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For those of us interested in virtualization, we now have a new definition of white paper, to say the least. It appears the Dan’s pre-VMWorld 2006 blog was good enough to qualify and package as a white paper. Not only did Mike Neil reject VMWare’s claims today, but there have been many questions in the press about the motivation of the white paper. At best, it’s been mixed reviews for the white paper.
Yesterday, TechWorld wrote:
VMware’s complaints come across as self-serving however. The company’s grown organically by developing software products that people want to buy, not by whinging about how its competitors are doing stuff that limits its market.
That’s capitalism. And you can expect Microsoft to be as aggressive as it can — while, one hopes, remaining within the law — and to use all the weapons it has available.
So to complain when it does it smacks of disingenuousness. What did VMware expect when it started prodding the grizzly bear — one that’s know for its voraciousness — all those years ago? That it would turn over and go to sleep?
Just what are customers supposed to make of it? Will it help with buying decisions? It might even delay them, as potential buyers reconsider whether the advent of Microsoft might open up the shortlist.
Today’s Computerworld article quoted a Windows customer:

Bruce McMillan, manager of emerging technologies at Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Marietta, Ga., is using Windows servers in a VMware virtualized environment. McMillan has read the white paper posted by VMware and said he thinks it “is there as a means to help educate people about what’s going on.”

But he said he hasn’t run into the issues outlined in the document. And just because Solvay is using virtualization technology, McMillan added, “it doesn’t mean we’re going to buy less [Windows] licenses.”

Many of the points cited in the white paper are industry-wide issues, much bigger than this apparent turf battle. Is VMWare out to change the entire software industry’s practices? Or perhaps it’s nervousness over an upcoming IPO?

Computerworld also hit on some of these industry-wide issues a few months back: 

a few of Dattilo’s vendors, such as Hyperion Solutions Corp. and Business Objects SA, have begun supporting virtual machines since he started working with the technology. As for the others, Dattilo says that most software vendors’ support organizations will still work with his staff on problems, but he hasn’t had any so far.

Nordin says the fact that some software vendors still don’t support applications on virtual servers is evidence that the market still isn’t fully mature.

“Those types of issues have been long resolved in the MVS, VM and Unix space,” he says, adding that server virtualization products “need to get going.” With Red Hat, SUSE and Microsoft embedding hypervisors into the Linux and Windows operating systems, however, application vendors will have little choice but to support it, analysts say.

Software vendors aren’t the only ones who’ve been slow to support their products running in virtual servers. Jon Elsasser, CIO at The Timken Co. in Canton, Ohio, says IT staff resistance to deploying homegrown applications on virtual machines has stopped some projects. “Some internal application-support personnel are a bit leery of it,” Elsasser says, but he expects attitudes to change over time.

The resulting press coverage from the virtualization licensing announcement acknowledges that virtualization software challenges all current licensing and support agreements – not just Microsoft’s, but all commercial software vendors. It’s interesting to look back at some of those industry quotes and customer comments, and then contrast them to VMware’s points.  
Another interesting aspect has been the comments from attorneys and those who study the law. While VMWare isn’t going here, it’s interesting that reporters have already gone down this road. Today’s Computerworld article also quotes a law school professor:
VMware would have to demonstrate that Microsoft’s actions are having a significant impact on competition, increasing costs and lowering quality, Gavil added. “They would have a lot to prove,” he said.
Gavil’s comment brings to mind the recent InternetNews headline, “Gartner: Server Growth Up 8.9 Percent in 2006”. And Professor Gavil seems to suggest that it’s reasonable to consider industry figures to determine competition. Such as a recent Forrester report showed server virtualization software is growing at a dramatic rate compared to the server market itself.

The research firm surveyed about 1,770 enterprise and smaller companies and found that use of server virtualization grew from 29% in 2005 to 40% in 2006

Queue the voice over to Leonard Nemoy in “In Search Of…” It was always one of my favorite shows.
[Feb. 28 update: InfoWorld goes so far as to call the white paper FUD]