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Microsoft, Others Closing In On VMware In Server Virtualization Market

The tight hold VMware has enjoyed in the server virtualization market will continue to erode this year as Microsoft's momentum increases and others, including Citrix and KVM, become serious contenders, industry observers say.

This year, VMware's installed base market share is at 65%, compared with 100% in 2005, according to Gartner. In the meantime, Microsoft has picked up 27%, the consultancy says. The remaining amount will be divvied up between Citrix and Red Hat.

However, while VMware's share may be dropping and concerns about its pricing--and competitors--rising, that doesn't seem to be slowing its momentum. Last month, the company reported impressive licensing sales gains for the first quarter of 2012, with revenues up 25% year over year, operating income up 41% and license revenues up 15%. For the year, the company is predicting that revenues will grow between 20% to 23% from 2011, and annual license revenues are expected to grow between 12% and 16%.

KVM, which comes with Linux distributed and has an ecosystem built around it called the Open Virtualization Alliance, will also see some growth, predicts Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics.

The alliance has 250 members, including HP and IBM, he says. "What I see happening is these guys wanted back into the x86 virtualization market," since VMware only runs on Intel x86 servers, Clabby explains. "All these members of the alliance want to start eating VMware's lunch." While Microsoft's market share is growing rapidly, he says, KVM is a "dark horse," due to its ecosystem and "the deep pockets" of the alliance members.

Other market watchers maintain that VMware no longer owns the enterprise virtualization market. "While IT pros love VMware vSphere 5's functionality, they're not so keen on the license structure, even after the company backpedaled from a recent price hike," writes Jake McTigue, in InformationWeek's "State of Virtualization: Diversity Breeds Complexity" report. "And that's given rivals a golden opportunity to establish footholds in the enterprise data center, beyond just desktop virtualization and niche applications."

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