Virtual-server vendors are following the example of systems management and physical server vendors by expanding their management applications to control not only their own virtual server environments, but those of their competitors.
Citrix and Microsoft's management tools — XenCenter and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 — both manage virtualised environments based on VMware's ESX Server as well as those of their own products.
Burton Group senior analyst Chris Wolf says "several of our clients are looking at using Microsoft's Hyper-V or Citrix XenServer to compliment their existing VMware ESX environment.
"The reasoning has primarily been cost, and the other platforms provide the services they need for virtualising branch offices as well as development, test or training environments."
Citrix's XenCenter manages the company's XenServer, VMware's ESX Server and Microsoft's HyperV environments. Microsoft says s its Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM), which is in beta testing, will also support Xen and VMware ESX Server.
Ed Yuen, technical product manager at Microsoft, says "It's not just about managing VMware enough to get customers to convert to Hyper-V — we are looking at a full management experience for both sets of users.
"We've gone the route of having multi-vendor management," says Yuen.
"We recognise that a customer isn't going to have just Microsoft Hyper-V servers or virtual servers, they are going to have VMware racks too-and if they do, VMM will manage it."
Yuen says Microsoft made a commitment to provide Xen management. "Obviously since the acquisition of XenServer, Citrix would be at the top of that," he says.
VMware is the only virtualisation vendor in the top three who hasn't anted up to managing other environments.
The company's answer, of course, is the old refrain: "If our customers demand it, we will consider it."
"At this point, it is definitely something we want to do, when we feel there is enough market adoption of other virtualisation technologies," says Erik Wrobel, director of product management for VMware. "Right now when we talk to customers they either have not adopted mixed environments at all or have done so in small amounts."
However, managing environments other than its own may not be to VMware's advantage, Wolf says.
"VMware currently doesn't have as much to gain by supporting products with small market penetration," he says. "Rushing to support these platforms could also be viewed as VMware validating their relevance, which is something VMware is in no hurry to do."
The management of heterogeneous virtualised environments has also gained some degree of success with other management software vendors.
Hyper9, a Texas-based start-up, says its product will manage Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager and Citrix XenCenter instances as soon as next year. The company's Hyper9 software, which is in beta and expected to ship in September, already manages VMware ESX Server environments.
CA has also joined the game. It's CA Unicenter Advanced Systems Management console and that of VMware's VirtualCenter work together to monitor joint environments.