Despite the fact that VMworld 2008 is an event organized by VMware (and parent company EMC), Microsoft has a presence here, albeit a subdued one. It's easy to see why Microsoft passed on a more significant show presence: With Hyper-V now available and Microsoft's own Get Virtual Now marketing campaign underway, it makes sense to focus on their own virtualization initiatives.

Michael Otey and I met with Mike Neil, General Manager of Virtualization Strategy at Microsoft, to talk about Microsoft's latest virtualization products and to see what Microsoft thought of VMware's recent product announcements. While VMworld 2008 is a show primarily about VMware and its partners, Neil stressed that the majority of people that run VMware products are Microsoft customers, so Microsoft's involvement at VMworld was a reflection of that fact. Neil also mentioned that the launch of Hyper-V and the Get Virtual Now campaign were promoting Microsoft's growing portfolio of virtualization products, so there wasn't a pressing customer need for a larger Microsoft presence at VMworld.

Neil also introduced us to Microsoft customer Dominic Foster, an IT Professional from MaximumASP, a Web hosting company. Foster said that he switched his company's IT platform to Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V, and is also using Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM2008) to help him manage and deploy servers. Foster liked how easily Hyper-V integrated with other Microsoft products, including Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft Exchange. "Using Virtual Server we were getting a 3 to 1 server consolidation ratio on lightly-loaded servers, and 8 to 1 on loaded servers," says Foster. "With Hyper-V we're getting a 4 to 1 ratio on lightly-loaded machines, and a 10 to 1 ratio on heavily loaded servers."

As pleased as Foster was with his adoption of Hyper-V, he did mention several areas of improvement that he hoped Microsoft would address in the near future, including live migration (a feature slated for inclusion in Windows Server 2008 R2) and physical to virtual (P2V) automation. Foster mentioned PlateSpin as a vendor that has developed a product (PowerConvert) that provides P2V migration automation functionality.

VMware and Microsoft have traded shots over their respective approaches to hypervisor design in the past, and we asked Neil for his updated perspective on the debate. VMware claims that their hypervisor design -- with key drivers located inside the hypervisor -- is a superior approach, while Microsoft contends that keeping drivers in the parent partition is a more acceptable solution. VMware claims that having drivers outside the hypervisor leads to security and performance issues, but Neil disputes that assessment. "It's a bit of a facetious argument," says Neil. "We have customers that are already running their mission critical apps on those drivers, so we have confidence in our approach."