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VMworld 2011: Microsoft's Edwin Yuen on VMworld and the Private Cloud

The relationship between Microsoft and VMware at VMworld has always been a stormy one. As the primary competitor to VMware in the virtualization space, Microsoft has historically had a limited presence at VMware's premier virtualization event, with modest booths and meeting rooms stuffed into the corners of the VMworld expo hall. Citrix and Microsoft had a very public spat with VMware about their poor booth locations and other grievances before VMworld 2009, although relations between the three companies have improved somewhat since then. (See our visual chronology of Microsoft's VMware presence at the end of this post.)

Microsoft's limited floor presence at VMworld continues this year, with the company consigned to a modest meeting room in the corner of the expo floor, where I joined Windows IT Pro technical directors Mike Otey and Sean Deuby to meet with Edwin Yuen, Microsoft’s Director of Cloud and Virtualization Strategy. We all joked about Microsoft's spartan meeting facilities, which rattled and shook when heavy equipment used by VMworld event staff rumbled by.

Microsoft and the Private Cloud
With the clamor of heavy moving equipment as a backdrop, we asked Yuen about Microsoft's cloud strategy and what Microsoft's reactions were to VMware's product announcements at the show. When it comes to competing with VMware, Yuen said that one of Microsoft's most powerful arguments is the price differential between comparable private cloud solutions from VMware.

"The economics of the private cloud have changed," Yuen said. "We're really at an inflection point now for private cloud integration." Yuen said that Microsoft's private cloud efforts were being well-received by customers, and that pricing was the most-cited factor behind adoption of Microsoft's private cloud solutions. Yuen pointed to a Microsoft private cloud white paper that outlines several scenarios where small and medium businesses could save 5- and 6-figures by deploying Microsoft private cloud solutions over competing VMware offerings. Microsoft has also produced a humorous video that points out what they argue are shortcomings of VMware’s approach to virtualization; I’ve embedded that below.)

With the rumbling of nearby moving equipment serving as an appropriate segue, we then asked Yuen his thoughts about other points of differentiation between Microsoft and VMware private cloud solutions. Yuen said that Microsoft System Center family of products gives IT professionals the ability to manage both virtual and physical machines, and also provides more insight into what the applications in your environment are doing. Yuen also stressed the growing importance of application management and visibility in virtual environments.

"VMware's approach [to application management] is similar to a parent standing in the hallway and hearing what kids are doing, but not having any hands-on knowledge of what those kids are up to," said Yuen. "Our approach is more like a teacher inside the classroom, with the teacher able to directly see and manage what the kids are doing."

Our discussion then shifted to how the advent of the private and public cloud has also meant that IT professionals need to revamp their IT skills and knowledge as well. Yuen said that virtualization and the cloud have added a layer of abstraction to managing IT resources, and IT professionals need to make a similar evolution by learning about and embracing products, services, technologies, and techniques that let them more effectively manage IT resources as a higher level of abstraction.

Microsoft VMworld 2007 meeting room     
Microsoft’s VMworld 2007 Meeting Room

Microsoft VMworld 2008 meeting room
Microsoft’s VMworld 2008 Meeting Room

Microsoft VMworld 2011 meeting room     
Microsoft’s VMworld 2011 Conference Room

Attending what one VMware executive called the "biggest VMworld ever"? Let us know what you think of the show by adding a comment to this blog post or starting up the discussion on Twitter.

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