Public sector computing, which is only about 50% virtualised, is a prime opportunity for Microsoft, says the company's new head of virtualisation for the UK.
Lucas Searle told Computer Weekly that Microsoft was working closely with central government on its G-cloud project. This aims to create vast data centres that will allow departments to share applications such as human resources and accounting, but also allow departments to run their unique applications.
Searle said the tightening government IT plus pressure to deliver front line services more efficiently meant that Microsoft's life-time cost of ownership advantage over VMware should make a compelling argument for cash-strapped public sector CIOs.
Searle said virtualising with Microsoft was 24% cheaper out of the box than VMware, and the disparity widened over time to about one-sixth the cost of a similar VMware environment.
He said the public sector lagged enterprises, which had moved faster to virtualise their IT infrastructure, and were now "about 80% virtualised".
Searle said there were good reasons for the delay. "It's not clear that it would be wise to aggregate a lot of data, and we'd want to be sure about the securities involved," he said.
Searle said Microsoft presently had between 20% and 25% of the virtualised enterprise market. VMware probably had 50% to 60% he said.
Those firms that had virtualised their infrastructure had saved a lot on capital and energy costs, but they still had to manage complex environments, he said. How to simplify this and take labour costs out through greater automation of the data centre was becoming the new battleground, he said.
Searle saw a "hybrid" cloud market developing in the UK. CIOs were still sorting out what they could safely put into public clouds, and what they wanted to retain in private clouds or in-house data centres.
"This is a cultural issue for companies," he said. "Much depends on the IT maturity of the organisation."
Searle acknowledged that the partnership between VMware, Cisco and EMC represented a strong challenge. But he said Microsoft's "strong and growing relationship" with HP was standing firm. "About half the servers shipped into data centres are HP's," he said.