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You Can’t Trust Microsoft’s Azure TCO Calculator

[UPDATE: As of January 2, 2018, the double counting of VMware compute category costs has been corrected. The other errors noted in the calculator remain.]

Last month, Microsoft posted an online “Azure TCO Calculator” that supposedly compares the cost of on-premises infrastructure, based on VMware vSphere, with the cost of running the same workloads in the Azure public cloud. Here at VMware, we pay a lot of attention to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of on-premises vSphere versus public clouds. Our customers and industry analysts have told us that a well-managed private cloud often costs less than basic public IaaS clouds. We’ve recently written about a 451 Research study that found 65% of surveyed IT professionals felt their private clouds cost at most only 10% more than public clouds. So, when Microsoft’s blog posts and white papers claimed an 84% TCO advantage for Azure, we knew their figures needed scrutiny.

It didn’t take much digging to find numerous errors and biased assumptions in the Microsoft TCO calculator that wildly skew their results. In fact, the errors were so glaring, we wonder if anyone at Microsoft bothered to test it before going live.

What were they thinking?

The Microsoft calculator provides enough details in its listing of assumptions and in its expanded results breakdown to make it easy to replicate their TCO methodology in a spreadsheet. We did just that, and errors immediately became apparent. Here are just a few:

  • VMware license fees are paid every year of the selected timeframe! Selecting a 3-year TCO timeframe results in vSphere Enterprise Plus license costs being tripled. C’mon Microsoft, we know vSphere isn’t free, but our customers only need to buy it once, not every year.
  • vSphere hosts are grossly overconfigured for CPU and RAM. Using the scenario from the Microsoft white paper of 500 VMs, each with 2 vCPUs and 4GB, results in a server hardware requirement totaling 1,984 cores and 33TB of RAM. That’s 4x the CPU and 16x the memory that should be required! Perhaps they were using Hyper-V host configuration guidelines. Either way, you do NOT want these guys sizing your data center hardware.
  • For Azure Pay As You Go VMs, the calculator is using CPU-throttled B-series VMs that Microsoft describes as appropriate only for small dev/test-type uses.
  • VMs in Azure are powered on only 40% of the time with the calculator defaults. Perhaps a small dev/test team can turn off their VMs when they leave for the day, but the production enterprise workloads that run on vSphere are powered on 24×7, so hosting them on Azure should require the same continuous uptime.
  • The Microsoft calculator assumes vSphere Enterprise Plus, which includes features like High Availability, Dynamic Resource Scheduling, Fault Tolerance, vRealize Log Insight, and more. Azure VM instances don’t have those features – you would need to pay for extra Azure services like Premium storage and Operations Management Suite to come close.
  • On-premises servers, storage and networking hardware are assessed 20% per year maintenance fees in the Microsoft calculator. Are you paying that much? Didn’t think so.
  • The Microsoft calculator doesn’t apply any residual value for the on-premises servers and software at the end of the selected TCO timeframe. I guess Microsoft expects you to send all your servers straight to the landfill on their third birthday.
  • To cap it off, we found that a new math error was recently introduced into the Microsoft calculator. It now double counts all the costs in the “Compute” category for the VMware on-premises configuration – hardware, software, electricity, and virtualization costs are added twice. Really guys, this is getting absurd.

Let’s fix their calculator and see the effects

With all those errors in the Microsoft calculator, it’s not surprising to see that the 500 VM scenario noted above results in an enormous TCO difference between on-premises vSphere and Azure. Fortunately, we can make some simple corrections to their calculator and re-run the numbers. We’ll use vSphere Standard Edition, since it’s more comparable to Azure VM and storage features, and we’ll only charge for it once. We’ll reduce the vSphere server count to properly provision CPU and memory. A more reasonable 6% annual hardware maintenance fee will be assumed. The Azure PAYGO configuration will be upgraded to more realistic F2 VMs needed for steady workloads. Lastly, we’ll keep the Azure VMs running 24×7, as they would be for production workloads, by setting utilization to 100%.

With those simple corrections, the picture changes dramatically. Now, the on-premises vSphere TCO is lower than all but the 3-year reserved Azure TCO – a result much more in agreement with costs reported by customers.

Azure TCO Calculator Inputs

  • 500 compute VMs with Windows, 2 vCPUs and 4GB each, US East 2
  • VM density: 2 vCPUs/physical core
  • 100TB local disk/SAN storage
  • 3-year timeframe

If you really want a VMware-compatible public cloud with low TCO, look at VMware Cloud

So, now that we’ve shown that Azure doesn’t have a TCO advantage over on-premises vSphere, where should VMware customers look for a public cloud provider that can really save them money and increase agility with true hybrid cloud computing? The answer is the VMware Cloud offerings that provide vSphere-consistent infrastructure without the complexity of migrating workloads to an entirely different platform like Azure. You can choose VMware Cloud on AWS that features vSphere, vSAN and NSX with familiar vCenter management, all running on bare-metal AWS infrastructure with optimized access to AWS services. Or, select from the thousands of VMware Cloud Providers that offer VMware Cloud Verified infrastructure-as-a-service. You’re sure to find a provider that fits your needs and TCO budget when you’re ready take the easiest and most direct path to hybrid cloud.

Discover How Much You Can Save by Choosing VMware for Your Private Cloud with Our Updated TCO Comparison Calculator

A brand-new update to the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator is now available for you to compare the Total Cost of Ownership of VMware and Microsoft virtual infrastructure and private cloud platforms. We’ve taken our familiar calculator and updated it with the latest prices, features and independent lab test results to help you evaluate the complete lifecycle costs – combining operational and capital expenses – of a virtual infrastructure and private cloud solution matching your requirements.

Operational Expenses – latest testing reconfirms the VMware advantage

The VMware TCO Comparison Calculator refresh incorporates the results from new independent testing conducted by Principled Technologies that measured the operational costs of running a private cloud based on the latest product releases from VMware and Microsoft. In the case of VMware, Principled Technologies tested vSphere 6.5 and vRealize Suite 7.0. Their Microsoft testing was on Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V and System Center 2016. By measuring the steps and time needed to complete an array of essential virtual infrastructure and private cloud operations tasks, Principled Technologies provided the raw data the calculator uses to estimate the OpEx costs you can expect to pay. As with similar OpEx studies conducted over the last several years, Principled Technologies found VMware OpEx costs to be substantially lower than Microsoft’s. A few of the contributors to the VMware OpEx advantage are:

  • Patching hosts – Principled Technologies again confirmed that vSphere, with its bare-metal architecture, has much lower patching costs than Hyper-V, which comes bolted to a multi-gigabyte Windows Server OS. [Gartner also just reiterated how much more downtime is required for Hyper-V patching.]
  • Protecting VMs – The new VM encryption feature in vSphere 6.5 is much easier to use than the VM protection features in Hyper-V. A simple storage policy setting in vSphere encrypts all VM data at the hypervisor-level and works with any guest OS. Microsoft’s approach requires separate infrastructures for shielding VMs with newer Windows versions, and completely different methods for Linux and older Windows guests.
  • Operations management and automation – The VMware vRealize Suite makes setting up dashboards for infrastructure monitoring and managing capacity much faster than with Microsoft’s System Center components. Your system administrators can better configure vRealize Operations and vRealize Automation to match their operations management and automation needs. In addition, ongoing monitoring is more efficient.

Capital Expenses – influenced by density, licensing, and management resources

The other half of the TCO equation is capital expenses – what you pay for the servers, networking and storage hardware, as well as the software licenses.

Because most of our customers need to run Windows Server VMs, the TCO Comparison Calculator includes the cost of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter licenses for all hosts in both the VMware and Microsoft configurations. Licensing all hosts this way enables you to run as many Windows VMs as you wish. As a result, you might expect Microsoft to edge out VMware on CapEx because Hyper-V comes bundled with Windows Server. However, that’s not the case. Some reasons why are:

  • Management overhead – As management and automation capabilities get more sophisticated with each release, VMware has better avoided bloated compute and memory resources needed for those services. Management components like vCenter, vRealize Suite, and System Center run in their own VMs. The calculator applies the documented sizing guidelines and best practices of both VMware and Microsoft for the management VMs needed by each vendor. Following those guidelines leads to Microsoft infrastructure that needs almost four times the compute and memory resources for management VMs. And this translates into more hosts, more software licenses, and higher CapEx.
  • VM density – Every time we talk to a VMware customer that comes back to vSphere after trying Hyper-V, they confirm that they can run more VMs on their servers with vSphere. It is primarily due to the powerful memory economizing technologies built into vSphere that operate in any out-of-the-box installation, versus the cumbersome and rarely used dynamic memory feature in Hyper-V. The conservative, but adjustable, VM density advantage factored in by the calculator reduces VMware hardware and software requirements, lowering CapEx.
  • Per processor vs. per core licensing – Microsoft’s switch to core-based pricing for Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 has raised their prices on any multi-socket server with more than eight cores per processor. Microsoft licenses for a two-socket server with 18-core processors cost 125% more than they did a year ago – OUCH! VMware users also feel that pain, since most are running Windows VMs, but Microsoft private cloud users pay the new higher prices twice – once for Windows Server and again for System Center – driving their CapEx higher. Fortunately for VMware users, vSphere, vRealize Suite and vCloud Suite have CPU-based licensing, so when Intel and AMD pack more cores into their processors, you enjoy the benefits without paying a “core tax.”

Try the calculator and see how much you can save

The VMware TCO Calculator Methodology white paper explains in detail how the calculator works. Here’s an example of the calculator results comparing the TCO of a 1,000-VM private cloud based on VMware vCloud Suite Enterprise (our top-level private cloud bundle combining vSphere Enterprise Plus with vRealize Suite Enterprise) to one built with Hyper-V 2016 and System Center 2016.

VMware TCO Comparison Calculator example


Even with conservative assumptions for VM density, VMware provides healthy TCO savings compared to Microsoft. Use the calculator to see what your TCO savings could be.

VMware vSphere delivers greater out-of-the-box VM density than Red Hat Virtualization

vSphere supported 160% as many VMs with out-of-the-box settings.

A third-party study shows that VMware® vSphere® 6.5 supports more virtual machines with out-of-the-box settings than Red Hat Virtualization 4.1.

Higher density, lower CapEx

The higher the VM density, the lower the per VM capital costs. This is a key advantage VMware vSphere provides to customers. Using advanced memory management VMware vSphere easily assigned more virtual memory to VMs than the total physical memory available. Red Hat Virtualization had trouble with this routine operation.   

The study also showed that operators can rely on vSphere memory management to keep critical applications running even when hardware fails unexpectedly. Red Hat KVM struggled to keep VMs powered on and running. VMware vSphere worked without hesitation and without any admin tuning.  

How we tested

Principled Technologies (PT), an independent testing facility, used hands-on testing to investigate virtual machine density. PT compared VMware vSphere 6.5 and Red Hat Virtualization (RHV) 4.1 running Microsoft® SQL Server® 2016 VMs on a Lenovo™ System x3650 M5 rack server. PT first determined how many VMs each hypervisor could power on and run an online transaction processing workload. Then they increased the number of VMs to test the range each virtualization platform could support. PT used default hypervisor memory management settings.  Using these out-of-the-box settings, vSphere was able to power on and run 160% more VMs than it—or RHV—could run without memory over commitment.  

Additional testing showed that during a simulated hardware failure vSphere also kept VMs available without administrator intervention. RHV required an admin to enable Memory Optimization and perform manual tuning to overcommit memory. Even then, RHV could power on and run only 107 times its baseline number of VMs and could not deliver high availability.  

This study offers further confirmation that VMware vSphere continues to be the most reliable, trusted and cost-effective virtualization technology on the market. You can read the entire report here.

Small Virtual Infrastructure or Large Private Cloud, VMware TCO is Lowest – Here’s Proof

We’ve just updated the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator to help customers see the true Total Cost of Ownership differences between VMware and Microsoft. It’s easy to use – just enter the basic parameters for your virtual infrastructure or private cloud environment, such as the number of VMs, type of servers and storage, and the product edition or features you need. The calculator will generate a complete TCO analysis that includes all the necessary elements of capital and operational expenses.

We created the TCO Comparison Calculator after hearing from existing and prospective VMware customers who were being told that alternative solutions based on Hyper-V would be much less expensive, or even “free”. The calculator totals cost elements that our competition leaves out of their oversimplified comparisons, such as: the system administrator labor costs to operate the environment (the largest component of TCO and one that independent testing shows to be much lower for VMware); effects of VM density (where VMware has an advantage according to analysts like Gartner); 24×7 phone support; and the need for third-party software to fill feature gaps.

When all those cost elements are combined, the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator shows that VMware solutions, ranging from a small business virtual infrastructure built with vSphere Essentials to a full-featured large enterprise private cloud based on vCloud Suite Enterprise, have the lowest TCO – often by substantial margins.

When we updated the calculator, we saw that the VMware TCO advantage increased for some important reasons.

  • Our latest vCloud Suite editions now bundle the platform power of vSphere Enterprise Plus together with the management operations and automation efficiencies of vRealize Suite at very attractive pricing.
  • Log analytics powered by vRealize Log Insight is now included with any configuration that includes vCenter Server or vRealize Suite, making VMware solutions more economical than alternatives that must make up for that capability by adding third-party software.
  • Microsoft’s adoption of core-based pricing in their upcoming release of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 makes their solutions more expensive on mainstream servers that have higher core counts. The calculator assumes both VMware and Microsoft hosts are licensed for Windows Server Datacenter edition, so its core-based pricing penalizes customers of both vendors, but the lower VM density of Hyper-V means more Windows Server licenses are needed for a Microsoft platform. Also, System Center is needed to manage Hyper-V and its higher costs with core-based pricing fall entirely on the Microsoft side of the TCO comparison.

Another important enhancement we’ve made to the calculator is local currency support. Users can select USD, AUD, EUR, GBP, or JPY and the calculator will apply VMware and Microsoft list prices from those geographies.

This example from the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator shows that the 3-year TCO for a 500-VM environment built with vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus will be 33% less than a comparable solution based on Microsoft Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center.


Our customers in the trenches running enterprise virtual infrastructures often tell us they know VMware offers the best and most cost effective solution, but they need help making the case for selecting VMware with purchasing managers or CFOs that have heard from other vendors claiming to be less expensive. If you find yourself in a similar position, use the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator to arm yourself with solid proof that VMware provides the lowest total costs.

VMware Bests Red Hat In OpenStack Performance, Cost Study

While the operating assumption is that the OpenStack framework works best on open source components such as KVM, a just completed study by Principled Technologies and commissioned by VMware showed otherwise. Tests showed remarkably higher performance and substantially reduced costs when using OpenStack with VMware technology including vSphere when compared to OpenStack with Red Hat components.

vmware openstack summary chart

In the study, OpenStack services were used to provision and manage the test configurations. The study equipment was identical except when published recommendations mandated a change. The test results showed:

  • VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) provided 159% more IOPS than Red Hat Storage Server (GlusterFS)
  • A Cassandra NoSQL database installation performed 53% better on vSphere than on Red Hat KVM
  • Over 3 years, the total cost of infrastructure hardware and software was 26% lower on VMware than on Red Hat 

 The study recognized two trends in enterprise computing:

  • The emergence of hyper-converged architectures that can increase performance and lower costs associated with a virtualized infrastructure by having compute, network, and storage coexist closely on physical resources.
  • An interest in the OpenStack API framework as a way to provide efficient self-service provisioning and consumption of these underlying compute/network/storage resources to deploy applications on a large scale.

Cloud Performance

VMware innovations are helping customers get enterprise-class performance when exploring the OpenStack framework as a platform for large-scale application deployment. Among these innovations, the study showed that VMware Virtual SAN played an important role in providing performance advantages. Among the most significant findings related to VMware Virtual SAN, the study noted:

  • The use of direct-attached disks on the compute hosts brought proven benefits of shared storage in the VMware environment, such as High Availability (HA) and vMotion.
  • Tight integration with the vSphere [hypervisor]; scaled easily by adding more hosts to a cluster or more storage to existing hosts. In addition, VMware Virtual SAN can be managed directly through the familiar vCenter Server™ Web client console, alongside everything else in a VMware vSphere environment.
  • Every disk chosen for Virtual SAN storage belongs to a disk group with at least one solid-state drive that serves as a read and write cache. Additional storage or hosts added to the capacity and performance of a VMware Virtual SAN data store without disruption.

For the following tables, please refer to the full study for the complete test methodology and equipment setup.

Figure 1: The amount of YCSB (Yahoo Cloud Serving Benchmark) OPS achieved by the two solutions. Higher numbers are better.

Figure 1: The amount of YCSB (Yahoo Cloud Serving Benchmark) OPS achieved by the two solutions. Higher numbers are better.

Figure 2: The amount of IOPS achieved by the two solutions. Higher numbers are better. The workload was 70/30 R/W mix, random, and 4K block size.

Figure 2: The amount of IOPS achieved by the two solutions. Higher numbers are better. The workload was 70/30 R/W mix, random, and 4K block size.

Cost Comparison

The study showed that running OpenStack on VMware components required less hardware. Using VMware vSphere with Virtual SAN also lowered software costs. In total the study showed the 3 year costs were 26 percent lower. Because each OpenStack deployment and environment is different and support engagements vary widely from installation to installation, the costs of implementing the OpenStack framework were not included for either the VMware or the Red Hat platform.

Figure 3: Projected three-year costs for the two solutions. Lower numbers are better.

Figure 3: Projected three-year costs for the two solutions. Lower numbers are better.


The study concludes:

“In our testing, the VMware vSphere with Virtual SAN solution performed better than the Red Hat Storage solution in both real world and raw performance testing by providing 53 percent more database OPS and 159 percent more IOPS. In addition, the vSphere with Virtual SAN solution can occupy less datacenter space, which can result in lower costs associated with density. A three-year cost projection for the two solutions showed that VMware vSphere with Virtual SAN could save your business up to 26 percent in hardware and software costs when compared to the Red Hat Storage solution we tested.”

As an enterprise customer, you have choices when it comes to implementing an OpenStack framework. Your selections will impact the performance and overall cost of your scale out infrastructure. With this study, VMware has demonstrated significant performance gains and cost savings in an OpenStack environment.

Read the full study here.

Identifying Questionable Assumptions in the Amazon TCO Comparison Calculator

Amazon recently launched a new version of their Total Cost of Ownerships (TCO) Calculator that compares VMware on-premises solutions to Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings. Our many customers choose us as their infrastructure platform and stay with us because we provide the best value. The Amazon calculator tries to create a different perception by using biased and inaccurate assumptions.

Stacking the Deck…Obviously

Amazon claims their calculator provides an “apples-to-apples” comparison, but in reality, it doesn’t come close to doing so. Their calculator contains biased assumptions regarding VMware’s TCO, which inflate the costs of an on-premises cloud and underestimate the true costs of using a public cloud solution.

For instance, Amazon’s calculator:

  1. Assumes a customer has no existing on-premises investment. Cost assumptions include the purchase of entirely new data center space, racks, networking switches, spare parts, etc., which would not necessarily apply to a customer making an incremental investment in their IT infrastructure.
  2. Compares VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus, our most feature-rich edition, against AWS infrastructure. vSphere Enterprise Plus includes features such as vMotion and High Availability that Amazon customers do not get. As a result, AWS customers often find they have to re-architect their applications in order to work around these missing capabilities. Beyond the basic hypervisor features, Enterprise Plus also offers Application High Availability, Storage vMotion, DRS and Storage DRS, a fully manageable distributed switch, and storage and network I/O control. Customers can get some of these features in AWS by adding on 3rd party solutions, but features like I/O control and DRS are not features that can be added on AWS. Without these capabilities, AWS lacks an effective noisy neighbor solution, forcing customers to seek other ways to manage their applications and performance. These missing features are all part of the hidden costs customers encounter when they switch to AWS and one of the key reasons they delay or cancel AWS migration projects.
  3. Assumes high hardware costs. The calculator assumes a cost of $7,851 for a server with 2, 6-core CPUs and 96GB of RAM (including support). For instance, the same configuration at Dell can be priced at $4651. These price gaps add up, especially when considering larger environments.
  4. Does not include AWS support costs. The calculator includes the cost of VMware’s highly regarded Support and Subscription service for one year whereas no costs for AWS support are included. AWS support fees can be sizable.
  5. Most IT shops are keeping their hardware longer than three years. At the end of the three-year time horizon, the VMware user owns their infrastructure and VMware software licenses. The AWS TCO Calculator truncates the comparison at the three-year mark, yet operating VMware on your on-premises data center can lower your TCO over the long-term.  It is inaccurate of Amazon’s to assume that the value of the entire private cloud investment vanishes after three years. (We would love to hear about your real-world experiences, with your hardware’s working lifespans, in the comments section.)

Another Take on VMware vs. AWS TCO: VMware’s Own TCO Calculations

We decided to take a look at how costs might look using our math. The following is a VMware version of the TCO comparison against AWS. It compares costs associated with running conventional workloads on AWS and VMware infrastructure.

Conventional Workloads TCO Comparison

In a separate VMware TCO comparison calculation for a 100 VM environment, VMware TCO is $394K compared to AWS’s $487K over a four-year period. This represents a 21% cost savings when choosing VMware.

AWS TCO Comparison

This comparison uses the following 100 VMs for AWS:

  • 50 “Small” Windows servers (1 vCPU, 4 GB RAM, only full utilized about 4 hours per day; “Light Reserved” instance)
  • 25 “Large” Windows servers (4 vCPUs, 32 GB RAM, fully utilized about 18 hours per day; “Heavy Reserved” instance)
  • 20 “Small” MS SQL servers (1 vCPU, 2 GB RAM, only fully utilized about 4 hrs per day, “Light Reserved” instance)
  • 5 “High MEM Extra Large” MS SQL Servers (2 vCPU, 16 GB RAM, 400 provisioned [guaranteed] IOPS per VM, utilized about 12 hrs. per day; “Heavy Reserved” instance)
  • For the AWS deployment, it also included Business support (24×7 phone support) and the VPC service, which provides a security perimeter for the VMs.
  • For the VMware cost it uses the ROI/TCO tool (http://roitco.vmware.com) to estimate the cost of running 100 VMs.
  • It uses vSOM Standard for the infrastructure running on 5 ESXi hosts with 2 CPUs, 6 cores per CPU, 128 GB RAM per host and 6 NICs per host. Also included in this deployment is 10 TB of SAN storage using iSCSI.

Note that for this sample environment, the calculations assumed licenses for vSphere with Operations Management (vSOM) Standard, which offer more features and functionality than that of AWS and contain the features a customer truly needs for this scale environment. There are also additional AWS fees for things such as: data transfer, IP addresses, service monitoring, CloudWatch, etc. which are not captured in this TCO, but are a necessary part of running an application on AWS.


Clearly the AWS TCO Calculator does not represent a fair, “apples-to-apples” portrayal of the costs of an on-premises solution. Amazon’s calculator is underestimating AWS costs and overstating VMware costs. The costs of AWS instances are not the only factor to consider when choosing where to host workloads. Designing for AWS requires developer teams to significantly redesign their applications to account for the limitations and the quality of AWS infrastructure. With VMware, you have access to cost-effective, highly automated, secure infrastructure with a level of control and quality that provides superior value to IT and business units.

With the addition of vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS), VMware now offers customers a public cloud option with faster time to value and the ability to add or reduce capacity dynamically through the use of hybrid, off-premises data centers. The combination of on-premises vSphere or vCloud Suite infrastructure with cloud-based infrastructure hosted on vCloud Hybrid Services or a vCloud Powered partner clearly provides the best hybrid cloud experience. With infrastructure running on a common technology platform (vSphere) and integrations with existing tools like vCenter, vCenter Operations, and vCloud Automation Center, VMware customers get all the benefits of a true hybrid cloud.

Edit: An earlier version of this post claimed that the VMware TCO was over a three-year time period. The correct time horizon of the VMware TCO is four years. The post has been updated to reflect this change. 




Debunking Myths About vSphere Data Protection

The release of VMware’s vSphere Data Protection 5.5 (VDP) seems to have caused a stir in the virtual backup industry. It appears we have hit a soft spot with some of the other vendors offering backup solutions for vSphere and have seen some confusing messaging coming from our partners/competitors in this market. While we’re certainly proud of the technology partner ecosystem built around VMware solutions I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on vSphere Data Protection.

The Myths

  1. Other vendors claim they never need agents to perform backups, where VDP Advanced does.
  2. If you cannot directly view your backup files you may lose your ability to recover from a disaster
  3. Replicating your backups off-site requires expensive “WAN acceleration” technology
  4. VDP lacks any kind of fast VM recovery technology
  5. VDP cannot automatically verify the recoverability of a VM

We’ll dive in to each of these a little bit to get to the truth about vSphere Data Protection.

Myth 1: Agents, or the lack thereof

Some vendors claim they require no agents to do vSphere backups, even for application aware backups of Exchange, MS SQL, and SharePoint, whereas VDP Advanced does require agents for these applications.

The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of VMs do not require agents because of the way our vSphere data protection APIs work. This is the case for VDP and every other vSphere certified backup solution. But, a proper application consistent backup of Exchange, MS SQL, SharePoint and other application does require an agent, even for vendors like Veeam. Need proof? Here’s a quote from page 235 of the Veeam Backup & Replication Version 7.0 User Guide:

To coordinate proper indexing and VSS activities, Veeam Backup & Replication injects a runtime process inside the VM...In the Guest OS credentials section, specify an account with local administrative privileges for injecting the process.

Call me crazy, but a runtime process injected on a VM via admin credentials to do indexing and other activities on behalf of another server is the very definition of an agent. The biggest difference between VDP and Veeam’s agent approach is that VDP’s agents are a one-time install via wizard, whereas Veeam’s agents are installed and uninstalled each and every time a backup job runs.

And don’t forget: our VDP Advanced agents also run on physical servers so you can backup your entire Exchange, SQL, or SharePoint environment with VDP Advanced.

Myth 2: If you can’t directly access your backup files you may suffer dire consequences

First things first, it really doesn’t matter which backup system you choose – your backup files are useless without the backup servers. Further, if you’ve lost your backup infrastructure I’d say the odds are good you’ve lost other critical parts of your infrastructure as well. In cases like this, perhaps backups aren’t the best option for getting up and running. You might want a disaster recovery solution like our Site Recovery Manager or vCloud Hybrid Service – Disaster Recovery for this situation.

But what about smaller, localized issues? What if your backup server gets wiped out? First and foremost I’d recommend you use a product that includes backup replication so you always have 2nd and 3rd copies of your backups, hopefully on-site and off-site. With VDP Advanced your backups could be replicated directly to another VDP Advanced virtual appliance so you could immediately restore from the 2nd appliance – no additional configuration or setup needed. (Even if vCenter is down!)

So what happens if you have your backup files but your backup server is gone? Nothing! At least not until you re-install the backup server and database and maybe some proxies and repositories so that you can actually use those files, stealing precious minutes or hours from your recovery time objective.

Even if you’re using our basic version of VDP, which is included with most versions of vSphere and which does not have built-in replication, keep in mind that everything you need to protect your backups – the backup files, database, everything! – is contained within a single VM. Simply copy the VM to secondary storage periodically to avoid a single point of failure.

Myth 3: You’re going to need to buy a WAN accelerator to handle replication

VDP Advanced includes highly efficient, secure backup data replication across any link at no additional cost. How do we do it and why don’t you see some special “WAN accelerator” configuration inside VDP Advanced? VDP Advanced is based on EMC Avamar and uses the same enterprise-class deduplication algorithm and replication engine as Avamar. What this means to you is VDP does all the required deduplication as soon as the backups are created, across all backups stored on the appliance. No additional steps are needed to further optimize the data for WAN transfers. Plus you get the added benefit of using less storage for the primary backups so you save money on your overall backup solution!

Myth 4: VDP lacks any kind of fast VM recovery mechanism

“Instant Recovery” is the hot marketing item in the backup world (it’s kind of a boring world). Strategies for restoring data quickly is a topic I’d like to explore further in a more detailed article so we can look at how we’d approach some common scenarios with VDP. For now I want to say this about “instant” recovery: the feature looks good in the brochure, but instant recovery techniques from nearly every vendor end up with VMs that are pinned to a single host, running from your backup storage, with IO shuttled through some sort of proxy VM. Add it all up and you’re left with a significant performance and usability hit to the recovered VMs. If you later decide to move that VM from backup storage to production, it often requires multiple steps to move and rehydrate the VMDKs and then rebuild them from the delta disks that were written while the “instant” VM ran.

In contrast, VDP Advanced can utilize Changed Block Tracking to restore a VM directly on full production storage. This means only the blocks that have changed since the selected restore point will be restored. As a result, restore times can be dramatically reduced – up to 6X versus traditional restore methods according to the VDP Advanced study performed by ESG Labs.

Myth 5: You cannot verify a backup with VDP

This myth is just plain wrong. VDP Advanced does include automated backup verification. And we’re not just talking about verifying a file checksum. A VDP backup verification job can be created to automatically restore and verify the full functionality of a VM on a scheduled basis, e.g., once per week. Results of the backup verification jobs are reported in the VDP Advanced user interface and email reports so that administrators have the utmost confidence that important VMs can definitely be restored when needed.

Where VDP Advanced Shines

We’ve designed VDP and VDP Advanced to offer a great value to our customers, who often struggle to setup a good backup system and cannot afford the high price of some of the enterprise backup solutions. We think VDP excels in many areas but especially with features like:

  • Reduced storage consumption to save you money (up to 75% less storage)
  • Fast and simple recovery for VMs, applications, and files (up to 6x faster)
  • Application protection for Exchange, MS SQL, and SharePoint (virtual and physical)
  • Integration directly with vCenter
  • Overall simplicity (go from zero to your first backup in 30 minutes)
  • Leverage the best technology available (powered by EMC Avamar)

As I said at the start, we’re very proud of the ecosystem of partners we’ve built around vSphere, even those we compete with at times. While we at VMware focus on building products that are “better together” we realize that no single product will fit every customers’ needs and at the end of the day it’s you – the customer – who has to navigate the maze of features and jargon and figure out the solution that’s best for you. I hope this article makes that task a little bit easier.

VMware TCO Comparison Calculator Now Shows that Stepping Up to Private Cloud Costs Less with vCloud Suite

If you’ve had a chance to use the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator, you know that it factors in all the elements of a proper Total Cost of Ownership analysis to compare the true cost of building a virtual infrastructure on our vSphere and vSphere with Operations Management products to the cost of building a similar infrastructure on Microsoft’s “Cloud OS” – their name for Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center. [VMware has an even more detailed ROI/TCO Calculator to show the financial savings of virtualization and private cloud vs. physical infrastructure.]


The results are eye-opening for many users who have seen the comparisons from our competitors that consider only the Windows operating system and virtualization software license costs. Including all the TCO elements shown above makes it very clear that the cost of virtualization software is just a small part of the overall TCO for a virtualized infrastructure.

We’ve just updated the TCO Comparison Calculator with two important new features:

  • You can select VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) as the storage technology for VMware. VSAN capital costs are significantly less than other storage options like Fibre Channel, iSCSI or NAS.
  • You can see the TCO of upgrading your vSphere infrastructure to a full-featured vCloud Suite private cloud. This option compares the cost of upgrading to vCloud Suite with the cost of migrating to a Microsoft Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center private cloud.

There are three key cost elements that work strongly in VMware’s favor that show up in the calculator results:

  • Better VM density – Being able to run more VMs per CPU has always been a vSphere strength due do its outstanding memory management and DRS load balancing technology. Our customers running both vSphere and Hyper-V report higher densities on vSphere and analysts like Gartner agree, saying, “VMware’s customers have higher VM densities.” Even a conservative VM density advantage translates directly to significantly lower CapEx and OpEx costs.
  • Richer feature set – vSphere with Operations Management and vCloud Suite provide more of the management, data protection and availability, networking and disaster recovery features that customers need. Without those features, Microsoft customers must purchase, integrate and administer multiple third-party products to fill the gaps, driving up costs.
  • Much lower operational costs – Our customers that have tried competitors’ products tell us that running a vSphere and vCloud Suite infrastructure is much easier and more efficient. Third party studies have quantified VMware OpEx cost as much as 80-90% lower than Microsoft and recent studies with the latest product versions show a similar advantage. The OpEx savings from VMware’s greater administrative efficiency are built into the TCO Comparison Calculator.

A quick example from the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator shows just how much of an impact those VMware cost savings have. This example shows the two-year TCO for an infrastructure of 1,000 VMs on vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus (our highest edition) vs. Microsoft Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center.



You can see that VMware delivers 30% lower TCO from its lower OpEx costs and features that preclude the need for third-party add-ons.

Here’s an example showing that the two-year TCO for upgrading a 1000-VM vSphere Enterprise environment to our full-featured vCloud Suite Enterprise platform comes in 36% less than if that same infrastructure were migrated to Microsoft’s “Cloud OS”.


Whether you’re new to virtualization and considering a greenfield server consolidation project or a long-time vSphere user weighing your options for a private cloud upgrade, give the VMware TCO Comparison Calculator a try – you’ll see that you can get the best for less.

Partnership, Choice and the Hybrid Cloud

“There is much rhetoric these days about “cloud wars”.  Beyond the rhetoric, the hype is there for a reason: the value of hybrid cloud environments is becoming real, and the market opportunity even more real.  We are proud to serve our customers as a leading provider of virtualization software and cloud infrastructure.  And we’re equally proud of what our customers are achieving with VMware as a partner.”

You can take a break from the hype cycle by checking out the rest of the blog post by Bogomil Balkansky, Sr. Vice President, Cloud Infrastructure Platform here.

vSphere with Operations Management – Raising the Bar for Integrated Cloud Management

With the announcement of vSphere with Operation Management this week, it is truly exciting to not only see the advancements of management being tied so closely to the vSphere platform, but also bring our customers closer to the vision of the Software Defined Data Center.  As we see both the vSphere platform mature along with our customers’ use of it, we also see an evolution of VMware operations management accelerating and leveraging the value of the platform in our customers’ environments.

This new offering signifies a number a key aspects in the evolution of virtualization and cloud management:

First, our customers have experienced and expressed the need for accurate and automated solutions to proactively manage performance and capacity and vCenter Operations Manager, as part of vSphere with Operations Management, has delivered.  Leveraging a foundation of patented self-learning analytics, vCenter Operations Manager delivers the most comprehensive, scalable and automated management solution for vSphere.   Utilizing the vSphere health model, vSphere with Operations Management further extrapolates and presents data for managing performance and capacity more effectively than any other current or promised solutions.

 “We invested in vCenter Operations to support our large infrastructure of 500 VMs and 40 hosts. It has enabled us to predict capacity needs and to easily locate any performance issues.”

— Eric Krejci , Systems Specialist, EPFL


Second, vSphere with Operations Management leverages true automated operations for vSphere environments.  This VMware innovation reduces the administrative overhead and inaccuracies from tools using static thresholds (manual thresholds set for individual metrics) while analyzing all (not just a handful) of relevant vSphere performance metrics to ensure there are no performance or capacity “blind spots”.  Furthermore, to automatically correlate and expose the bottlenecks (with associated metrics) along with best practice remediation, vSphere with Operations Management ensures accurate management alignment that supports and further leverages our customer’s investment in VMware.

Advanced analytics easily identifies and shows root-cause to problem areas

Finally, vSphere with Operations Management raises the bar by redefining what operations management needs to be in today’s dynamic infrastructure.  Cloud customers simply were not finding effective solutions from their traditional, legacy IT management frameworks, or even 3rd party tools that are built on the same premise.   Even when considering other hypervisor / cloud products, the management ecosystem is at the heart of truly enabling the platform.  VMware vSphere with Operations Management clearly demonstrates the next step in simplicity of both cost and value through reliable, proven and innovative technology.

Going to VMware Partner Exchange 2013?  Be sure to check out these sessions on VMware management and the competition: MGMT1238, MGMT1369 & CI1523.

Twitter: @benscheerer