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Hyper-V passes Microsoft’s checkmarks exam: isn’t that always the case?

While browsing through the Microsoft Virtualization website, I stumbled across this table included in the Cost Saving section that presents cost and feature checklist comparison between Hyper-V/System Center with few vSphere editions.

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While Microsoft’s spin on the theoretical cost advantage of Hyper-V/System Center over vSphere isn’t surprising (I am not going to address it here, since we have already shown how it doesn’t hold water), the checklist comparison struck me as having a few factual errors and misrepresentations of actual product capabilities which I think are worth pointing out:

  • vSMP Support – Microsoft’s support for vSMP is actually much more limited than the table shows. Hyper-V R2 supports 4-way vSMP only in VMs running Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7. For Windows Server 2003 VMs, Hyper-V R2 supports up to 2-way vSMP and for Linux (SUSE /RHEL) VMs just single virtual CPU. vSphere, on the other hand, supports up to 4-way vSMP with Standard, Advanced and Enterprise Editions and 8-way vSMP with Enterprise Plus edition on any vSphere supported guest OS (over 50 versions).

  • HA/Clustering – The table incorrectly shows that vSphere Standard does not include HA/Clustering, when in reality it does. Microsoft seems also very generous with Hyper-V by implying it provides equal HA capabilities as vSphere. Unlike vSphere, for example, Hyper-V R2 does not provide VM restart prioritization, which means that there is no easy way for admins to make sure that critical VMs are being restarted first. Incidentally, the lack of VM restart prioritization is one the reasons why Burton Group stated that Hyper-V R2 is not an enterprise production-ready solution. In addition because Hyper-V R2 lacks memory overcommit (a feature that is totally missing from Microsoft’s checklist), it can restart VMs only if the failover server has enough spare memory capacity to accommodate the VMs of the failed host.

  • Hot add – Microsoft gives Hyper-V R2 a check on Hot Add and then below the checkmark specifies “Storage” to indicate Hyper-V supports only Hot Add of a VM’s virtual disk capacity. vSphere gets a checkmark too, but what the table doesn’t tell is that it not only provides Hot Add of a VM’s virtual disk capacity, but also of virtual memory and CPU

  • Storage VMotion – This checkmark is funny to say the least. If you don’t know what the word “quick” means in Microsoft’s marketing jargon (and believe me I have heard illuminating translations of the term from Microsoft’s own employees), you’d think that Microsoft has a fast Storage VMotion (possibly faster than VMware’s). The reality is that even just talking about Storage VMotion in Hyper-V’s case doesn’t make sense, because Microsoft’s Quick Storage Migration, just like Quick Migration for VMs, cannot migrate VM virtual disks without downtime. VMware Storage VMotion, on the other hand, can migrate virtual disks without any application downtime.

  • DRS/PRO – Even now that Hyper-V has live migration, positioning PRO as a DRS-equivalent isn’t accurate. PRO is a fundamentally less usable and more complex solution for resource balancing. Unlike DRS, which can be configured from vCenter in a matter of few clicks, PRO Tips requires both System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) and Operations Manager (SCOM). As Microsoft TechNet shows, SCOM is a very complex product that consumes a considerable amount of servers and databases that – opposite to what Microsoft wants people to believe – are neither free nor included in the cost of SMSD licenses. In addition to being hard to set up, PRO is dependent on software packages (PRO Packs) that each hardware vendor creates for its own products Last but not least, PRO lacks a global view of the resources of a group of servers (like DRS does with Resource Pools) and consequently it cannot optimize resource allocation across a cluster, but only react to the local conditions of a certain workload.

  • vNetwork/Host Profiles in my opinion, this line wins the Oscar for best checkmark in a “mis-leading” role. First, Microsoft drops the words “Distributed Switch” from VMware’s vNetwork Distributed Switch (vDS) making it look like a generic virtual networking feature. Then, it gives Hyper-V R2 a check for the vNetwork/Host Profiles combination implying that System Center also provides the same functionality as VMware Host Profiles when in reality the only way it could would be through extensive development of custom scripts and customization of SC Configuration Manager (should we include the extra cost to the System Center price at the top of the table?)

While there is more that could be said about this table from Microsoft, this already shows how easy it is for Hyper-V to pass Microsoft’s checkmark exam. . This isn’t something new, though. Looking through the Virtual Reality archives, I found a 2 year old post (“Can I have the check, please?”) by a former VMware SE now with Microsoft on this same checkmark issue. I guess it is true that old habits die hard.

12 thoughts on “Hyper-V passes Microsoft’s checkmarks exam: isn’t that always the case?

  1. Iain

    Just a quick question, I may be being thick here, but what does “Cross Hypervisor” mean? Does it get angry when not using MS OS’s?!
    Gotta love marketing machines, thanks for the post.

  2. Alberto Farronato

    Ian,
    thanks for reading and commenting. With “Cross Hypervisor” most likely Microsoft refers to heterogeneous hypervisor management. One of the supposed benefits that Microsoft always mentions about SCVMM is the ability to manage both Hyper-V and ESX. While it is true that vCenter currently allows to manage only ESX, the checkmark for System Center is very generous also in this case. SCVMM does a very poor job at managing ESX hosts and VM and the little it can do still requires vCenter. I did not discuss the “Cross Hypervisor” subject in this blog because there is enough to write for a whole new post. If you’d like to get additional insight on this topic, I suggest you take a look at Eric Gray’s VCritical blog where you’ll find interesting details.
    Ciao

  3. David Pelletier

    I can’t say I’m surprised.
    I’m working for a MS Gold Partner and never really liked Hyper-V. Now their cluster services make the concept of VM migration less painful that it used to be but even today I can’t possibly recommend it, be it for SBS or otherwise.
    One must take note though that MS went out of their usual vaporware showcase tactics by actually ship a product. Problem is, it is comparing more or less to VMware ESX 3.0 (without virtualcenter) with less flexibility (and 3 years late).
    Keep up the good work: vSphere (especially with its advanced accounting plugins) is, for most serious businesses, a no brainer.

  4. Robin

    Let me guess. It is all in the next version right?

  5. Alberto Farronato

    Of course! Plus today nobody needs that stuff anyway… isn’t this what they always say of features they don’t have? 🙂

  6. julien

    Conclusion: Hyper-V is the best choice for all the companies who don’t care about DRS, Storage vMotion or vNetwork.

  7. Alberto Farronato

    Julien,
    thanks for commenting, but I have to disagree. Your conclusion seems quite out of context here, but in any case, the simple fact that Microsoft may have a certain feature set doesn’t make it a better solution for those customers that are not interested in the many that Microsoft doesn’t have. Technologies like VMware’s implementation of technologies like VMotion and HA, not to mention the hypervisor itself, are still superior than what Microsoft offers.

  8. julien

    Hi alberto,
    I just wanted to underline with that brief statement that Hyper-V can meet some customers just fine.
    Many dont need DRS or Storage vMotion => that’s why the Advanced and Standard editions exist.
    Moreover, you claim that HA and vMotion are superior than Microsoft HA and Live Migration. Can you be more specific. According to me, it works just as good as VMware.
    Probably you mean Hyper-V cannot prioritize VM restart. Actually with System Center Operations monitor u don’t need it because u can monitor applications inside your VM and set alerts with thresholds.
    VMware vSphere remains a great product, undeniably superior for very advanced users (Fortune 500).
    My customers want the product with the best Quality/Price ratio.
    After many MS vs. VMware price cotations I realized that in average MS is 2x cheaper than VMware (let’s forget MS marketing bullshit claiming 5x cheaper => maybe in Open Education but not in Open Business or Open Value).
    When u add all System Center components Versus Enterprise edition, u get 2 products equivalent (even if i don’t like the word “equivalent”, the MS and VMware approaches are different => its like comparing a Japanese car vs American one).
    With SP2, MS will better manage memory, still not memory overcommit because far too much risky in transactional environments but it will meet some customers’ demands.

  9. peter

    just for the record one enterprice version of miscrosoft server gives the right to 1 host and 3 virtual versions of it.
    one host 3 times win 2008
    try the same in vmware
    linux as host free
    3 virtual win 2008
    extra cost – VMWare itself.
    dudes check your licenses vmware is extra cost
    you can take the free version of vmware it doesnt perform as hyper-v
    VMWare is nice for who has money to spend. but ask yourself how much time in % do you realy require it?
    i think its a nice product sure, but if you have to think about costs licenses etc you would not use it, prefer linux ?? there are also free virtual host machines to.
    you might also be supriced how many OS are unsuported working on hyberV but thats just a side note. As there is a huge difference if VMware claimes something is suported or MS.
    Its easy to say for example linux is suported, because anyone can built his own built of it, blame your own if you have a bad built, enjoy the selfhelp group. In contrast if microsoft says product X is suported or it isnt, it has a deep background research. And a promisse to work with a fix if it doesnt. The technologies are so different but also the cover of the guarantees.
    So i’ve seen all those products i’m no fan of either. What i like is redundancy as for example it is dealed with in active directory or an exchange DAG technology that is by itself clustered redundant. no mather if a machines dies thats ok.
    Services who are cluster aware like DNS, or for example Skype (no servers peer2peer app) or Folding @ home en Seti distributed computing is the future > a different kind of software design
    making boxes redundant in other boxes its a dead-end design idea its wrong.
    Think outside the box !!

  10. virtual people

    thanks for clearing this up. I would think that if you contact them they would fix it. I do understand it may be a conflict of interest. However, they cannot misrepresent the facts. Good luck!

  11. hyper-v

    Hyper-V works quite well and even supports Linux VM’s. The main advantage is that if you are already running Windows server 2008 it comes along for free whereas you have to pay for VMWare separately. I think that VM ware provides better system management tools, but that isn’t really a big benefit in this particular case.

  12. Dennis Marinos

    The costs of VMware ware do not make up for extra features you get in it.
    Once your vm’s are setup and running you will be wondering why are you paying vmware soo much money for something hyper v can do for a fraction of the cost.
    Unless Vmware start competing on price with hyper v they are going to lose a lot of customers. i am using Vmware enterprise at the moment with about 30Vms over 3 hosts and i am going to be moving to Hyper v next year.
    With the money i can save by switching i can afford to hire a system admin just for the Vm’s if i wanted! Or buy some new hosts.

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