to support a second hypervisor. For our needs we selected Citrix XenServer and to call it only “good enough” is a bit unfair to Citrix. Without going into boring details, experience has shown us that there are distinct differences between the products and Citrix just isn’t as “enterprise” as VMware. The reality, though, is that it is perfectly acceptable to put some workloads on the “little” hypervisor and others on “the big one”. The valuation is really not that different than deciding whether a workload should be physical or virtual (as you illustrated).

    Some will say that supporting multiple hypervisors will be more expensive with regard to training and staff time yadda yadda yadda. Your environment may be completely different than ours but for us there was no great learning curve. sure you push different buttons and twist diiferent knobs. There are different approaches to specific elements and, holy crap, someone might actually have to learn something new. This is no big deal – if we can do it so can you.

    Any datacenter that currently uses VMware exclusively should look into supporting a second hypervisor. Any datacenter that uses no hypervisor should really scrutinize their actual requirements and make a choice – and for the love of all things holy get a move on and P2V some stuff.

    Chris
    @sysgeekguy

    October 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm Reply

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