vm_breakdown

The Virtualization landscape has changed – Is it time to review your strategy?

Spice IT

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We’ve all heard it “Do more with Less.” I’m dating myself, but it’s such a stark contrast to the days of the dot.com boom where IT seemed like it could get any investment it needed.  Now It seems that doing more with less has pervasively shaped business as we know it.  Budgets are scaled back while demands for increased capability continue to move ahead.  While time becomes our biggest constraint we need to make sure to we are able to stay on top of the evolution of technology and the advantages that may now be available.  

Just a few short years ago, server virtualization proved its worth in datacenters around the world. VMware made a significant mark with its ability to consolidate servers, significantly reducing the demands for power and cooling.  Unfortunately at the advent of this technological evolution, if you wanted to take advantage of consolidation thru virtualization you had really only one option.

Fast forward to today; technology evolves at crazy speeds.  Virtualization is no longer a one-horse show.  Hypervisors from Microsoft, Citrix and even open source communities have evolved to be on par with or even exceed the capabilities of VMware.  So too have the tools to manage these technologies.  Let’s take a look at some of the features between various hypervisors.

Many of the differentiators such as Virtual CPUs per VM have been practically eliminated and that now makes it possible to run extremely intensive workloads within many of the leading Hypervisors.  In fact Microsoft makes no distinction between Windows Server deployed physically or virtually when run under Hyper-V.  Even FC access from within a VM is possible without limitation.  Performance and scalability are not necessarily factors either because all of the modern hypervisors are now taking advantage of hardware based visualization by leveraging the Intel-VT and AMD-V virtualization functions inherent in those processors designs.

Given this hypervisor commoditization, we are seeing more and more large organizations running heterogeneous hypervisors, with the choice of hypervisor usage being determined by factors outside of technical functionality. True business factors such as vendor consolidation and more effective license utilization, along with cost reduction, are reasons that many organizations are choosing Hyper-V as the primary hypervisor.

An Infrastructure and Operations researcher at Forrester recently blogged

For users contemplating a major new cloud or virtualization project or initiative, WS2012 should be the platform of choice, and any preconceived notions about Microsoft versus VMware for the virtualization layer need to be re-examined.

This is a certainly a strong statement, but I have to agree with it.  Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you should as well.

Hypervisors for the most part are free.  Hyper-V, Xen, KVM etc..  These all provide a basic function of dividing the hardware into partitions assigning resources according to your needs.  When you can get so much functionality for no cost, then you (at minimum) seriously evaluate the pros and cons of Hyper-V as a platform for virtualization.

Consider your requirements.  The vast majority of organizations fall into the small to medium business size and have less than 100 servers and realistically can run all of their server needs on anywhere from 2 to 6 properly configured physical virtualization hosts.  This same set of businesses (along with many VERY large businesses for that matter) also share a fairly normal set of requirements for a virtual infrastructure.

  • Need to reliably run demanding workloads in a highly available manner at scale and performance levels that rival physical deployments.
  • Datacenter resources are expensive and need to be leveraged properly.  These resources need to be balanced and VMs or individual VM resources allocated accordingly.  At the same time, services being provided to end users must be continuously available in accordance to service level agreements or expectations of the business.
  • Servers have dependencies between one another.  There needs to be affinity and resource control that ensure VM’s run according to defined rules.
  • Administrators must be able to control the environment and not vice versa.  Robust administration tools are necessary to ensure the environment can be effectively managed.  The needs to be management tools available to ensure the environment is operating as it should be.
  • No environment is completely safe from mishaps.  There is always a need to reliably back up and recover (when necessary) informational resources.

I’ve been in IT for too many years to admit.  One thing that I’ve always thought was strange is that many IT professionals identify a lot of their requirements based on past practices and not necessarily actual business needs.  Many times, when pressed to justify the need, the only answer is “because that’s the way we’ve done it.” The other funny behavior in the decision process that comes up too often is being unfairly judgmental or carrying baseless biases into the decision.  Having opinions is fine, and past experience is what makes an IT professional valuable, but remember you are making large decisions that cost thousands of dollars. Technology changes very quickly, many of today’s most innovative products may not be significant in the next few years. Clearly define your actual requirements in a Virtualization solution.  Then apply those requirements to the list of providers you are evaluating and be sure to keep any biases in check throughout the process.

The evolution of hypervisor technology has progressed significantly.  Weigh your choices objectively with this one.  Understand that Hyper-V has been a relevant solution in the industry for years now and thousands of customers around the world are in fact running their businesses on it.  The latest release of Hyper-V improves upon an already capable product, now making it a game changing technology that meets or exceeds most any requirements for virtualization that you may have.

Microsoft has been a late entrant into many technologies; Spreadsheets and Word processing, email, File and Print, Directory Services and many more.  Be sure to consider the company behind the product or technology.  What is their financial health?  What is their roadmap for the future?  Hyper-V 2012 is a very viable product that, like other products before it, will probably be making its way into being one of the most pervasive product of its kind in the industry.

Comments

4 Comments

    1. Pavel

      I thought that you were going to do an heonst comparison but this sounds more like marketing for VM Ware. I have been in IT for 15 years and had worked on Novell and MS server and desktop OS. I have also worked with VM ware desktops for 8 years and played with esx for several years. I can say that vm ware was much better than virtual desktop and server but haven’t yet used hyper-v. Your praise for esx management console reflects your bias. It is not so great. I have had the console for guests blanking out and than unable to reboot the vm many times.And your cost analysis does not show at what point it is cheaper to get hyper v and at what point it gets more expensive. For instance MS allows using multiple virtuals on a single licensed host and VM licenses per CPU core. You can do the maths.Hyper V is based on Windows 2008 and so certainly vulnerable to hacks and viruses and would have to be updated. But ESX is also based on Linux although stripped version and so to an extent susceptible to security vulnerabilities.I certainly like the the memory over commitment technique used in ESX but do not get over zealous with it. If you happen to boot several guests with over commit at the same time, you will see the slowness in performance.Lastly, I heard that Hypervisor had a built in GUI based management console, so I can switch between several VM’s at the system’s console. That is great. sI am going to install vista ultimate to test some extreme graphic and sound functions with full driver support with hyper v. I think that is something that cannot be done on ESX. Virtualization is not for server consolidation but is fast becoming a disaster recovery solution for desktops also.

    2. Fari

      hi all,i think this article needs to be upeadtd with hyper-v v2 and vsphere. i am a vmware customer and have looked at hyper-v v2 and found some significant changes listed below.1 live migration support. (vmotion)2 hyper v server is a free iso download from the ms website. no windows licenses on base even though it uses a windows enterprise core install on the cd. you only license guest vm’s.3 hyper v drivers released to open source community.4 self service portal built into scvvm which is significantly cheaper than vmware at $500 to manage 5 physical machine.5 scvvm can manage vmware hosts as well as hyper v hosts.6 vlan’s are supported.the only thing i could find not supported was drs and maybe storage migration. a note here is that in hyper v v2 all vm’s can sit on a single clustered storage unit which which gpt disks can go far over the 2tb limit of vmfs.my conclusion is that the free product which it is is extremly hard to ignore as it matches and in some cases exceeds vmware with functions you would need to purchase from vmware at additional cost.from our side we will begin moving some of our environment to hyper v. the cost benefits with an almost paralel feature set cannot be ignored.

  1. Amiee

    Hello,thanks for the information ! I was wainitg for this and it was quite quick.Something is unclear, though.Is ESXi also certified, or is it only ESX ?The entry doesn’t specify the name, as the previous ones. So one would expect that it means both are certified, but

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