VMware kills another ecosystem with vCenter Server Heartbeat 1.0

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Last week during the VMworld Europe 2009 (see virtualization.info live coverage of day 1 and day 2), VMware officially announced the new, much awaited high-availability module for its vCenter Server (formerly VirtualCenter).

VMware took forever to admit that vCenter is the weakest point of failure in its virtual infrastructure, despite its mission critical role:


It’s true that VMware HA can (partially) protect vCenter if it runs inside a virtual machine but 60% of the customers still run it on physical machines.

The lack of any native hot stand-by or clustering capability inside the management tier stimulated the growth of a small but lucrative ecosystem that the company sales engineers further promoted, suggesting several products from trusted partners: Double-Take, Steel Eye, CA, Neverfail Group and of course Microsoft Cluster Service.

Starting last week it’s no more the case: VMware is OEM’ing with an exclusive agreement the Neverfail technology under the name of vCenter Server Heartbeat 1.0.

“Exclusive agreement” means that VMware is committed to not close a similar deal with Neverfail competitors and that Neverfail cannot sell this product by itself anymore.
The two companies didn’t disclose how long this partnership will last.

Heartbeat 1.0 is a fail-over product that protects every component inside the vCenter host, including the licensing server and Update Manager (WUM), and works across LAN and WAN links.
The product anyway is not the solution for every customer.

Right now the Neverfail technology has a protection module for Microsoft SQL Server only. If a customer runs the vCenter database on Oracle he has to stick with alternative solutions mentioned above.
Additionally, the cost of Heartbeat is one of the highest in this market segment: the product will be available in mid-March in two SKUs.

  • VC Heartbeat – $9,995
  • VC Availability Acceleration Kit – $12,995

Both prices are per protected VMware vCenter Server instance (it doesn’t matter if the vCenter data base is on the same machine or elsewhere).

Nonetheless VMware knows pretty well how to crush its former partners:


Pretty much like it happened to the VDI ecosystem when VMware acquired Propero in April 2007, the partners above will certainly start looking elsewhere for profit: Citrix is firmly partnering with Marathon Technologies for XenServer HA, but Microsoft needs a lot of help with Hyper-V right now.

VMware says that this move doesn’t kill any ecosystem as its strategy won’t change: it will continue to suggest 3rd party solutions to the customers that are out of range for Heartbeat 1.0.
Even assuming this is true there are a couple of points that VMware seems to overlook:

  • Most of time customers want just one vendor to deal with. It simplifies the licensing and support procedures, and usually grants a higher level of integration.
  • Compared to other “minor” modules like Update Manager, Heartbeat is a key, almost mandatory feature that every customer has to buy sooner or later, VMware will enrich the module capabilities, introducing support for Oracle databases and much more.

Who will want to stay with Double-Take, Steel Eye or CA at that point?