A month or so back I made a couple of comments on twitter about building what I called “marketing features”. I thought I’d try to clarify my thoughts a bit further.
My definition of a marketing feature is a feature that looks really great on a marketing checklist, but has limited customer use case, either because the feature is actually useless, or it’s implementation makes it so.
Multi-hypervisor management is a great example of this – see how easy it is to make a comparison between two different product stacks:
Wow, doesn’t that look bad? Of course, multi-hypervisor management could actually be a really useful piece of technology, and the reason I call it out in both VMware and Microsoft is the limited use case point. Microsoft are particularly guilty of this in System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager, and theirs is because their implementation makes it so.
Microsoft made System Center 2012 generally available in April 2012 and only had support for managing vSphere 4.0 & 4.1. VMware made vSphere 5.0 generally available in August 2011, eight months earlier.
They are still to make System Center 2012 SP1 generally available with support for vSphere 5.1 (but curiously not 5.0). SP1 is expected to be released to the public next month, which is seventeen months after the GA of vSphere 5.0, and it still can’t manage that platform!
From a technology use case, any customer who wanted to do cross-hypervisor management would have either been locked to a maximum of vSphere 4.1 for almost a year and a half, or had to choose a different tool.
VMware don’t get a free ride here either. Recently they released vCenter multi-hypervisor manager, but only included support for Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008R2, not the much more capable Windows Server 2012 release, and likewise have made no public commitment to when they will support it. And talk about a missed marketing opportunity – what a great story “VMware can manage Windows Server 2012 before Microsoft can” would have been…
In my opinion, if you’re going to do cross-platform support, you have to be serious about doing it. Serious about doing it would mean either:
- Releasing support for the latest versions of managed products when you release your product or,
- Having a public commitment to support the latest version of the managed product in a short timeframe (60-90 days).
If you’re not going to do that, then you’re pretty much building a marketing feature. Drop the feature and invest that money building a feature you can support. If your product isn’t architected to allow you to make this happen, then either fix it, or drop the feature. Your customers aren’t served well by you building marketing features, they are served by you building features that they can use.
Edit: VMware has just posted a blog talking about complexity when managing vSphere via Virtual Machine Manager. They have a point – if you’re talking about doing full time management of your vSphere environment through VMM you’ll be missing out since Microsoft can never keep up with the vCenter features.
However in some ways that misses the point (probably quite deliberately I think). The key is the text that is highlighted in the second link: “With System Center 2012, you can more easily and efficiently manage your applications and services across multiple hypervisors”. Note that it talks about managing applications and services, not about managing multiple hypervisors, and that is important. Really it’s about the overlay capability that you might get with System Center 2012 across the top of vSphere – things like Self Service, Service-based Deployment, Server App-V, Private Cloud.