Q

Why recommend Hyper-V vs. VMware?

Microsoft's Hyper-V makes it a stronger competitor in the virtualization market. While price is driving Hyper-V adoption over VMware, some Microsoft shops prefer Hyper-V because they want a software stack comprised only of Microsoft products. VMware has advantages in 32-bit virtualization and boasts a more mature and complete virtualization toolset.

Why would a service provider recommend Hyper-V vs. VMware?

Hyper-V is Microsoft's enterprise-level virtualization product, competing with VMWare's ESX and Citrix's XenServer.

The main attraction of Microsoft's virtualization products has been the pricing. Users are allowed four free server instances on the Enterprise Edition and unlimited instances on the Data Center Edition of Windows 2003 and 2008.

These new Hyper-V features are some of the reasons to recommend Hyper-V vs. VMware:

  • Server Core Role: Users now have the option of installing their Windows 2008 server in a Server Core role, which is a version of Windows missing almost the entire shell, so it's essentially Windows without Windows -- users do all of their work via a command prompt. This reduces the risk of security exploits, and you will not need to patch servers running in the Server Core role as frequently because there is less to patch. This in turn means that the server will not have to be restarted as frequently. Server restarts should be avoided as much as possible in a virtualized environment because a restart will bring down all virtual instances running in that virtual environment, and that includes all the applications running on those virtual instances.
  • Plays better with Linux: Hyper-V supports Linux distributions and emulates other OS versions much more efficiently than before.
  • Integration into the System Center family: Microsoft virtualization products work well with members of the System Center family such as Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Data Protection Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Service Manager and Capacity Planner.
  • Microsoft support: Microsoft has invested heavily in self-support options and free training for their products. Their Product Support Services department will also work with their customers to resolve any issues.
  • Support from the Microsoft user community: More than any other company, Microsoft has a very active support community that provides highly technical and always-free support to users of their products.
  • Consistent look and feel: Using Windows products from end to end, especially Microsoft server tools, means that IT personnel can leverage their existing skill set across other Microsoft products.
Hyper-V also has a few potential drawbacks compared to VMware ESX. These drawbacks might prevent you from recommending Hyper-V over VMware to a customer.

  • 32-bit users need not apply: One important fact to note is that Hyper-V only runs on 64-bit machines. However, this enables Hyper-V to take advantage of the improved memory support that 64-bit boxes offer, and 32-bit servers are swiftly becoming obsolete anyway.
  • Missing tools: Microsoft is also behind VMware in the tools department. They released specifications for their Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) and are working with standards communities and other vendors, like Novell, to allow third parties to complete the Microsoft tool set.
This was first published in March 2008

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