As use of VMware's ESX Server has grown, the bottleneck has shown up on servers hosting virtual machines with network-intensive traffic. VMware cooperated with Cisco to solve the problem, and Cisco plunged into blade servers with its Unified Computing System in the belief it had at least a temporary lead over other manufacturers in producing blades optimized for running virtual machines.
But Jeff Woolsey, Microsoft's lead program manager for Windows Server 2008 virtualization, said at the TechEd show in Los Angeles on Monday that his company has been focused on the same problem. Before the year is out, it will offer its own low-cost solution -- compared with the Cisco/VMware collaboration -- in the updated version of Hyper-V, now part of Windows Server 2008.
The competition between VMware and Microsoft is thus heating up, as Microsoft claims rapid gains in virtual machine implementation based on Hyper-V. At an unexpectedly early date, Microsoft is trying to come up with its own advance for the market leader's best innovation so far this year. "We've had 750,000 downloads since Hyper-V was introduced seven months ago. It's being adopted especially fast in education and small business," Woolsey said in an interview at the end of TechEd's opening day. About 7,000 Windows Server and Microsoft .Net users and developers attended the show.
One difference: Cisco's UCS combined with VMware's vSphere 4 handles converged network traffic at 10 Gigabit Ethernet speeds, whether that traffic is headed for an Ethernet network or Fibre Channel storage.
Microsoft's solution will address the Ethernet network traffic problem only. Hyper-V users who want to make use of Fibre Channel storage can equip their servers with Fibre Channel network adapters and still use the high-speed storage network, if they choose to, Woolsey said.