VMware, Microsoft Decide to Play Nice

There are no permanent enemies in politics, just permanent interests, the truism goes; and this is apparently true in business as well. InternetNews.com has learned that VMware has joined arch-rival Microsoft’s third-party server virtualization validation program (SVVP).

“VMware is proud to be a part of SVVP,” Carl Eschenbach, executive vice president of worldwide field operations, said in an email sent to InternetNews.com. “VMware is looking forward to working closely with Microsoft to complete the certification of VMware ESX under the SVVP program to provide customers the support they need to gain the flexibility and benefits of working in virtualized environments.”

ESX is one of VMware’s hypervisors , and Microsoft’s certification is necessary if customers using VMware new policy Microsoft announced today. That policy says Microsoft will provide technical support for 31 server applications deployed on its hypervisors or on “any other third-party validated virtualization platform.”

The initial announcement of SVVP participants in June named Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, Novell, Sun Microsystems and Virtual Iron. A Microsoft spokesperson would not specifically confirm VMware’s participation and told InternetNews.com to “please contact [VMware public relations manager] with questions regarding VMware’s participation.”

VMware and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) are locked in a battle for the burgeoning virtualization market. Microsoft released its Hyper-V hypervisor earlier than scheduled, and it’s believed that EMC, which owns VMware, forced out Diane Greene as CEO and replaced her with former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz to help better combat Microsoft.

VMware’s chief financial officer, Mark Peek, admitted during its second quarter earnings call recently that competition from Microsoft will impact his company’s earnings negatively.

In the same call, VMware’s new CEO, Paul Maritz, said that the key to competing with Microsoft is “to stay ahead [in the market] and that’s exactly what we intend to do.” And, shortly after Maritz’s assumption of the reins at VMware, the company brought out a free version of its hypervisor, ESXi.

So why is VMware making nice with Microsoft? It really has no choice: Regardless of its newness, Hyper-V is a definite contender, especially because it runs on Microsoft’s popular Windows Server 2008.

So, an uneasy alliance is good business. “VMware has been collaborating with Microsoft and other ISVs (independent software vendors) to ensure that our customers are supported at the highest possible level,” VMware’s Eschenbach said.

Corporations are experimenting with Hyper-V, if only for now, to learn what it can do. “We’re using Hyper-V right now, it’s another utility for us to go out there and play with,” Kevin Murphy, chief technology officer at NEI, which makes physical and virtual appliances for independent software vendors, told InternetNews.com.

For its part, Microsoft gives its users a break by making VMware integration easier and avoids further controversy: In February 2007, VMware charged Microsoft with leveraging its ownership of the Windows operating system and applications that permeate corporate IT to drive customers to use Microsoft virtualization products. VMware barely stopping short of accusing Microsoft of antitrust law violations.

Update corrects detail on VMware running on Windows Server.

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