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Study Shows Higher Costs and Complexity When Managing vSphere Using Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager

The idea of introducing multiple hypervisors into your data center and managing them seamlessly from a single tool might sound appealing, but in reality, products claiming that ability today can’t deliver on that promise.  You introduced virtual infrastructure to simplify operational tasks for your IT staff, so why would you want to handicap them with a management approach that adds costs and complexity?  A study recently completed by the Edison Group and commissioned by VMware shows that is exactly what you will be doing if you introduce Microsoft System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) with the hopes of using it to manage VMware vSphere hosts.

Microsoft touts SCVMM as a heterogeneous management tool with the ability to manage VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer hosts in addition to those running Hyper-V.  IT managers might find Microsoft’s claims that they can, “easily and efficiently manage… applications and services across multiple hypervisors,” enticing. The suggestion by Microsoft is clear: don’t worry about complicating the jobs of your system administrators by introducing Hyper-V into a VMware environment because SCVMM provides a do-everything single-pane-of-glass control panel. Are their claims true?  Can Microsoft SCVMM really let you operate a multi-hypervisor data center without the cost penalties that come with staffing, training for, and operating across the isolated islands of management that would otherwise exist?

To find the truth behind Microsoft’s promises, we asked Edison Group to test VMware vSphere in their labs using both vCenter and the vSphere Client and Microsoft SCVMM 2012 to complete a set of 11 typical management tasks.  Edison’s analysts used their Comparative Management Cost Study methodology to measure the labor costs and administrative complexity of each task.  The tasks Edison Group studied were those that any vSphere administrator performs on a regular basis, such as provisioning new vSphere hosts, deploying VMs, monitoring system health and performance, configuring virtual networks, etc.

Higher costs and complexity when managing vSphere with SCVMM 2012

The results were clear and conclusive – managing VMware vSphere is much more efficient using vCenter than when attempting to manage it with Microsoft SCVMM 2012.  To complete the 11 typical management tasks Edison Group tested took 36% less time and required 41% fewer steps using vCenter and the vSphere client compared to SCVMM 2012.

Figure 1 Managing vSphere using vCenter takes 36% less administrator time than with SCVMM 2012

Figure 2 vCenter management of vSphere requires 41% fewer steps than SCVMM 2012

Jack of some trades, master of none

It’s not hard to understand why vCenter and the vSphere Client make life so much easier for vSphere administrators. As my colleague Randy Curry wrote, Microsoft SCVMM 2012 just doesn’t do a very good job of enabling vSphere management.  SCVMM’s incomplete or missing support for even basic tasks forces administrators to constantly jump over to the vSphere Client to get any real work done.  Microsoft was apparently more interested in being able to “check the box” for multi-hypervisor management when they built SCVMM 2012 than they were in providing a truly usable vSphere management tool. As Edison Group said in their report (available here or here):

Managing hypervisors using tools that are not specifically optimized to control all aspects of their operations risks impairing reliability, elegance, and ease of management, with potential adverse impact on the bottom line. Creating a truly successful solution requires deep integration and expertise in development.

Adding different hypervisors? Proceed with caution.

Multi-hypervisor IT shops are a trend that may be growing, but don’t expect a simple single-pane-of-glass management experience if you bring in a different hypervisor.  The testing by Edison Group clearly shows that management costs and complexity will be substantially higher if you attempt to use a partially implemented heterogeneous management tool like Microsoft SCVMM 2012 to manage a vSphere infrastructure. We at VMware realize that operating a 100% vSphere environment is not always possible and we’ve recently introduced our own multi-hypervisor management features with vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager and vCloud Automation Center to accommodate those cases. Rather than positioning those solutions as enablers of permanent multi-hypervisor environments, we’re offering them to help our customers manage heterogeneous pools of infrastructure until they can migrate their workloads to a VMware platform where they can benefit from our exclusive software-defined datacenter capabilities.

If you’re weighing possible benefits of introducing a second hypervisor, you may want to take the advice of Gartner’s Chris Wolf and stick to a single hypervisor unless you want maintain and pay for separate islands of management:

Multi-hypervisor… has serious tradeoffs if it’s the end goal for the production server workloads in your data center. Additional hypervisors for one-off siloed initiatives is often practical, but becoming less standardized in your data centers is anything but efficient.

Chris Wolf repeated that message at a session on heterogeneous virtualization we attended at the recent Gartner Data Center Conference. In fact, he stated there that no Gartner clients have succeeded in adopting a single-pane-of-glass multi-hypervisor approach. That’s refreshingly frank advice that should be heeded by anyone lured by Microsoft’s promises of multiple hypervisor nirvana.

2 thoughts on “Study Shows Higher Costs and Complexity When Managing vSphere Using Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager

  1. Maish

    Hi Eric, good article.

    I cannot help but wonder if and how a reversal in positions was also checked. How much higher are the costs when trying to manage an SCVMM with vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager and vCloud Automation Center? It would have been more fair if the reverse comparison would also have been performed as well.

    I assume that the native tools (for each hypervisor solution) will be much more efficient than a 3rd party.

    1. Hans De Leenheer

      +1
      paid vendor comparisons always are in favor of the publisher and your remark on the flip side will definitely be true. no question about that.

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