Would you rather fight than switch from VMware vSphere to Hyper-V or Xen-based implementations? eWEEK Labs compares the benefits and drawbacks of current virtualization platforms.
When I reviewed VMware vSphere
in June, I gave it an eWEEK Labs Analyst's Choice. I clearly think the platform,
formerly called VMware Infrastructure, is solid, and so do the many
organizations out there that have implemented it.
Recently, eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks
asked me what I thought it would take for organizations to switch from VMware
to some other virtualization platform-for example, Microsoft's Hyper-V or one
of the many open-source Xen-based implementations, including Citrix XenServer.
Often, one of the first concerns I hear about is licensing costs. The thing
to look at with virtualization is overall costs, not just up-front fees. This
isn't to say that license fees aren't an important point for negotiation. It
does mean that features and functionality must be considered in the context of
cost. Both my Honda Civic and a BMW 328i are capable of carrying five
passengers on a long trip. But that doesn't mean they have the same overall
capabilities, and that has to be considered-even if the Civic was free.
When it comes to fitness for duty, VMware vSphere is the leader when it comes
to high-performance data center operations. While its competitors are still
filling out important areas to ensure complete coverage, VMware's products are
setting the benchmark for what "complete" means. This by no means
implies that there is no room left for improvement in VMware's products. For
example, security, even with the VMsafe initiative, is an area that needs more
VMware vSphere 4 also includes features that are unmatched for
high-performance data centers at this time. Support for a distributed switch
that can span multiple hosts and now the ability to implement the Cisco Nexus
1000v virtual switch are significant innovations. Further, the ability for
organizations to enlist the aid of Cisco engineers to rationalize virtual network
operations is huge. The expanded network support lays the foundation for
expanding virtual machine use by removing network implementation roadblocks.
That said, other virtualization platforms have compelling characteristics.
Microsoft Hyper-V is likely "good enough" for modest
virtualization projects and is being bolstered by a host of supporting
management tools. System Center
Virtual Machine Manager 2008 comes backed by Microsoft's years of experience in
creating management tools for one of the most widely deployed operating
systems. Further, there are fleets of IT professionals who are well-schooled in
using Microsoft's products, which means that there is no shortage of trained
staff who have the basic knowledge to support a Hyper-V implementation.
Citrix has added significant features in Version 5.5 of XenServer, including
advances in backups and taking virtual machine snapshots. XenServer carries
significantly lower license fees than vSphere-the base product is a no-cost
download, while the Essentials package provides high availability and other
features necessary for data center operations-but it mirrors much of the look
and feel of vSphere.
Effective management is still the key to controlling the ongoing operational
costs associated with virtualization. As such, the final consideration when
considering VMware versus other platforms is, what tools are available to help
run the virtualization platform on a day-to-day basis?
For more than a year, I've been pitched on products designed to work in the virtual
data center, from firewalls to patch management systems to inventory control
systems. The universal constant in these pitches is, "Of course they work
with VMware, and the vendor is waiting to see what other platforms they will
support based on customer demand."
Especially these days, I'd rather be able to buy cost-controlling tools now
rather than bet that those tools will be available for my platform of choice.
So, for now, at least, the VMware choice still seems to be the most solid.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.