For the sake of full disclosure, in case you did not know, I am not only a Microsoft MVP, I am also a Virtual Partner Technology Advisor for Microsoft Canada, and work very closely with that company’s Evangelism Team. I hold most major IT-Pro focused certifications from Microsoft Learning that come close to pertaining to virtualization. I am also a VMware Guru, am a VMware Certified Professional (4 and 5), and have been teaching a third-party vSphere course for a company called VMTraining since 2009.
Recently a colleague of mine – an IT Manager for the Toronto office of a Fortune 100 company – had a sales call from VMware recently. His company is a Microsoft shop and as such runs Hyper-V, but he was in the mood to pick an argument, so he said ‘I’ll be glad to switch to VMware… as soon as you can prove to me that it is a better value for my company that Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V 3.0.’
I would imagine that this poor salesman’s life was a hell of a lot easier five or even two years ago, when VMware was the clear leader in its market, the only player in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. In the days when companies paid the high cost for VMware because there simply wasn’t another enterprise-ready solution in the server virtualization space, questions like this one would have been easy to answer.
Today it is not so simple for them, but of course they have an answer prepared. VMware’s Get the Facts page hopes to clear the air… claiming ‘Not the Microsoft Hyper-Bole’ Catchy, huh? It lists five reasons with links:
Fact #1: VMware is the proven, undisputed leader. This is absolutely true: VMware is the leader in the virtualization space. Remember ‘Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.’ IBM nearly disappeared because first they did not see the competition such as Digital as a threat in the mainframe market, and then again by thinking that nobody else could make an Intel x86-based PC that would run Microsoft DOS and applications, and that people would continue to pay a 40% premium for the privilege of those three coveted letters. If VMware continues to ignore Hyper-V as a threat, their future at the top of the heap is far from guaranteed.
The link makes a number of points:
- [‘VMware vSphere’s architecture is purpose-built with the industry’s smallest disk footprint; Microsoft Hyper-V R3 will still have a large disk footprint, burdened with general-purpose Windows code that has nothing to do with virtualization.’] This may be true… but who is that disk footprint (still under 10GB) hurting?
- [‘Analysts estimate that over 80% of all virtual machines in the world run on VMware.’'] Again, who cares? Budweiser is one of the top selling beers in the world, but that doesn’t make it better than Labatt. Nobody is denying that VMware makes an excellent product. They just make it expensive.
- [‘VMware VMotion performs 5 times faster than today’s Microsoft Live Migration.’] So what? The end user doesn’t notice or care that the VM is migrating!
- [‘VMware HA (High Availability) works even when half or more hosts in a cluster go down; Microsoft "HA" doesn’t.’] Sure, the more hosts you buy, the fewer hosts your VMs can run on… The bottom line is that vSphere 5 supports up to 512 VMs running on a host, and when ‘half or more hosts’ in a cluster go down you had better be sure that you aren’t over capacity. Conversely, Windows Server 2012 supports up to 64 nodes in a failover cluster (as compared to 32 nodes in a vSphere 5 cluster) and 1024 running virtual machines per host (as compared to 512 running VMs in ESXi 5), so not only can you have more running virtual machines, you can have a higher host failure tolerance before a cluster goes down.
- [‘Hyper-V R3 will still fall short of vSphere 5 in critical areas like virtual security, storage management and business continuity.’] All of these are questionable claims at best, but there is no question that VMware makes a good product… I just question if the product is worth the price. I think Rolls Royce makes an incredible car that is absolutely better than my Toyota… but I drive a Toyota because it does everything I need… and is affordable.
Fact #2: VMware delivers greater value and lower TCO. This may have been true once, but no longer, and certainly not in Hyper-V 3. Let’s look at their points:
- [‘VMware offers lower capital and operational costs than Microsoft due to VMware’s higher scalability and greater levels of administrative automation.’] This is a complete falsehood if comparing apples to apples – ESXi 5.1 and vCenter Server versus Hyper-V 3.0 and System Center 2012. With Hyper-V 3 you can put double the number of running virtual machines per host, and double the number of hosts per cluster. With these numbers I would ask who really offers greater scalability?
- [‘VMware uniquely solves customers’ business issues leading to greater business value, especially when moving to a private cloud, built on top of a proven foundation.’] I do not question that VMware offers business value, but whether that value holds up when compared to Server 2012 and System Center 2012? I doubt it.
Fact #3: VMware is proven to support business critical apps. This is absolutely true, and if you read the points in the link you will notice that at the very beginning they sate that over 80% of virtual machines run on VMware… then talk about the rate of virtualization of application servers such as SQL, Exchange, and SharePoint. It does not say a word to the effect that these can all be virtualized just as well on Hyper-V as on ESX (See my article and Netanel Ben-Shushan’s whitepaper on P2V Migration for Microsoft Exchange Servers).
Again, nobody is denying that VMware is an excellent virtualization platform. As the link clearly states, ‘…VMware is part of Microsoft’s Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP), which clearly defines and provides support for Microsoft applications on non-Microsoft virtualization platforms.’ Microsoft would not certify VMware in the SVVP if it wasn’t… but that does not mean that it is better or worse than Hyper-V, which is also SVVP certified.
Fact #4: System Center falls short for managing vSphere. I do not know if System Center actually falls short, but it is true – there are a number of tasks in ESXi that cannot be managed by System Center Virtual Machine Manager. The current claim is that System Center 2012 now supports all of the functionality of ESXi 3.5, 4.0, and 4.1, as well as vCenter Server 2.5, 4.0, and 4.1. That is still short of what I am expecting of them – and I hope that in Service Pack 1 they will extend support and functionality to include ESXi 5. And yes, it is true that in order for System Center to manage ESX/ESXi it still requires vCenter Server in place.
With all of that being said, the heterogeneous hypervisor scenario in which VMM would be managing ESX/ESXi is part of a greater migration plan, where a company has decided to migrate off VMware and onto Microsoft virtualization. This process would be a lot more painful if VMM could not do both, and a rip-and-replace was required. Being able to manage VMware from VMM allows companies the luxury of migrating at a leisurely pace… a lot less painful than the alternative, while also answering the argument of ‘Yes, VMware is more expensive, but we’ve already invested and don’t want to spend the money to migrate onto Hyper-V.’
It is also worth mentioning that while System Center does not do absolutely everything that you might occasionally need to do in ESX/ESXi, it is leaps and bounds ahead of the alternative, since vCenter Server will not even recognize the existence of Hyper-V, let alone manage it. The only exception to this is that VMware does provide a utility to perform V2V migrations of Hyper-V virtual machines to ESX/ESXi… in case a company decides that the free product that does 99% of what the really expensive alternative does, and wants to go the other way.
Fact #5: VMware delivers application-aware solutions. Again, Nobody is denying the capabilities of VMware… Unfortunately they continue to spread misleading information about Hyper-V and the Private Cloud. Their points:
- [‘VMware delivers and enables solutions that provide extensive application insight, to enable IT to deliver on business-level SLAs.’] This is true. So does System Center 2012 (and previous versions, for that matter)
- [‘Supporting both Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications, VMware vFabric Hyperic provides out-of-the-box support for more than 75 different application technologies, with a breadth of application-specific metrics.’] Again, no question. On the flip side, System Center 2012 provides Management Packs (MPs) for every Microsoft product available for the enterprise. For non-Microsoft products the majority of them have third-party MPs available, and if the application that you are interested in does not, no problem! You can create one (or more likely hire a consultant to do that… there are companies that do it for a living).
- [‘VMware vCenter Operations has access to any application data that Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) has access to by leveraging adapters to collect performance, topology, and events data.’] It is nice to see the page conceding that System Center Operations Manager is the gold standard that they should be comparing themselves to.
- [‘VMware vSphere provides APIs that enable VMware technology partners to deliver application-aware solutions, such as Symantec’s ApplicationHA, which provides high availability for business-critical applications like Microsoft Exchange and SQL, Oracle, SAP, and WebLogic’] So does Microsoft!
I asked my colleague to read the points, and if he was convinced. He said he was. I then had him read this article, and asked if he was still convinced. He was not. He told me that his was a Microsoft shop, and would remain so until someone proved to him that another solution was better. Proof does not mean marketing fud, it means real numbers, side by side, from independent consultants. Unfortunately this is still not possible, due to VMware’s end-user license agreement (EULA) which strictly forbids anyone from publishing comparative benchmarks.
I have been saying for two years that if I was VMware, and I was so convinced that ESXi and vCenter Server were so much better than Hyper-V, I would be asking people to compare them side by side and then make the decision. I would be asking technology bloggers and journalists to publish comparisons, and would even be enabling them to do so… rather than forbidding it under penalty of legal action.
The feud between Microsoft and VMware will continue to heat up, and each technology giant will continue to make improvements to its respective product offerings. However it is time that VMware starts respecting Hyper-V and the System Center 2012 offerings, and if they do not they are destined to find themselves in a very precarious state somewhere in the next couple of years. Companies simply do not want to pay out huge sums of money annually if they don’t have to. ESXi is free… until you want to do anything with it, at which point you need the vCenter Server. System Center 2012 is certainly not free, but most companies have System Center and will be upgrading to the newer platform in the near future. The same holds true with Windows Server 2012, although the reality is that Hyper-V 2008 R2 SP1 still holds up pretty nicely.
Is Microsoft better than VMware? No, at least not when it comes to server virtualization. Is Microsoft close enough to VMware that the huge price difference is not worth the money? Yes. Does VMware offer features that Microsoft does not? Yes. Does Microsoft offer features that VMware does not? Yes. Do both solutions in their latest versions (Server 2012 RC is currently being tested by companies around the world, as is vSphere 5.1) offer customer the same base features that the vast majority of companies want and need? Yes.
Should you take my word for it? No. Nor should you take VMware’s word for it. Install both in a test environment and run your own comparative tests, and then decide!