As we approach VMware’s annual VMworld 2012 Conference in San Francisco at the end of August, conventional wisdom says that customers are standardizing on a single x86 hypervisor for their IT infrastructures.
But conventional wisdom may well be wrong. A new report published by Gabriel Consulting Group shows a remarkable diversity in the x86 hypervisors used in practice by IT departments. Nearly half of the 345 IT professionals surveyed were using two or three hypervisors, and a remarkable 18% were using four or more hypervisors. Hypervisor diversity – or “Hyperversity” as Gabriel terms it – is the majority choice.
The report is based on Gabriel’s annual and independent x86 Data Center Survey. What is different about this survey is that it reaches the IT professionals who work in data centers, rather than the CIOs. Remember the early days of Linux – CIOs were unaware of how much Linux was being used in their infrastructures, while the systems administrators were rapidly installing more and more Linux in order to cut costs and improve performance. The same may be happening here.
Read all about the reality of x86 virtualization adoption in the new Gabriel Consulting report ‘Hyperversity’ Rages On’.
Which hypervisors are being used?
Digging deeper into the survey results, it’s clear that VMware is still the most widely adopted x86 hypervisor. Just over 80% of customers surveyed are using VMware somewhere in their organization, and 57% have standardized on it, and these figures are much the same as in a previous survey two years ago.
However, what’s surprising is the level of usage of the other hypervisors, and how the number of customers standardizing on KVM and Hyper-V is growing.
Microsoft’s Hyper-V is the second most commonly used hypervisor, with 40% of customers surveyed using it for some systems. With the large installed share for Windows Server and the coming transition to Windows Server 2012, this is probably to be expected.
KVM is now in third place, with 33% of customers surveyed using it somewhere in their organization, closely followed by both the Citrix and Oracle flavors of Xen. Customers are clearly evaluating open source hypervisors and using them for tactical and point solutions, just as they did with Linux some years ago.
Where the real change has occurred is in hypervisor preference. KVM standardization has doubled from 3% to 6% compared to two years ago, and Hyper-V standardization has shot up from 3% to 8%.
No longer is VMware the only game in town.
What does hypervisor diversity mean?
If hypervisor diversity is the norm rather than the exception, what does this mean for customers, for vendors, and for the industry?
Firstly, it means that the x86 hypervisor market is much more like the server market than the desktop market. Customers will have choices and there won’t be just one dominant hypervisor. Competition will drive innovation, lower costs, and enable customers to avoid vendor lock-in.
Secondly, changes in the way IT is delivered are likely to be disruptive and reshape the market. We’ve seen how the rapid emergence of smart phones and tablets has resulted in a different set of leaders from the desktop PC market. In a similar way, the emergence of cloud computing, integrated servers and hybrid systems may well have a big impact on the x86 hypervisor market.
Lastly, hypervisor diversity has enormous implications for the virtualization management and cloud infrastructure software that layers on top of the hypervisor. Customers will need management tools that are able to manage multiple hypervisors, rather than just a single one. VM mobility will need to support moving between hypervisors, driving open standards and interoperability. And cloud software will need to intrinsically support a range of hypervisors.
And who will be the winners in all of this?
Customers, of course. Choice is good.
Program Director, Linux and Open Virtualization Strategy, IBM