Home > Blogs > Virtual Reality > Author Archives: Mark Chuang

Author Archives: Mark Chuang

About Mark Chuang

Mark currently leads product marketing for VMware's storage, disaster recovery, and database solutions. In his time at VMware, he has focused on solving customer's biggest IT challenges.

The Monday Morning Mashup: Getting Beyond “Hyper-V because It’s Free”, “Fed-Up VMware Fires Back”

A blog series for VMware champions and customers


Getting Beyond “Hyper-V because It’s Free!”

Microsoft’s #1 message for why customers should evaluate Hyper-V is “it’s free” or “it’s much cheaper than VMware.” When asked, I’ve always encouraged customers to examine the facts for themselves based on their specific business needs and figure out what the real overall cost will be for that specific customer at the end of the day.

Therefore, it was very refreshing to see someone else go beyond Microsoft’s superficial “It’s Free!” slogan. TechTarget recently published a 4-part series on comparing the cost of VMware vs. Microsoft. While TechTarget calls out some areas of concern about VMware's pricing and costs, it’s also abundantly clear from their analysis that Microsoft’s virtualization and cloud offering is not free. Take a look at their analysis for yourself.

Ultimately, customers need to look at a more holistic, total picture of cost, beyond the upfront virtualization license acquisition cost, and factor in other important cost components, such as management license costs, support costs, operational costs, and impact from virtual machine density differences.

p.s. TechTarget is running several readers poll as part of their series. As of Monday morning, it’s nice to see VMware well ahead in several of the results.

Best_value_hypervisor Better_private_cloud

CRN article: “Fed-Up VMware Fires Back At Microsoft's Virtualization Trash Talk"

CRN noticed the new “Get the Facts” webpage and wrote an article on it. If you haven’t seen it yet, “Get the Facts” is a new resource for VMware champions and customers to hear from VMware about competitive claims. Check it out when you get a chance: http://www.vmware.com/getthefacts

p.s. And speaking of being fed-up, here is one user’s experience working with Hyper-V Server 2012 RC… “Standalone Hyper-V is too painful to use


The Monday Morning Mashup: VMware at Microsoft TechEd, New “Get the Facts” Webpage, Why Customers Chose VMware

A blog series for VMware champions and customers


VMware at Microsoft TechEd this Week

The VMware business critical applications team is exhibiting at Microsoft TechEd in Hot-lando, Florida, this week. They are there to connect with the many satisfied VMware-Microsoft customers who’ve virtualized their Windows and Microsoft applications on VMware vSphere and VMware View. In our last annual customer survey, greater than 50% of all SQL and Exchange instances in VMware customers are already virtualized on VMware, and 70% of SharePoint instances are virtualized. The percentages keeps going higher and higher every year!

If you’ll be at TechEd this week, come and visit the VMware team at the TechExpo booth 2137.


Get the Facts, Not the Microsoft Hyper-bole

When you’re the leader, everyone else compares themselves to you and claims about you. To all the VMware champions out there, there’s a new place to go to hear from VMware about these competitive claims. http://www.vmware.com/getthefacts/microsoft


Companies Share Why They Chose VMware

Want to hear why companies big and small continue to choose VMware? Check out these recent customer case studies where customers share their reasons for choosing VMware after evaluating other offerings.

Acxiom (6,000 employees)

“After researching virtualization vendors, Acxiom choose VMware due to the maturity of VMware’s solution portfolio. ‘We looked at all the add-on features and saw that, hands down, VMware offers the most complete and robust set of offerings—including VMware vShield™, since security is so important to us,’ says Brandon Nelson, Acxiom Team Leader and Systems Engineer.”

NYSE Euronext (3000 employees)

“…prior to architecting its Capital Markets Community Platform, the company analyzed available solutions to validate its selection of virtualization technology. The VMware cloud infrastructure suite emerged as the clear winner on every criterion NYSE Technologies identified. It is the world’s leading virtualization layer. All of the company’s major clients are comfortable with VMware. And VMware’s vision—to enable highly reliable infrastructure environments for mission-critical applications, along with complete user self-service access—dovetailed with NYSE Technologies’ vision for its new cloud offering.”

SEGA Europe (3000 employees)

“When deciding upon our cloud strategy we felt it was crucial to use an environment we were familiar with end-to-end. We were already very happy and comfortable with VMware technology, and because of its standardised cloud approach and the close integration with COLT which has such a wide data centre footprint globally, we had the perfect fit.” –Francis Hart, Systems Architect, Sega Europe

Myron F. Steves and Company (200 employees)

“The first virtualization platform they tested was Microsoft Hyper-V. They found the technology cumbersome. ‘It took us a month to get it working,’ says Tim Moudry, Associate Director of IT, Myron Steves, adding that a high-maintenance solution wasn’t an option. ‘Ten years ago, we had around 13 IT people on staff. Today we have six, and we’re supporting the same number of employees.’ Then they tried VMware vSphere. ‘Within two days, it was fully functional,’ Moudry notes.”

ParetoLogic (150 employees)

“’We considered other server virtualization platforms during our exploratory process,’ Brian Vizina, IT Manager at ParetoLogic says, ‘but security is a big concern for us and we felt that the secure foundation on which VMware’s ESXi platform is built upon, the ease of deployment and management, plus the number of applications per host density VMware offers made them the obvious choice,’ Brian also stated, ‘VMware is the brand that large and medium-size companies—in serious need of reliable virtual systems—choose. Beyond that, VMware solutions present remarkable benefits and are proven to be easy to integrate with most existing IT platforms.’”



Far out, man! Microsoft’s wasted 1970s campaign to diss VMware. Can you dig it?!

It was hard to miss. As I was getting my daily dose of tech news yesterday, I started seeing the Microsoft “Tad” ads. I saw it first on NetworkWorld, then on InformationWeek. I later heard that it was also on Tech Republic, ComputerWorld, ZDNet, a big ad in the Wall Street Journal, and who knows where else Microsoft spent a bunch of its hard-earned money, just to malign VMware. The ads lead back to a custom microsite that Microsoft built… more money spent on VMware. (Hmmm… I’m seeing a trend/complex here as Microsoft’s own virtualization website mentions VMware as many times as it mentions Microsoft!)

These tactics do garner attention. I’ve seen the tweets and retweets from Microsofties and their fans; all quite happy about this new not-so-veiled volley of venom thrown at VM-limited… er, VMware.

But what are others, outside the influence of the Redmond compound, saying? I think @jbrodkin at Ars Technica’s tweet sums it up pretty well “Hey @mIcrosoft, congrats on the lamest ad campaign ever”. Or the write-up at Business Insider, saying “Still, we're a little dumbfounded that adults not only thought this was a good idea, but spent time and energy on it.”



VMware – Business Value and Reliability that Customers Can Count On

This latest Microsoft campaign once again highlights the difference in focus between VMware and Microsoft. Given a million dollars, both companies would spend it very differently. Microsoft would spend (actually, has already spent) its million dollars on advertising, but not advertising to tell prospective customers about why its product is better, but on parody videos of VMware.

VMware, on the other hand, would spend our resources first on innovation, and then, on marketing to communicate how our products deliver greater business value. We have a track record of delivering groundbreaking innovations with every release of our products and we intend to continue our legacy. It’s what our customers have come to expect from VMware: business value through innovation, reliability that customers can count on.

What’s that business value from VMware look like? Revlon CIO David Giambruno is getting “six 9’s of uptime” with “savings and cost avoidance of $70.4 million” by working with VMware. He’s virtualized Exchange, SQL, and Oracle, and built out a private cloud that’s a competitive weapon for Revlon. So we’ll stay focused on innovating to deliver business value to customers like Revlon, and Southwest Airlines, and NYSE, and leave it to Microsoft to spend their time and money making parody videos and debates between Microsoft employees and fictitious characters. 


Net-net: CIOs and IT Decision Makers are Picking VMware

An audience poll from the last Gartner Datacenter Conference revealed that 71% of respondents expect VMware to be central to their private cloud strategy in 2015, while only 23% mentioned Microsoft – that’s more than a 3-to-1 ratio of IT decision makers picking VMware. It is just one example of how CIOs and IT decisions makers see VMware as the clear leader for virtualization and cloud computing.

So while the Tad videos may be good for some cheap laughs and reminiscing about the 70s – although there is great irony in Microsoft calling anyone else dated/behind the times/old school, as it’s hard to think of another company that’s been playing catch up on every technology trend of the 21st century (mobile, tablets, cloud, search) – what companies really need is help in maximizing the business value from virtualization and cloud computing. That’s where VMware comes in.

Peace out.


VMware’s track record of industry-leading innovations


Virtualizing Exchange on VMware Provides More Recovery and Availability Options

We wanted to take a minute and respond to the recent blog post by the Microsoft Exchange team (Answering Exchange Virtualization Questions and Addressing Misleading VMware Guidance). In the post, Microsoft expresses concerns around particular VMware guidance for deploying Exchange Database Availability Groups (DAG) in conjunction with VMware HA.  We’d like to provide our perspective on this configuration and explain why it isn’t reckless (as Microsoft suggests), but all to the contrary can help our customers get greater value out of virtualizing Exchange.

The proposed solution consists of deploying Exchange DAG on a VMware vSphere cluster, and complementing DAG with VMware HA to maximize availability.

To clarify some of the apparent confusion on VMware HA in the Microsoft blog, VMware HA has nothing to do with VMotion or DRS.  VMware HA is a very simple mechanism that automatically reboots a failed virtual machine on any available host in the vSphere cluster in the case of a host failure.  From an application standpoint, the behavior of VMware HA is equivalent to a simple power-on of the machine on which the application is running.   It is completely transparent to the OS and the application.

In the physical world, when a DAG node fails, an admin will eventually power-on that node to restore the original availability protection.  VMware HA does exactly the same thing, but automatically.  Seems to us like that’s a pretty reasonable thing to do, and many of our customers agree and are happily using this in production.  Why?  For example, in a deployment with 2 database copies, if one of the DAG nodes were to go down due to a host failure, Exchange would be left ‘unprotected’ until the failed DAG node could be brought back up.  That could take quite a bit of time, relying on an administrator to detect the failure, and manually power on the failed node. VMware HA automatically takes care of that for you in the shortest time possible to restore the DAG availability protection.

Does this solution increase the cost of deploying Exchange?  No!  Compute requirements are unchanged, since VMware HA doesn’t rely on failover instances.   VMware HA also does not impact overall storage requirements.

Does this solution increase complexity?     Our customers think our solution makes Exchange a whole lot simpler.  When a DAG node fails, you no longer need to manually detect the failure and bring the node back up – VMware HA does that automatically.  And VMware HA doesn’t require any OS- or app-level configuration changes.

As to the support situation, we acknowledge that this is not an officially supported configuration under the Microsoft SVVP Program.  Should that stop all customers from using it?  Consider the following facts:

  • We have tested the configuration ourselves and haven’t seen any technical issues from powering on the DAG node VM automatically.
  • Customers are using this configuration in production with no technical issues.
  • Microsoft customers with a Premier Support agreement are entitled to reasonable support beyond specific SVVP-validated configurations.

In some cases customer needs can go beyond the vendor’s official support positions or guidelines.  In these situations, it’s up to the vendors to step up and meet those needs.  We’re extending an open offer to the Microsoft Exchange team to help them better understand, test, validate, and support this valuable solution!

Alex Fontana and Scott Salyer

(Original authors of the Exchange on VMware Best Practices and availability docs)


VMware vSphere Wins Best of Microsoft TechEd Attendee’s Pick Award

VMware has been exhibiting here at Microsoft TechEd 2010 and lots of VMware customers, plus those just starting the virtualization journey, have come by to talk to us – lots of questions about how to virtualize applications like Microsoft Exchange, SQL, and Sharepoint on VMware vSphere, how to implement an effective disaster recovery plan for their virtual Windows environment, and how to leverage VMware View for their Windows 7 migrations. But also, a lot of folks come by simply to say hello and share how well their Windows environments run on vSphere. Thanks to those who came by our booth this week.

I must confess though, that even after talking to all these customers, I did not fully understand how many satisfied VMware customers are here at Microsoft TechEd 2010… here’s what I mean.

Wednesday night, the VMware team attended the Best of TechEd awards ceremony because VMware vSphere was a finalist in the Virtualization category. We won that award last year (Best of TechEd 2009) and were anxiously waiting to see if we would win again this year. We were very excited when the judges announced VMware as the Virtualization category winner for Best of TechEd 2010.

Soon after, the final award of the night came up – the Best of TechEd Attendee’s Pick Award. This award is 100% based on votes from the 10,000+ TechEd attendees (my guess, as I haven’t seen an official number) – no judges involved. Attendees got to choose from among all the IT products exhibited at Microsoft TechEd, not just the virtualization ones, basically everything in the world of Windows IT. Given this context, we were thrilled when VMware was announced as the winner of the Best of TechEd 2010 Attendee’s Pick Award! Wow, to be chosen by the attendees from among all the IT products at TechEd, was just the latest testament of the value that vSphere delivers to customers.

There were no acceptance speeches at the awards ceremony (which was probably a wise decision by the folks at Windows IT Pro), but some thank-you’s are definitely in order. To the 25,000+ VMware channel partners, thanks for educating and helping customers implement vSphere to solve their most pressing datacenter needs. To the 35,000+ VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs), thanks for managing all of the vSphere installations so they run smoothly, and for being the resident experts in your respective companies, sharing with everyone the value of VMware. To the 1,500+ VMware technology partners, thanks for working with our engineering teams to build tight, robust integrations between our respective products. And finally, thanks to the thousands of VMware R&D engineers who built VMware vSphere – great job team.

Did Microsoft Just Say that VMware is More Profitable for Partners?

Sometimes, what one does not say, communicates a lot more than what one actually does say. That seemed to be the case last week when Microsoft released new collateral telling channel partners that they can achieve higher growth by selling Microsoft virtualization products alongside their existing VMware practices.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the blogosphere heard a different message:

Wow – talk about an unintentional message. Instead of Microsoft’s intended message, people picked up on Microsoft’s change in tactics from “sell Hyper-V because it can go head-to-head with VMware” to “why don’t you try selling Hyper-V in addition to VMware – we promise it will make you more money” (my paraphrase). To quote the Virtualization Review article, “While this is not tantamount to raising a white flag, it is a stark, public acknowledgement of VMware's deeply embedded pre-eminence.” Thanks Microsoft for reaffirming what VMware partners and customers have known all along.

Microsoft Tool: Partners Get Better Margins with VMware

But, unintentional messages aside, is there truth behind the claim that Microsoft virtualization products can make partners more money? To answer this question, I spent some time playing with Microsoft’s Excel model (the heart of the new Microsoft collateral) that compares the revenue and margins from selling VMware versus Microsoft.

First of all, Microsoft’s model states that partners generally make better margins by selling VMware (default assumptions in the Microsoft model).


Microsoft Tool Assumes Up to a 2x Win Rate Advantage over VMware – Quite Unrealistic

But if that’s the case, what is Microsoft’s argument for how partners can make more money selling Microsoft virtualization over VMware? As Steve Kaplan points out on his blog, the two biggest assumptions in the Microsoft’s model are 1) a higher win rate (i.e. closing more deals) when leading with a Microsoft virtualization offering, and 2) “upsell capture” where customers purchase more software/ hardware/services with the money they supposedly save with a Microsoft offering. (There are a bunch of other default assumptions that disadvantage VMware, which I list at the end of this blog, but higher win rate and upsell capture have the biggest impact on the model’s output.)

So what does the tool assume regarding win rates? The default ‘mature market’ assumption is that leading with Microsoft virtualization offerings will win 33% more Large Enterprise deals and 100% more Mid-market deals (2x) compared to if the partner leads with VMware offerings, resulting in partners making more margin with Microsoft virtualization. Those are pretty bold, and frankly, unsubstantiated assumptions given VMware’s dominant position in Large Enterprises (96% of the Fortune 1000 are VMware customers), VMware’s strong traction with our mid-market offerings (Acceleration Kits, Essentials Editions), and the fact that customers get a more reliable, more complete, and lower cost-per-application solution with VMware.

Just how sensitive is the Microsoft tool to the win-rate assumption? Let’s find out by making two simple adjustments to win-rate. Let’s give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt with a higher win rate in mid-market (33% more deals), put us on parity in the Large Enterprise (same win rate), and leave in place the model’s assumption that customers will buy more hardware/software/services because of the money they save with Microsoft (an assumption that Steven Kaplan challenges in his blog, but that’s another discussion). Now the VMware practice makes $1,021,000 of margin at the end of Year 3 while the Microsoft practice makes $948,000 of margin – so the VMware practice now makes more money, even with a 33% higher win-rate assumption for Microsoft in mid-market!

Microsoft Tool’s Default Assumptions Are Just Not Credible

This simple exercise is revealing because it shows what partners would have to believe in order for Microsoft virtualization to make them more money, essentially, that customers would have to overwhelmingly choose Microsoft virtualization products over VMware by an incredibly higher, unsubstantiated rate, in spite of the fact that VMware delivers far more compelling benefits to customers:

  • a more reliable and robust product,
  • a more complete platform for virtualizing applications,
  • a more comprehensive set of virtualization management solutions,
  • more customer choice with broader OS, application, and hardware support,
  • a more proven solution as evidenced by customer adoption and return on investment, and
  • a lower cost-per-application – a key component of total cost of ownership for a virtual environment.

Now, I realize that there are many VARs and consultants out there that have built very successful, profitable businesses selling Microsoft products, so my point is not about any channel partner’s existing Microsoft practices. But I do take issue with Microsoft’s claim that selling Microsoft virtualization is more profitable than selling VMware based on their “model” – Microsoft’s assumptions to make their case are just not credible.

VMware Channel Partner Ecosystem: 25,000+ Partners and Growing

To close, here are some facts about the ecosystem of VMware partners:

  • VMware has over 25,000 channel partners worldwide and that number is growing.
  • For every $20k of VMware licenses sold, partners sell another $225k of hardware/software/ services. (VMware research, 2008)
  • 75%+ of VMware’s revenue comes from our channel partners.

As you can see, VMware and its channel partners have a strong win-win relationship.

If you are a VAR or consultant and currently not a VMware channel partner, we invite you to check out the VMware Partner Network website to get information about how to become one. Let us help you grow your business by selling VMware while delivering the most trusted, most complete, lowest cost-per-application solution to your customer.

A Few Other Default Assumptions in the Microsoft Tool to be Aware of

  • Default assumption charges VMware projects a 10% premium on hourly labor.
  • Default assumption is that VMware projects take 10% more engineering hours to complete.
  • Default assumption results in partners completing almost twice the number of Microsoft projects as VMware projects in the same period of time without adding any additional headcount. Not realistic at all.
  • Default assumption appears to use an inconsistent mix of list price and channel price for Microsoft and VMware products. (I could not figure out a consistent methodology to the numbers. If you figure it out, make a comment below.)
  • Default assumption adds the cost of vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses in one scenario without explaining why VMware’s highest-end SKU was required, and there’s no acknowledgement that Enterprise Plus delivers far more functionality than the Microsoft offering.
  • Default assumption adds the cost of VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) licenses, our disaster recovery product, to another scenario without adding anything to the Microsoft stack, in spite of the fact that Microsoft has nothing comparable to SRM.

VMware: Resting on Our Laurels? No Way! We’re Moving Forward Faster Than Ever.

One of the fun parts of my job is meeting with customers when they visit VMware’s Briefing Center here at our headquarters in Palo Alto, California – in the heart of Silicon Valley. The customers range from those who have used VMware for years and are now working towards the next step, towards a Private Cloud, as well as, those who are newer to virtualization and have begun server consolidation but are also starting to realize how a virtual datacenter can deliver so much more than just CapEx savings – open conversations to figure out how VMware can help the customer (further) reduce complexity, lower costs, and boost business agility.

In these customer meetings, a question that comes up from time to time is “We know you guys are the clear leaders today. How do you intend to maintain your leadership position moving forward?” A fair question, upon which I walk them through our overall business strategy to enable IT-as-a-Service through cloud computing, product roadmaps, and our competitive differentiation (most of which are captured on our Why Choose VMware and Advantages of VMware Virtualization web pages).

But if you read between the lines, their question is also about an attitude check – one that is often posed to industry leaders. It is a check to make sure that VMware’s success has not somehow made us complacent in regards to changing market dynamics or offerings from other vendors. Basically they are asking, “Are you guys resting on your laurels?” And the answer is “Absolutely not!”

Speaking from my experience working at VMware, I see as much (and very likely, more) ambition, drive, and energy now, as when I joined VMware three plus years ago. A survey of some of our announcements over the past year serves as good evidence of our aggressive drive to enabling IT-as-a-Service:

  • Release of vSphere 4, the latest major version of our flagship product that is the foundational virtualization platform for IT-as-a-Service, garnering a large stack of industry awards and recognitions over the past 12 months;
  • Release of View 4 with its new PCoIP protocol, the industry’s only purpose-built desktop virtualization solution for delivering desktop-as-a-service;
  • Acquisitions of SpringSource, Zimbra, and other companies to broaden the overall solution stack that VMware will offer to customers – from the platform to developer frameworks to cloud-ready applications;
  • Significant advancements in our vCloud initiative, such as having more than 1000 service provider partners in the VMware Virtualized service, including partners like AT&T, SAVVIS, Terremark, and Verizon Business.
  • Formation of vmforce.com, a strategic alliance between VMware and salesforce.com, to deliver a trusted cloud for enterprise Java developers;
  • Active collaboration with industry bodies like the DMTF to enable cloud computing standards and interfaces to maximize customer choice and flexibility in this next emerging era of computing;
  • And the list can go on…

Attitude is important. As our CEO Paul Maritz likes to remind us, “Beware the good times.” There is wisdom in that exhortation and echoes the sentiment from former Intel Chairman and CEO Andy Grove’s famous quote, “Only the paranoid survive.” Both men know what it takes to be and maintain leadership in the ever changing technology industry. From my view, there’s a healthy level of “paranoia” at VMware these days – the right level to continue (and extend) our leadership position.

VMware ESX to ESXi Upgrade Center – Check it Out!

If you have not had a chance, I would definitely recommend you check out the recently launched “VMware ESX to ESXi Upgrade Center.” We launched this upgrade center to help customers and partners get comfortable with ESXi because we’ve stated on numerous occasions that in the future, ESXi will be the exclusive focus of VMware development efforts.

Why have we made this decision to move towards the ESXi architecture? Simply put, we wanted to improve hypervisor management in regards to security, deployment and configuration, and ongoing administration. You can read more about all the benefits at the Upgrade Center or ESXi product page, but as a quick snapshot, take a look at this graph of how ESXi reduces the number of patches compared to traditional ESX (over the same timeframe).


It just goes to show you what removing the dependency on a general purpose OS in the virtualization layer can do for you. Goodbye patches for general purpose operating system code that wasn’t required for core virtualization functionality. (Although the console OS in traditional ESX serves a vastly different purpose than the Parent Partition in Hyper-V or Domain 0 in Xen, but that’s a whole separate discussion.)

As expected, not everyone agrees with our approach of reducing the role of a general purpose operating system in the virtualization layer. Just take a look at a Microsoft marketing brochure that proudly highlights how their virtualization layer is part of general purpose Windows. But it is very interesting how, once you talk to knowledgeable people outside of the Hyper-V marketing team, you find resoundingly consistent agreement that a smaller code base is the way to go for protecting your mission-critical virtualization layer.

  • From a leading virtualization security analyst’s blog (Feb 2010):
    “The lesson from all of this is that thinner is better from a security perspective and I’d argue that the x86 virtualization platforms that we are installing (ESX, Xen, Hyper-V and so on) are the most important x86 platforms in our data centers. That means patching this layer is paramount. With Hyper-V’s parent partition that means closely keeping an eye on Microsoft’s vulnerability announcements to see if it is affected.” (emphasis added)
  • From an article quoting another leading virtualization analyst (Nov 2009):
    “Problem two is a bigger, architectural problem that he was told about by R2 beta users. As he explains it, in a Hyper-V environment, every physical host has a copy of Windows that is used as the parent OS. It manages the I/O drivers and is home to any management agents that are installed. ‘If I want to use PowerShell, I’m also using the parent OS for that,’ he declares, ‘so what you end up with is one big, fat, single point of failure.’” (emphasis added)
  • Finally, let’s look at what a Director in the Microsoft Azure team said was a key design principle for Azure:
    “[Design Principle #2] Small footprint: any features not applicable to our specific cloud scenarios are removed. This guarantees that we do not have to worry about updating or fixing unnecessary code, meaning less churning or required reboots for the host.” (emphasis added)

Pretty good independent confirmation of our approach with ESXi.

So give ESXi a try if you’ve never done so. If you already own vSphere licenses, you have the option of deploying any of those licenses as either ESXi or as traditional ESX. If you don’t have vSphere, download ESXi for free.

When Comparing VMware vs. Microsoft Costs, Pay Attention to Support Costs

If you’ve been to any Microsoft virtualization session over the past year, you’ve seen Microsoft comparing VMware vs. Microsoft costs to deploy 5 virtualization hosts and how VMware is supposedly much more expensive. We’ve already blogged in great detailabout why Microsoft’s approach makes little sense in a virtual environment (because it totally ignores VM density, which is critical for accurate cost calculations in a virtualized datacenter) and how the claim itself is not credible.

But there is another point that needs to be considered – the cost of support. In these Microsoft cost comparisons, Microsoft likes to compare the cost of VMware Production SnS (25% of license price per year, formerly known as Platinum SnS) to that of Microsoft Software Assurance (25% of license price per year). VMware Production SnSincludes subscription and 24×7, unlimited support to give our customers the peace of mind of knowing they can get support when they need it. Microsoft SA, on the other hand, includes subscription, but only one support incident for every $20,000 of server/CALs licenses purchased.

So what does a customer do once they’ve burned through the support incidents “included” with SA? Well, they have to buy more support from Microsoft of course. Option 1 is to purchase more per-incident support at $259 per incident(business hours only) or $515 per incident(after hours support). Option 2, if they are a larger enterprise, is to buy Microsoft Premier Support, which costs $210/hour (purchased in blocks of pre-paid hours). Microsoft’s cost comparisons to VMware leave out these additional support costs.

Now, your final support cost with Microsoft will depend on your environment and support requirements. But the next time you hear about or decide to do a cost comparison, remember to factor in VM density and the additional Microsoft support costs beyond SA.

Why Choose VMware and Microsoft’s Supposed Mythbusting

VMware started the Why Choose VMware portion of our website in 2nd half 2008 as more and more vendors were coming on the scene, all claiming to offer products that do what VMware’s solutions do. We felt it was necessary to tell our story, and to back up our claims with complete, academic evaluations of competing products. As such, The Why Choose VMware site shares six key reasons why we see VMware as offering a better solution compared to what others market. There’s quite a lot of content there, but we tried to keep it as factually oriented as possible. For instance, the product comparison tables are lab-validated, based on our technical evaluations and comparisons of the products; they are not derived from just a cursory glance at vendor marketing literature.

Then this past week, we started getting inquiries about a Microsoft video that purports to bust the top ten “myths” on Why Choose VMware. Others in the blogosphere have already responded.

Ideally, we wouldn’t have to pay much attention to this Microsoft video, but because we stand behind what we post on Why Choose VMware, we felt it was important for our customers and other companies looking to deploy VMware to hear directly from us. Again, we don’t claim to be perfect and cannot say that we’ll never have any errors on the site, but we will attempt to base everything we claim on a technical evaluation of a currently available product. Microsoft’s answers to what it sees as “myths” don’t really even address factual errors – it’s just more marketing rhetoric. Feel free to take a look at the video for yourself (click on the screen shot) and form your own opinion. Then below, we’ll provide our response to each so-called “myth.”


When reviewing Microsoft’s video, please also make sure to also check out the user comments – they are pretty informative in regards to the ‘value’ the video provided to customers (and Microsoft partners). Two examples:

  • “My VAR business is fully baked in MSFT success.  So, I’m looking forward to a day when MSFT can compete with XEN and VMWare.  That said, this video is hogwash!  It’s embarrassing.  Quit producing this kind of stuff. you’re slowing my sales cycle!”
  • “Wow, if this is the Microsoft Virtualization Strategy team, the Microsoft Partners should be worried because Microsoft just doesn’t get it. As a long time Gold Partner, I find the embarassing. Come on guys, if you are going to release something like this, at least wait until you have a real released solution.”

And if you’ve never done so, read Why Choose VMware for yourself. If you do happen to find something that you feel is a factual error, leave us a comment here and we will recheck the facts and address it.

Responses for Each “Myth” in the Microsoft Video

Myth 1: Live Migration

Microsoft video (paraphrase): We’ll soon have live migration so VMware’s website is misleading.

The facts:

VMware’s website very clearly compares to Microsoft’s current shipping product – Windows Server 2008 – which does not have live migration. Microsoft likes to play the “futures” card and promote features that are not yet GA. Beta products (Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta and Hyper-V Server R2 Beta) don’t count because no one buys or deploys a beta product in production. Hyper-V Server R2 is rumored to ship (GA) in 2H’09 but most companies really won’t consider that product seriously – they’ll wait and evaluate Windows Server 2008 R2 instead, which Microsoft’s own website says is slated for 2010.

Even once Microsoft ships its implementation of live migration, it will be an unproven, version 1.0 Microsoft technology that lacks real-world reliability testing. In contrast, VMware VMotion is already in use by 70% of VMware VI3 customers in production environments. VMotion is well tested in production and customers trust it on their mission critical applications.

p.s. This is an example of typical Microsoft marketing. When it lacks a feature, it downplays it and says that no one needs it (see live migration example here). Once Microsoft is somewhat close to having that feature, then Microsoft starts talking about why that feature is a core requirement and claims that they’ve now caught up to VMware – even though Microsoft hasn’t yet shipped the feature. (We’ll see the same thing happen with Memory Overcommit – wait and see!)

Myth 2: Clustered File Systems

Microsoft video (paraphrase): Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) is coming and it will address any deficiencies with Hyper-V’s lack of a clustered file system. VMware’s website is misleading in that it claims Microsoft lacks a true clustered file system.

The facts:

Again, the Microsoft video is promoting a future technology that has yet to GA – Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV). The Microsoft video also side-steps the issue that Cluster Shared Volumes is not a true clustered file system and therefore does not deliver all the benefits of a technology like VMware VMFS. CSV is just a layer built on top of NTFS that can only be used for Hyper-V.

Microsoft built CSV to do only one thing: to address a major limitation in Hyper-V 1.0, namely the requirement to have 1 VM per LUN in order to do VM-independent HA and quick migrations. But from Microsoft’s architectural descriptions of CSV, it appears that they’ve made trade-offs in performance by requiring multiple ‘coordination nodes’ that significant amounts of meta-data must route through.

Again, the VMware website clearly compares shipping VMware products to shipping Microsoft products. Microsoft needs to ship/GA CSV first before it earns the right to claim that they’ve got a capability.

Myth 3: Hyper-V is Version 1.0

Microsoft video (paraphrase): Hyper-V is a good version 1.0 Microsoft product

The facts:

No much to say here… Customers will decide for themselves how much of their business they will bet on a version 1.0 product from Microsoft.

Myth 4: Low Performance

Microsoft video (paraphrase): Hyper-V 1.0 performs well

The facts:

Microsoft likes to point to tests that usually run a low number of VMs per host. This type of test fails to address the fact that consolidation ratios are increasing in line with the increases in x86 hardware computing power (ex. Intel’s Nehalem generation of server processors have 8 cores per socket). Recent tests by the Taneja Group (commissioned by VMware) clearly show how Hyper-V can’t keep up with ESX as the number of concurrently running workloads increase – see report here. Hyper-V lack of scalability directly impacts a customer’s bottom line – see Myth 9 below.

Myth 5: Disk Footprint

Microsoft video (paraphrase): The code size of the hypervisor is not important

The facts:

The Microsoft video says that VMware should compare in-memory usage instead of disk footprint. The problem is that in-memory usage is very dependent on what’s running on the host at any given time, is not deterministic, and does not show the size of the trusted computing base.

Therefore, disk footprint is the better comparison. First, it’s an apples-to-apples comparison because it does not try to measure things while operations are running and memory usage is continually changing. Second, it more accurately shows the size of the trusted computing base. The premise is simple: the larger the trusted computing base, the more code there is to protect and maintain. VMware designed ESXi to reduce the amount of code that needs to be protected and maintained. Leading analysts have highlighted how Microsoft’s use of Windows in the parent partition is concerning because it represents a large potential attack point.

Myth 6: Broad Hardware Support

Microsoft video (paraphrase): Hyper-V supports a broad set of hardware.

The facts:

Yes, Microsoft’s Hyper-V architectural allows it to run the same devices as Windows Server 2008 because it uses the same generic, third-party device drivers. But that may not be a good thing. Microsoft has publicly stated (ex. at TechEd 2006) that third party devices drivers are the biggest culprit when it comes to Windows instability. So those are the same drivers that would be running a company’s virtualization deployment where reliability, stability, and uptime are paramount??

Myth 7: End-to-end System Center Management

Microsoft video (paraphrase): VMware’s website should compare to the entire Microsoft System Center suite

The facts:

The entire Microsoft System Center Suite (VMM, OM, CM) still does not come anywhere close to the virtualization management solutions found in VMware’s vCenter Suite. The full System Center does not have:

  • an automated workflow and failover solution for Disaster Recovery (like VMware SRM),
  • a self-service, multi-tier, lab automation solution (like VMware Lab Manager),
  • an integrated solution to patch off-line VMs (like VMware Update Manager),
  • a non-disruptive maintenance mode for host updates (built into vCenter Server),
  • a VM lifecycle management solution (like VMware Lifecycle Manager),
  • and the gap will grow larger once VMware releases its upcoming management offerings later on in 2009.

Myth 8: Memory Oversubscription

Microsoft video (paraphrase): Memory oversubscription is not as important as VMware makes it out to be. It can also have an impact on performance.

The facts:

The Microsoft video does not deny that memory oversubscription is useful. Instead, they question the 2:1 ratio that is seen in some of VMware’s prior material. 2:1 was used because VMware clearly saw customers who were able to achieve this ratio in their environment. VMware summarizes the findings from a customer survey on memory overcommit in a blog for those who are interested in how much memory oversubscription is used by VMware customers.

The video also claims that performance can be impacted when using memory oversubscription when applications need all the memory. First, that’s like saying “CPU oversubscription can impact performance if applications require all the CPU.” Remember, physical resource oversubscription is the whole point of server consolidation. Server applications have been found to NOT require all of their physical resources at the same time. So, why virtualize and then lock up resources (such as RAM memory) like was previously done on non-virtualized physical servers? That’s the type of behavior that led to physical server sprawl in the first place. Second, a recent Taneja report (commissioned by VMware) showed an example of how VMware ESX can achieve near-linear scaling even when oversubscribing memory up to a 2:1 ratio (see DBHammer/SQL graph on page 6 of the report).

However, let’s step back for a moment. What a customer cares about is not memory oversubscription in and of itself – they care about the final cost to run the X number of applications that keeps their business going. In a virtual environment, one must understand VM density in order to figure out that cost. Earlier VMware material focused only on memory oversubscription because it was a straight forward way to explain one technology that allowed VMware to achieve higher VM densities.

Since then, VMware has received customer feedback that many other VMware technologies contribute to the higher VM densities and asked why VMware does not talk about those. So here are the top 5 VMware technologies that contribute to higher VM densities (including memory oversubscription):

  • Memory Oversubscription – More efficient use of physical RAM by reclaiming unused physical memory and consolidating identical memory pages among VMs on a host.
  • Direct Driver Model – VMware ESX can achieve very high I/O throughput and can handle the I/O requirements for more VMs simultaneously requesting hardware resources.
  • Support for Large Memory Pages and Nested Page Tables – Optimize memory access and can provide substantial performance benefits for mission critical, memory-intensive applications, can reduce CPU resource consumption by up to 15%.
  • DRS with Resource Pools – Dynamically load balance VMs across a cluster so applications get required resources when they need them -a “safety net” that lets administrators run individual servers at higher utilization levels while meeting service level agreements.
  • High Performance “Gang” Scheduler – Can account for CPU and I/O needs of virtual machines by dynamically allocating more resources and larger processor timeslices to VMs.

Myth 9: Lower Cost Virtualization Solutions

Microsoft video (paraphrase): Cost-per-application is a theoretical argument.

The facts:

The Microsoft video claims that cost per application is too “theoretical.” That’s like saying “miles per gallon” on a car is not a relevant metric. As explained on Why Choose VMware, a virtual server represents a many-VMs-to-one-host relationship. So it is imperative to understand how many VMs can run per host as that directly impacts how much software, hardware, and infrastructure are required to virtualize the entire datacenter. It’s quite straightforward: the more VMs one can run on a host, the lower cost it is to the customer. This is one reason why VMware made available its Cost-per-Application Calculator for customers to run different scenarios. The output report includes all of the assumptions and formulas so people can see exactly how the results were calculated.

The Microsoft video also says that people should not compare to VI3 Foundation or other VMware SKUs because they do not match up to Microsoft’s “enterprise” offering. They say that people should only compare to VMware VI3 Enterprise Edition. That’s just not credible since Microsoft’s comparisons always leave out the fact that VI3 Enterprise Edition delivers capabilities that Microsoft Hyper-V lacks. A few examples: VMotion, DRS, Storage VMotion, logical resource pools, DPM, ultra-thin hypervisor offering, off-host backup proxy, …

Myth 10: Need VMware Virtualization?

Microsoft video (paraphrase): VMware wants you to believe that only VMware has the right solution. In reality, Microsoft offers everything you need, and it simplifies the solution stack to 3-layers instead of 4-layers (if you went with VMware).

The facts:

VMware does believe that it has the better solution – what successful company doesn’t? To support this belief, the assertions and comparisons on the VMware website are based on lab-validated evaluations of the different products. This approach lets the customer decide which offering is best for their requirements.

It is rather ironic that right after criticizing VMware for claiming to have a better solution, the Microsoft spokespeople come right back and say that the Microsoft offering is all that’s needed when it comes to virtualization. The spokespeople essentially say: why bother looking at VMware (or any other third-party software, for that matter) to help you run your business better? Windows is all you need – anything else just adds complexity and cost. In fact, Microsoft’s solution eliminates an extraneous layer from the stack…

VMware prefers to let the market decide on who delivers more value to the customer by having products available today that can meet their requirements.

p.s. In actuality VMware ESXi simplifies that stack. It removes the need for an instance of a general purpose operating systems (ex. Windows in the parent partition) to be running as part of the virtualization layer.