Five Important Considerations
Users need to remember that while price is important, it is only one factor. Users also need to take special care to ensure that comparisons are done on an apples-to-apples basis. What at first glance may seem competitive may not be on closer examination.
Key questions to ask include: How is the technology priced, on a per-socket basis? What features come standard with this pricing? If not, what is the additional pricing of these options? Is management included? Services? How they are priced? Organizations should list these costs for each product, as well as for various configurations (for example, four sockets or eight sockets).
2. Feature set
Users should determine which functionality they need (for example, virtual machine management migration, load balancing, recovery, snapshot support, backup or patch management), and then compare/contrast this list to product feature sets. Key questions to ask include: Is there a virtualization manager? Virtual machine migration? Built-in capabilities to reduce power and cooling beyond server consolidation?
It's also important for organizations to note which features come standard (that is, are included in basic pricing) and which ones are optional. If optional, users should also calculate the cost of adding the capability. Users should also note any differences in "like" features. For example, is migration an automated process or is it manual? How are snapshots enabled? How is backup and recovery done?
3. Ease of use
How easy is the product to deploy, manage and maintain? Is installation time calculated in hours or minutes? What obstacles or challenges can users expect? Is the product and its various features field-proven? How are features packaged (that is, all-in-one or a la carte)? Does the product work with SAN (storage area network) storage? Organizations should ask vendors for references and use cases similar to their environments. Keep in mind that ongoing administrative costs can often far exceed purchase costs.
4. Virtual infrastructure management
Does the product have a virtual infrastructure management platform or virtualization manager? A true virtualization manager allows the virtual infrastructure to support multiuser environments, a variety of physical infrastructures, and integration with third-party applications-including higher-level management applications. A virtualization manager is integral to a server virtualization technology's serviceability, reliability and scalability capabilities, responsible for synchronizing the workflow of these tasks. In that sense, it is the "engine" that keeps the "virtual infrastructure" churning.
What operating systems does the product support? What storage? Which hypervisors? Does it have a virtualization manager? What is the road map for this platform? What does the ISV and independent hardware vendor (IHV) ecosystem look like? More specifically, who are the vendors' ecosystem partners? For backup? For storage?
The value of server virtualization is well-known across the enterprise, and is being echoed in smaller environments. SMEs need to pay particular attention to feature, packaging/pricing and deployment differences among technologies. A quick "fact check" will go a long way in ensuring organizations get the best possible solution at the right price for their particular environment.