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Storage virtualization vendors look beyond VMware support

Microsoft Hyper-V is gaining market share, but support for Hyper-V and other non-VMware hypervisors is slow for VM storage software vendors.

Although VMware remains the dominant server hypervisor, customers are turning to alternative hypervisors and frequently using more than one. When they do implement a hypervisor that's not from VMware, will they find the same depth of support from storage virtualization vendors?

The June 2012 "Worldwide Virtual Machine Software 2012-2016 Forecast" from Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC pointed to Microsoft's November 2012 release of Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 as a significant factor in the 2013 market.

"IDC believes that in the current analysis of the competitive landscape, major new releases of competitive VMS [Virtual Machine Software] solutions will occur in 2012, with significant impact in the market beginning in 2013," the report's executive summary states. "Microsoft is the largest factor, with its new version of Hyper-V attached to Windows Server 2012."

Leah Schoeb, a senior partner at Boulder, Colo.-based Evaluator Group, said she expects to see Hyper-V pick up at least some converts in 2013. "I don't think we will see people running out of their doors with their hair on fire [to get Hyper-V this year]," she said. "But will we see a modest [market share] gain? Yes, I think we will."

Other hypervisor platforms include Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenServer and Red Hat's Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said environments with more than one hypervisor are becoming common. "The market trend is definitely toward multiple hypervisors," he said. "The use of multiple hypervisors is growing for numerous reasons."

ESG's June 2012 interviews of 440 IT decision makers found that 65% of the respondents are already using multiple hypervisors in their environments. This is being driven by the need to use different hypervisors for different workloads, lower overall virtualization licensing costs, vendor diversity and personnel skills alignment.

Not all of the vendors who make VM storage solutions are rushing to announce alternative hypervisor support. As with hardware vendors who sell VM-aware systems, VM storage software vendors who concentrate on virtualized environments are in the early days of embracing non-VMware hypervisors.

Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation and DataCore SANsymphony-V already support Hyper-V and XenServer, along with VMware, and Symantec also supports the Linux-based KVM. Virident's FlashMAX Connect flash caching software supports KVM as well as VMware, but not Hyper-V or XenServer. Others, such as FalconStor Network Storage Server (NSS), still support VMware only.

Eric Philhower, Virident's vice president of global sales, said the FlashMAX roadmap includes Microsoft Windows Server products and with them, Hyper-V support.

"You are going to see a lot of [Hyper-V support] announcements this year, from a lot of different companies," Evaluator Group's Schoeb said. "A lot of these companies have had it on their roadmaps that they're going to support Hyper-V."

Storage virtualization vendors support alternative hypervisors based on market share, Schoeb explained. "Everybody I've talked to [is] following the market trend, which is VMware first, and then Hyper-V second," she said. And with Hyper-V market share on the rise, "Companies are making sure that they will not lose any market share by being VMware-only."

Microsoft is using Hyper-V Server 2012's new storage technologies, such as shared nothing live migration and Storage Spaces, and less-expensive licensing to chip away at VMware's virtualization software dominance.

If more storage software providers announce Hyper-V support, being able to use storage tools they are comfortable with may convince more users to try a non-VMware platform and further chip away at VMware's market advantage.

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