For the second straight year Microsoft won't bother showcasing its primary virtualisation technology at VMworld, because it believes the conference's sponsor and exhibitor agreement prevents vendors from demonstrating products that compete against VMware.
Microsoft appears to be the only major vendor taking this stance, as even its partner Citrix has decided to step up its presence at VMworld and will showcase XenDesktop, which competes directly against VMware's desktop virtualisation software.
"We've got the biggest little booth at VMworld, is the way I'm thinking about it," says Microsoft spokesman Patrick O'Rourke, noting that Microsoft will be limited to a 10-by-10-foot booth on the show floor because it's not a member of VMware's partner program.
While Microsoft won't exhibit the Hyper-V virtualisation software, it will demonstrate Windows Azure, because it says VMware does not operate a cloud platform that competes directly against the online application-building service.
VMware last year added language to its sponsor and exhibitor agreement that says: "Sponsors and exhibitors must market or demonstrate products on the exhibition floor and in the sessions which are complementary to VMware products and technologies." VMware claimed the language is standard in the industry and clarified that "competing vendors are allowed to exhibit, including exhibiting competing products."
But Microsoft and Citrix last year both decided not to exhibit competing products, and did not sponsor the show because VMware required sponsors to join its Technology Alliance Partner Program. Citrix has softened its stance this time around and joined VMware's partner programme, allowing it to sponsor VMworld and have a larger booth at the show, but Microsoft is not following suit. The latest VMworld will be in San Francisco from August 30 to September 2.
"The contract says 'don't show competing products,'" O'Rourke says in explaining Microsoft's decision not to demonstrate Hyper-V at VMworld. "It's the same stuff as last year that was very well documented."
However, Microsoft will exhibit other products which it believes do not compete directly against VMware, and will discuss case studies regarding specific customers who have either switched from VMware to Microsoft or added Hyper-V to an existing VMware virtualisation deployment.
Microsoft will show off Windows Azure, and a self-service portal toolkit that helps customers build private clouds (the product is known as System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal and will be generally available by the end of October).
O'Rourke says the private cloud building tool is complementary, rather than competitive, to VMware because it can work with the VMware ESX hypervisor. Microsoft will also show off a lab management feature in Visual Studio 2010 that can work both with Hyper-V and VMware.
In terms of Azure, O'Rourke says, "Windows Azure is not a competitive product since VMware does not have a public cloud offering like Azure."
The week of VMworld is probably the biggest all year in terms of virtualisation vendors issuing press releases for new products. Even Citrix, one of VMware's top rivals, unveils brand-new technology at VMworld, but Microsoft typically abstains. The Visual Studio lab management feature will become generally available the week of VMworld but it was already announced weeks ago.
"We'll be talking about that [at VMworld] because it's a complementary technology," O'Rourke says.
The stance is slightly changed from last year, when Microsoft said it would not showcase System Center Virtual Machine Manager "or any other products" at VMworld.
Although Microsoft works with VMware on technical support for customers, and uses a VMware API to integrate management software with ESX, Microsoft has still not joined VMware's official partner program. "We considered it but haven't really found an opportunity that makes sense to do so," he says.
But, he says, because of Microsoft's other collaborations with VMware the company could still be considered an "ISV partner" to VMware.