Over the last few months, I have seen two “top 10” lists with almost the same title and nearly zero overlap in content. One is Network World’s “10 virtualization companies to watch” published in August 2007. The other is CIO’s “10 Virtualization Vendors to Watch in 2008” published three months later. To be precise, there is only one company present in both lists, Marathon Technologies. Congratulations to them (note to self: hire their PR firm when I start my own company). Things are happening quickly in that field, but I doubt the landscape changed drastically in these three months (even though the announcement of Oracle’s Virtual Machine product came during that period). So what is this discrepancy telling us?
If anything, this is a sign of the immaturity of the emerging ecosystem around virtualization technologies. That being said, it could well be that all this really reflects is the superficiality of these “top 10” lists and the fact that they measure PR efforts more than any market/technology fact (note to self: try to become less cynical in 2008) (note to self: actually, don’t).
So let’s not read too much into the discrepancy. Less striking but more interesting is the fact that these lists are focused on management tools rather than hypervisors. It is as if the competitive landscape for hypervisors was already defined. And, as shouldn’t be a surprise, it is defined in a way that closely mirrors the operating system landscape, with Xen as Linux (the various Xen-based offerings correspond to the Linux distributions), VMWare as Solaris (good luck) and Microsoft as, well Microsoft.
In the case of Windows and Hyper-V, it is actually bundled as one product. We’ll see this happen more and more on the Linux/Xen side as well, as illustrated by Oracle’s offering. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this bundling so common that people start to refer to it as “LinuX” with a capital X.
Side note: I tried to see if the word “LinuX” is already being used but neither Google nor Yahoo nor MSN seems to support case-sensitive searching. From the pre-Google days I remember that Altavista supported it (a lower-case search term meant “any capitalization”, any upper-case letter in the search term meant “this exact capitalization”) but they seem to have dropped it too. Is this too computationally demanding at this scale? Is there no way to do a case-sensitive search on the Web?
With regards to management tools for virtualized environments, I feel pretty safe in predicting that the focus will move from niche products (like those on these lists) that deal specifically with managing virtualization technology to the effort of managing virtual entities in the context of the overall IT management effort. Just like happened with security management and SOA management. And of course that will involve the acquisition of some of the niche players, for which they are already positioning themselves. The only way I could be proven wrong on such a prediction is by forecasting a date, so I’ll leave it safely open ended…
As another side note, since I mention Network World maybe I should disclose that I wrote a couple of articles for them (on topics like model-based management) in the past. But when filtering for bias on this blog it’s probably a lot more relevant to keep in mind that I am currently employed by Oracle than to know what journal/magazine I’ve been published in.