Microsoft Looking to Lure Customers Away from VMware

by Paul Rubens

The company's upgraded Virtual Machine Convertor tool adds features designed to help poach VMware-based VMs and turn them into Microsoft Hyper-V ones.

Game poaching — entering lands at night to take or destroy game — is a problem all around the world. In this context game is usually deemed to include hares, pheasants, partridges, grouse and bustards.

One thing that "game" is not generally deemed to include is virtual machines — Virtually Speaking VMware's virtual machines in particular.

But there's no doubt that Microsoft's new Virtual Machine Convertor (2.0) has been released with one purpose in mind: making it easier for the company to poach VMware's VMs and turn them into Microsoft Hyper-V ones.

Here's the background. Back in 2012 Microsoft released Virtual Machine Convertor, making it easy to poach VMware's business by allowing VMware customers to switch from the VMware hypervisor to server virtualizaton based on Hyper-V. The new version of Virtual Machine Convertor has additional features, and can now poach VMs running on ESX 5.5 as well as VMware vSphere 5.1 and VMware vSphere 4.1.

What new features? The biggest one is the ability to convert virtual disks that are attached to a VMware virtual machine to virtual hard disks (VHDs) that can then be uploaded straight to Microsoft's Windows Azure public cloud environment. All with "a simple wizard driven experience," as Microsoft rather breathlessly says.

Opening Up A Whole New Poaching Market

Why is that a big deal? Because it makes it easy to poach VMware machines running in enterprise data centers that might otherwise be destined for VMware clouds. That opens up a whole new poaching market for Microsoft, and it's a kick in the teeth for VMware's hybrid cloud services. VMware is particularly keen on the cloud as a new business opportunity, and the company launched its vCloud Hybrid Service just last year.

So it's pretty clear that a tool that gives customers the ability to move their VMware VMs to Hyper-V and Azure instead of the vCloud Hybrid Service will be about as welcome as a poacher at a game keeper's tea party.

And just to rub salt in the wound, Microsoft's tool now supports the conversion and provisioning of Linux-based guest operating systems — including CentOS, Debian, Oracle, Red Hat Enterprise, SuSE enterprise and Ubuntu — from VMware hosts to Hyper-V hosts, so this goes well beyond just poaching Windows-based virtual machine guests.

Microsoft has also added a PowerShell interface for scripting and automation support. This makes it possible to automate your server virtualization migration using workflow tools including System Center Orchestrator.

As an aside, you might think that a virtual machine convertor would be able to convert your physical machines to virtual ones too, and send them up to Azure if you wanted. But in this case you'd be wrong: Virtual Machine Convertor only deals with virtual-to-virtual conversions.

That's a shame for users of System Center 2012 R2, because P2V conversion capabilities were controversially (some would say scandalously) dropped from the Virtual Machine Manager module in System Center 2012 R2. Microsoft seems to assume that everyone should have gone 100% virtual by now, so it's poaching to the converted, as it were.

For now the workaround is to install Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 to carry out P2V conversions, Microsoft rather haughtily says that VMM 2012 SP1 should be fine " to perform any remaining Physical-to-Virtual conversions," as if to say shame on you if you haven't converted all your servers to virtualization technology by now.

If you do still have a large number of old-fashioned physical machines, the good news is that there are intimations that the next version of Virtual Machine Convertor will (re)introduce P2V functionality. The bad news? For this next version you may have to wait until the end of the year.

Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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This article was originally published on Tuesday May 6th 2014
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