Rakesh, who runs the program management team for System Center Virtual Machine Manager, (VMM) outlines in his blog why Microsoft decided to support VMware's virtualization products in the next version of VMM and what this "support" actually means.
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He claims that the main reason why they decided to support VMware is that customers were asking for this feature. Well, I think that customers are asking for many different features. I believe that the primary reason is a different one. VMware is the market leader in this field. Hence, if Microsoft wants to gain a bigger market share in the virtualization market they have to convince VMware customers (not MS customers) to move to Microsoft's virtualization products. The best way to do this is to make this transition as smooth as possible. So you start with using VMM and when Hyper-V becomes competitive with VMware's hypervisor, you can switch more easily.
More interesting in this post is the way Microsoft plans to support VMware:
Finally, I want to emphasize that when we say "manage VMware", we mean that day to day, you'll be able to use our console and command line interface to fully manage your Virtual Infrastructure environment (including live migration), Virtual Server and Hyper-V environments seamlessly. In addition, we'll be able to extend the management capabilities that VMware offers today so you'll get an enhanced solution even on a non-Windows OS.
This sounds promising. I only hope that Microsoft will keep this promise. It might be too enticing to just neglect new VMware Infrastructure features to make customers believe that Microsoft has the better overall virtualization solution. Note that this is a new situation for Microsoft.
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Usually, third party vendors offer tools to manage Microsoft products. This is in the interest of Microsoft because it extends the capabilities of their own products. With VMM, Microsoft plans exactly the opposite. They support a direct competitor by adding features to their major product. I somehow doubt that this is still an option after Microsoft becomes the market leader in the virtualization market.