Microsoft and VMware's cloud complications

The race is on between Microsoft and VMware to see who can capture the hearts and minds of developers, and effectively dominate the cloud of the future.

For many years now Microsoft and VMware have been locked in a fierce competition for the data center. Microsoft being the operating system and application provider of choice for almost every company in Australia, with VMware, over the past six years, becoming the natural hypervisor of choice. The problem is, both Microsoft and VMware know they need to change to ensure they remain relevant, however, what is becoming apparent is that both companies are heading in the same direction.

The widely accepted vision for the IT industry is that within five years no one will need to operate a data centre, operating systems or any other components that aren’t actually apps. We will all be coding our applications and systems to run on Platform –as-a-Service (PaaS) providers who will handle all our mundane tasks such as backup, disaster recovery, scale and overall performance. Our jobs will either be in the growing DevOps movement (quasi developer / systems engineer) or application development.

Becoming the platform of choice

What has been emerging over the past few years is a race between the main vendors to become the platform of choice for the next generation of apps. There are plenty of competitors but really there have only been a few key standouts, namely Microsoft and VMware.

Microsoft has been the platform of choice for many years but is loosing dominance with the growth of web and mobile applications. Apple’s Objective-C language has come from nowhere to now claim the third spot for most widely used software language (according to the TIOBE index). A number of open source languages are also gaining popularity.

We are also seeing an emerging category of cloud service providers filling out the PaaS space. Vendors such as Microsoft (Azure), VMware (CloudFoundry) and SalesForce (Heroku) to name a few, are all supporting multiple development languages, deployment and migration scenarios. However, the two stand out vendors are VMware and Microsoft who are clearly showing that they understand that moving to the cloud is a journey that will take years, and as such are building platforms that run on private, public and the hybrid cloud to support businesses with this process.

Microsoft has a lot to lose here. Currently most business apps that are hosted on promise run on Windows Servers and attract hefty licensing fees. Imagine a world where you didn’t actually need to license the operating system? Where you just paid for the application performance and data capacity? Microsoft sees this world coming (look at Azure) and is moving to make Windows Server the operating system of choice for platform clouds both on premises and in the public cloud.

Taking a look at VMware, without a desktop operating system, database, authentication platform or one of the many other things Microsoft do for businesses, the company has less to lose. However, at the moment VMware own s the hypervisor but they know that the landscape is changing and they won’t be the flavour of choice in the data center forever.

VMware (along with it’s parent company EMC) is pushing hard to get businesses out of their Windows Server Consoles, out of managing backups or SQL servers and instead use their “cloud based” products, such as CloudFoundry spin off, SQLFire database platform and SpringSource application development framework.

Wooing the developers

VMware is also going hard after the developer community, which is a smart move considering that developer will be building the next generation of apps and systems. Suring up support in these circles can ensure that future apps and systems are built for VMware’s tools and licensing their products.

VMware has also taken a different approach to Microsoft in the public PaaS space. Microsoft runs its own dedicated Azure system, where VMware has open sourced the code that runs its CloudFoundry system, allowing many different service providers to build upon it and add additional value to their customers.

To add insult to injury VMware has announced support for the .NET development language in their open source framework, allowing companies to build Microsoft .NET based applications that don’t actually need Windows Servers to run on.

The race is on for between Microsoft and VMware to see who can capture the hearts and minds of developers – giving them the tools to build what they need for the next generation of apps. What is certain, when a clear leader emerges, they will set the tone for the Cloud for years to come.

Rhys Evans is national practice manager Enterprise Information Systems at Thomas Duryea Consulting.

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