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Red Hat vs. VMware: Is the Data Center War Real?

This blog entry has been floating around The VAR Guy's head for about six months. But several recent developments prompted our resident blogger to finally take a look at the looming data center battle involving Red Hat and VMware. Here's some perspective.

The VAR Guy

May 10, 2010

2 Min Read
Red Hat vs. VMware: Is the Data Center War Real?

redhat vs vmware

This blog entry has been floating around The VAR Guy’s head for about six months. But several recent developments prompted our resident blogger to finally take a look at the looming data center battle involving Red Hat and VMware. Here’s some perspective.

First, a little background: Matt Asay, author of The Open Road blog and COO of Canonical, recently noted heightened hostilities between Red Hat and VMware.

What’s driving the competition? No surprise, the initial debate involved who would control the data center: Operating system providers (Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, etc.) or virtualization specialists (Citrix, VMware, etc.). But increasingly, operating system players like Microsoft and Red Hat have their own virtualization stories.

Getting Cozy With Server Makers

The showdown between Red Hat and VMware gets extra interesting when you toss in established and emerging server makers.

Red Hat had a prominent position at Hewlett-Packard’s recent HP Americas Partner Conference. The Red Hat-HP combo is looking to gang up against Oracle-Sun.

But here’s a twist: One of the most intriguing server stories right now involves Cisco Systems. That’s right, Cisco’s Unified Computing System (which converges networking, storage and servers) is catching on with data center customers, according to a range of large distributors like Avnet Technology Solutions and Westcon’s Comstor team. If you keep a close eye on Cisco’s UCS server strategy, you’ll hear some mention of Red Hat — but lots of loud chatter involving VMware.

Looking ahead, Red Hat continues to polish its own Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) strategy. And it’s safe to expect Red Hat to increasingly train channel partners on RHEV, especially since roughly 60 percent of Red Hat’s revenues now involve channel partners. (The VAR Guy will share more details in the second annual Open Source 50 report on May 24, 2010). Plus, The VAR Guy expects more Red Hat virtualization surprises at the Red Hat Summit (June 22-25, Boston).

Of course, VMware isn’t standing still. A new Acadia initiative, led by former Compaq CEO Michael Capellas, will promote joint VMware, EMC and Cisco offerings. And VMware’s SpringSource division has been on an acquisition spree to help partners and IT executives more easily manage data centers.

Near term, most VARs still consider Red Hat a Linux company and VMware a virtualization company. Long term, Matt Asay is correct: Channel partners will increasingly view Red Hat and VMware as industry rivals. And at some point, partners may need to choose sides.

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