Is VMware becoming the bully Microsoft is known for?

For years lots of people accused Microsoft of being a bully whenever it suited them. They could change licensing policies to make it very hard for competitors to sell their products. Look at how difficult they have made it for VMware when it comes to supporting their products. VMware has been around with VMware Workstation 1.0 in 1999 and it isn’t until last year that they now fully support virtualization with VMware. All these years, Microsoft has done its utmost to keep VMware from gaining a lot of market share and VMware has been fighting it in many ways.

For example with publications like this one: “Microsoft Virtualization Licensing and Distribution Terms” where VMware writes: “Microsoft is trying to restrict customers’ flexibility and freedom to choose virtualization software by limiting who can run their software and how they can run it. Microsoft is leveraging its ownership of the market leading operating system …… to drive customers to use Microsoft virtualization products.” And weren’t we all finger pointing at Microsoft because of this.

This past week several stories have emerged that made it look like VMware has learned from Microsoft and is now practicing the same strategy.Maybe Paul Maritz’s tricks for Microsoft are now reused against VMware competitors. First, there was a change in their VMworld policy reported by Brian Madden which according to VMware in an official response was just to prevent competitors from trashing VMware like Microsoft did at VMworld 2008. Although that is a viable explanation, the text now is in the legal documents and can be used as VMware pleases.

Other remarkable news was the release of Veeam’s. New Essentials Bundle, Acceleration Kits for VMware vSphere 4 with just a little footnote: “Veeam Backup & Replication will no Longer Support VMware ESXi Free Edition”. Pardon me? Veeam will no longer support ESXi Free? A very strange move by Veeam. But wait, it seems that VMware has asked Veeam to remove this support.

From the businesswire post: According to Ratmir Timashev, Veeam president and CEO. “Recently, VMware requested that Veeam discontinue support for ESXi Free in Veeam Backup and Replication in order to comply with VMware’s updated licensing policy,” Timashev continued. “In light of VMware’s request, and our close technical partnership, Veeam Backup and Replication will no longer support ESXi Free. We will still continue to offer support for ESXi Free to existing Veeam customers who purchased Backup & Replication prior to version 3.1.”

What is happening here? It is very strange that VMware is forcing their will on to a partner that has been developing products solely for VMware. The license for using the ESXi Free edition is very restrictive as it comes to using the API, but Veeam found other methods for making their products work, but is now being stopped from continuing to do this.

What is VMware’s idea behind this? It is obvious they want ESXi Free to be “unmanageable”, since it is difficult to manage an ESXi free host with a read only remote administration kit. But why? Does VMware think that a small company will now switch to VMware’s vSphere Essentials edition just to be able to manage ESXi? Or is VMware afraid that customers start building large clusters of ESXi Free hosts and use 3rd party products to manage them? Wasn’t that one of the strengths since the beginning that the VMware API is open for everyone to use?

In which direction is this heading? Are they going to block more tools that could maybe manage an ESXi host? Maybe remove all API’s, just to be sure? And how will this compare to Hyper-V Server (the free Hyper-V version).

I wonder if VMware is really losing so much business on the ESXi Free edition, that they need to push VMware vSphere Essentials. It would be better to enable companies to buy extra tooling for their ESXi Free environment and then later as the company grows, they will upgrade to Essentials or maybe Advanced edition, just because they can continue to use their existing tooling.

This change in policy might just make small companies like Veeam rethink their strategy and start betting on two horses instead of one. I wouldn’t be surprised if by October 2009, there is a Veeam Essentials bundle for Hyper-V. Feels like VMware is now doing to others, what Microsoft has done to VMware before.

(As of june 5th I have not received a  response yet from VMware on their official statement on this. I will include this when it arrives.)