How is virtualization political? The company that controls the lowest level of the software stack has the power to deeply influence the entire market, in effect deciding which vendors to support for the hardware below and the software above.
This kind of political influence isn't new to technology. Think of Microsoft and the operating system (OS). When Microsoft decides to stop supporting an old version of its Windows OS, independent software vendors have to develop new versions of their products or they will be forced out of the market. With server virtualization, OS vendors will lose their leverage, since they only have to handle a standardized set of hardware. Power will shift in favor of hypervisor vendors.
VMware went after the Windows licensing model with the publication of a paper pushed hard by marketing channels. In the paper, VMware accused Microsoft of trying to slow down and thereby control the adoption of virtualization. The possible motive behind the paper: VMware hoped to jump-start its own licensing strategies before the release of Viridian.
In response, Microsoft flexed its political muscle by reminding VMware of its long-term partnership with parent company EMC Corp. Then Microsoft continued to sign alliances with VMware competitors such as SWsoft.
It's not too difficult to imagine what will happen if Microsoft gets really aggressive. Perhaps the company will start to acquire some of VMware's key partners such as Vizioncore and PlateSpin. Microsoft may even choose to hit VMware in the summer of 2007. That's when EMC has announced plans for VMware's initial public offering.
We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra