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How to Pick Your Virtualization Platform

Posted by: Chris Chesley
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How to Pick Your Virtualization Platform

I have had some interesting conversations with clients about which hypervisor they should choose to run their production systems on.  I thought it would be interesting to discuss the matter here and see what others think about virtualization platforms.

Many people agree that both XenServer and Hyper-V are lacking some of the features that VMware has.  But the main argument I hear is that Hyper-V, and even XenServer, is less expensive than VMware. That is the main issue I want to discuss in this post.

The short answer is… it depends.  Yes VMware is more expensive than Hyper-V, but it does a lot more also.  All of the price comparisons I have looked at are for 5 hosts, and these use Enterprise Plus as the price level which is the highest possible price.  We have clients at both ends of the spectrum, some with less than 3 hosts using Essentials Plus and others with more than 5 hosts using Enterprise or Enterprise Plus.  Let’s take both cases and talk about them.

For small customers, the entry level Essentials Plus from VMware provides licenses for up to 3 hosts and vCenter for ~$3000.00.  This gives users the ability to do vMotion and HA (High Availability) which are key to maintaining an up-to-date and fail-over capable system.  Yes you will still need to buy the Microsoft or other OS licenses on top of this, but you need them to run your applications anyway.

An equivalent Hyper-V environment with 3 hosts will need a few add on pieces to manage everything to match what vCenter does.  The management pieces are all part of System Center Management suite.  You will need System Center Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection.  All of those pieces are ~$2031.00 plus you need per user licenses for Systems Center Management Suite and Data Protection.  Not to mention the 4-5 Windows OSes and training to run all those pieces.

For larger environments, there is no doubt that Hyper-V is less expensive.   I think that you get what you pay for.  In larger and more complex environments, features such as Storage vMotion, Storage I/O Control, Network I/O Control, Memory compression, Transparent Page Sharing and VAAI (vStorage API’s for Array Integration) and fine user access controls make VMware the hypervisor of choice.  There is a reason that the vast majority of the Fortune 1000 run VMware and it all has to do with enterprise functionality and stability.

All in all, VMware for smaller clients is about the same cost and easier to manage than Hyper-V.  Large customers depend on the richer features that are part of VMware Enterprise and Enterprise Plus.  There is also the large 3rd party vendors that already have integrated with VMware and may or may not have integration into Hyper-V.  I want to run my production workloads on the best platform possible.  For many of our clients that is VMware.  But for others it may be Hyper-V or XenServer.  That is one of the awesome things about working for GreenPages.   We support our clients, not a software or hardware vendor. What are you're thoughts on this?

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