Just as Milton Friedman (the Nobel prize winning economist) once said “There is no such thing as a free lunch”, there is also no such thing as free software. The minimum cost of a supposedly free piece of software is the opportunity cost of your time spent using it, and the forgone value of that time spent doing something else. Therefore neither Microsoft Hyper-V, nor VMware ESXi are really free.
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Microsoft and Red Hat has just announced that they have completed the certifications of the cross OS hypervisor agreements that the companies originally announced back in February of 2009. This means that Microsoft now certifies Red Hat Linux guests on Hyper-V and Red Hat certifies certain Windows guests on KVM. Red Hat has an excellent article on its web site that details which version of which products work with which and which provides an excellent FAQ.
There is a great debate on which hypervisor vendor works with ISVs and which do not. You have a number of ISVs working with VMware that are just now starting to work with Hyper-V. A number of ISVs that are struggling to catch up in the virtualization space. Hypervisor Vendors that are directly competing with ISVs as well as welcoming ISVs. This story is not about any of this, but about how easy is it to launch a new product for each of the hypervisors available with or without help from the hypervisor vendor. In essence, is there enough documentation, community, and code out there to be interpreted as welcoming ISVs.
While VMware is being lead by two executives, Paul Maritz and Todd Nielson who were instrumental in the establishment of Windows as a dominant platform, VMware is today still not acting like a true platform company. Windows became a dominant platform because Microsoft structured its business model around making the platform a success. This included a laser like focus upon the success of the platform, and an approach to partnering that is still unmatched in the industry. VMware can make vSphere into a dominant platform, but only if VMware adopts some plays from Microsoft’s book.
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VMware is trying to package Microsoft Windows out of existence by allowing applications to run in guest with no OS from Microsoft or Red Hat. Microsoft is trying to package VMware out of existence by including Hyper-V for free in Windows Server, and by providing application virtualization functionality that makes virtualizing server operating systems unnecessary.