Editor’s Note: Petri IT Knowledgebase contributor David Davis makes the case for VMware vSphere 5.5 over Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V in this opinion post. In the interest of fairness, we also published an additional contrasting viewpoint by Aidan Finn on why you should choose Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V over VMware vSphere 5.5.
Not long ago, Microsoft MVP Aidan Finn wrote an article here called “5 Reasons To Choose Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V over VMware vSphere 5.5.” While I have great respect for Aidan’s Hyper-V expertise and passion, I must respectfully disagree with his choice for the best hypervisor for the enterprise available today. Instead of trying to make this a point-by-point comparison, I’m going to express my personal five reasons on why you should choose vSphere over Hyper-V.
My History with VMware
In order to be clearly transparent on my background and perspective, I’d like to share a bit of my personal history. I managed a datacenter where we consolidated our physical servers using VMware ESX Server during the 2007-2008 timeframe, ending up with about 60+ VMs running across a small cluster. We even virtualized a number of tier 1 applications such as an Exchange 2007 Server and domain controllers supporting approximately 2,000 users.
VMware’s solution allowed our small, underfunded team to be more efficient, allowing us to do things that we never dreamed possible, like moving a running virtual machine from one host to another in order to perform host maintenance or upgrades. VMware’s virtualization solution also allowed us to create VM templates, take snapshots, perform image-level backups, and it vastly simplified our disaster recovery. We also used VMware’s solution to implement high availability and a distributed resource scheduler for all of our virtual machines and applications that were virtualized (again, something we never anticipated being able to do). VMware’s virtualization vastly improved the daily life, the efficiency, and productivity of myself and my team, lowering our stress and making us look like heroes. Thank you, VMware, for your innovation!
At the same time, I started writing about my experiences with VMware’s solutions. That led me to create video training centered around virtualization, which effectively led me to a career around educating the world about the power of virtualization. Over time, I have been awarded the VMware vExpert award for evangelizing virtualization for the past six years and earned my VCP and VCAP certifications. Today, I work with the vSphere hypervisor and associated tools on a daily basis, creating video training, writing blog posts, whitepapers, and speaking at events.
VMware vSphere 5.5 was released in September 2013, and introduced a host of new features to VMware’s popular enterprise virtualization platform. (Source: VMware)
Finally, I also wanted to point out that I do have significant knowledge of Microsoft’s solutions. In that same datacenter, we did first attempt to virtualize with Microsoft Virtual Server prior to trying VMware ESX and were disappointed with the performance and lack of centralized management. In more recent years, I have also created two video training courses on Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2 and have written numerous articles about Hyper-V. Finally, I have visited Microsoft HQ in Redmond, WA and have received briefings on Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V to fully understand the latest features. I do run Hyper-V in my lab for testing and education on it’s capabilities (but inside a VMware vSphere virtual machine). I do respect and follow what Microsoft is doing to enhance Hyper-V and have respect for the innovation and speed at which they have enhanced Hyper-V. I enjoyed learning more about Hyper-V and Microsoft Azure this year at Microsoft TechEd 2014. But enough about me! Here are the five reasons why I think you should choose VMware vSphere over Hyper-V.
5 Reasons to Choose VMware vSphere over Hyper-V
1. VMware: The Leading Virtualization Innovator
VMware has undeniably been the leader in virtualization technology and innovation for many years. No, just because VMware pioneered vMotion, storage VMotion, distributed resource scheduler, high availability, storage distributed resource scheduler, and fault tolerance for Intel-based virtual infrastructures doesn’t mean that they will continue to be the leading innovator in virtualization technology. However, it’s a safe bet. With the most recent release of VMware vSphere 5.5, VMware offered new features like server-side caching and VMware virtual SAN support. VMware’s network virtualization hypervisor will soon be available to the masses and it’s poised to do for the network what ESX has done for the datacenter.
Over time, Microsoft has tried to replicate many of these advanced features that VMware invented years ago. In some cases, Microsoft’s cloned feature is similar in functionality. In other cases, the results of the feature may be the same but the level of effort required to accomplish the same results is frustrating (i.e. vSphere’s single click to enable HA for a cluster versus Microsoft’s entirely separate HA management application that was not designed for Hyper-V high availability, but must be used to configure it on a per-VM basis).
In other cases, vSphere still has numerous advanced features that Microsoft has yet to imitate. For example, vSphere offers fault tolerance, hot-add vCPU, built-in agentless VM backup software with deduplication, a disaster recovery planning and testing software offering, load balancing for storage performance and capacity, and their own end-user computing suite for desktop virtualization.
So I ask you: Would you select the leading innovator in the software-defined datacenter, or the most well-known imitator?
2. The Proven Virtualization Solution
You want to run your datacenter and consolidate all of your company’s servers and most critical applications on a single virtualization platform. You require reliability and dependability in the datacenter. Your most critical tier-1 applications must perform predictably. Which platform would you choose to accomplish this?
It’s vSphere’s time-tested advanced features that make it so reliable, both in uptime and performance consistency. There’s a good reason that so many companies choose VMware. In fact, more than 500,000 customers of all sizes have chosen VMware as their virtualization platform, including the following.
- 99 percent of Fortune 100 companies
- 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies
- 100 percent of Fortune Global 100 companies
- 99 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies
Small companies also have good reasons to choose vSphere. Within small- and medium-sized businesses (fewer than 1,000 employees) VMware has 77 percent market share, according to Spiceworks MarketView data from February 2014.
Not only is VMware proven, VMware is entrenched. Petri IT Knowledgebase Editorial Director Jeff James recently wrote an article on the 5 Reasons that VMware is here to stay and said that “VMware released ESX Server 1.0 in 2001, a full seven years before Microsoft launched the first release of Hyper-V.” He goes on to say that “Much like Oracle and IBM, VMware has attained the hallowed status of the IT industry equivalent of tenure.” However, I would point out that — unlike Oracle and IBM — VMware is widely known as a leading innovator in the datacenter, and is not just relying on their tenure. Similar to what Apple did with the iPhone, VMware has fairly consistently alternated between releasing major and minor version of vSphere hypervisor since they announced the original VMware vSphere back in 2009, which is a much more consistent stream of new innovations and enhancements than Hyper-V.
So I ask you: Should you select the proven datacenter solution or the new kid on the block?
3. The Best Virtualization Architecture
The tier-1 applications of the world that run on Windows run there because Microsoft developed the applications: Exchange, SQL Server, and Sharepoint. For the vast majority of non-Microsoft-developed tier-1 applications, you should note, they don’t run on Windows. Think about this: Roughly 67% of all Internet-facing servers run on some version of Unix/Linux, including financial applications, storage servers, voice over IP systems, and database systems.
VMware ESX Server initially ran around a specialized Linux OS; today, vSphere uses open source components and has a busybox Unix-like command interpreter. Many perceive ESXi as being based on Linux, but that’s technically not true as vSphere has its own kernel. No matter how you look at it, vSphere doesn’t run on Windows, vCenter is available in a non-Windows version, and other VMware applications are moving further away from Windows all the time.
This unique design gives VMware a strong advantage over Hyper-V. With Microsoft “bolting on” virtualization to Windows Server, security and reliability for the virtual infrastructure are decreased. Think about it: To Microsoft, virtualization is a “role” of a Windows Server that does other things like act as a print or fax server. To VMware, virtualization is a hypervisor – and the only thing running on that server.
The VMware vSphere 5.5 hypervisor is less than 200MB to install, while the Windows 2012 Server Core with Hyper-V installation is still roughly 5GB. Yes, that is server core (I had to double-check that). The Windows OS with the bolted-on Hyper-V hypervisor design means that Hyper-V will require many more server reboots for critical security patches, most of which are completely unrelated to virtualization
For example: In 2013, Microsoft released at least one patch per month that required a reboot of a Windows Server — while there were no critical patches that required the reboot of a vSphere host — but were unrelated to Hyper-V. Perhaps if you have a small cluster this wouldn’t be that big of a deal for you. However, if you have a large datacenter with 50 or 100+ virtualization hosts, this is a huge problem.
This is one of the reasons that Hyper-V has been termed the “good enough” hypervisor: It’s good enough for small, less-important workloads for which you don’t care that you have to reboot your datacenter once a month, and perhaps you don’t even apply patches but once a year. If we leave the reboot issue out of the equation — and again look at the same 2013 timeframe — there were 34 critical security patches for Hyper-V while there were only 3 for VMware vSphere. Again, this is because Hyper-V is a bolt-on Windows feature.
So I ask you: Should you select the a hypervisor built for enterprise data centers or a general-purpose operating system, built for everything under the sun, that happens to have a virtualization option that can be enabled? Should you choose the virtualization option that clearly has the optimal design for enterprise virtualization, or the virtualization option that you can most easily enable on your file and print server?
4. VMware: The Strongest Ecosystem
Another reason why I’d choose VMware over Hyper-V is the strength of the VMware partner ecosystem. My Petri colleague Jeff James highlighted VMware’s success in building a partner network and a powerful community in his article on why VMware is here to stay. Many people think that Microsoft has a strong partner ecosystem, and while that is true, that Microsoft ecosystem in general is spread across many different products, services, and communities that are totally unrelated to virtualization. Microsoft has strong communities of .NET developers, application experts, Xbox enthusiasts, Windows phone developers, and desktop support specialists. But I’d argue that VMware has built an amazing ecosystem that is focused solely on virtualization.
For those who aren’t too familiar with the term ecosystem, an ecosystem might include:
- software and hardware vendors
- VARs, sales partners / channels
- certified experts
- books, video training, classroom training
- certification programs
- user groups
- blogs, forums, and print magazines
In my opinion, VMware’s ecosystem built around virtualization has more energy, excitement, and strength than Microsoft’s ecosystem in its entirety.
There are so many different ways to measure this. One would be the two companies’ conference attendance numbers. VMware’s annual conference, VMworld, has had continually increasing attendance every year (except the year of the economic downturn) and, last year, it had 22,500 attendees. That exceeds Microsoft’s 2014 TechEd attendance figures (12,000) by 10,000 attendees. Remember, VMworld is solely focused on virtualization and cloud topics, whereas Microsoft’s TechEd covers every product that Microsoft makes, and virtualization is just a small piece of this.
Another way to measure an ecosystem is the number of blog posts that are created around it. VMware’s Planet v12N blog aggregator collects all blogs related to VMware and lists them on the v12n website, via Twitter and RSS. There are easily more than 20 per day. Go ahead and try to find the best Hyper-V blogs posted each day by using you can use Google Alerts. You’ll find a vast difference between vSphere and Hyper-V interest. Again, this is simply a measure of how excited and engaged an ecosystem is around a product or company.
Finally, another test is to do two saved Twitter searches, one for “vSphere” and one for “Hyper-V.” See what your results are to measure interest, but don’t try that search during VMworld or TechEd or your results will be swayed.
So I ask you: Should you select a hypervisor that comes with the strongest ecosystem support, or the hypervisor whose ecosystem is mostly unrelated to virtualization?
5. VMware: The Best Educational and Career Opportunities
One final point: VMware has vastly expanded their educational courses and certification options, all around VMware’s virtualization solutions. According to VMware’s certification roadmap they have more than 15 certifications available, all around virtualization. How many does Microsoft have on Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V? Answer: they have one certification around “private cloud,” the MCSE: Private Cloud, that relates to virtualization.
Why do the number of certifications matter? The exact number doesn’t matter, but the point is that VMware offers so many virtualization-specific certification options and Microsoft so few. VMware education also offers more than 50 courses covering virtualization and IT pros line up to take them. Pluralsight.com offers over 90 video training courses on virtualization, mostly on vSphere. VMware’s vExpert award program for those who evangelize virtualization was awarded to more than 600 people last year (compared to the 72 Microsoft MVPs for Virtual Machine).
Finally, VMware created a centralized global user group in 2010 and in just four years they have amassed a membership of more than 100,000, with 150+ events across North America, Europe, and Australia. To find out about Microsoft’s global community events, you can visit the Microsoft technical communities events calendar. There are hundreds of events listed covering topics like development, Xbox, and Sharepoint. But if you search for events focused on Hyper-V (as offered in their drop-down menu) for the next six months, there are absolutely zero events (yes, worldwide). Conversely, if you search for Windows Server community events, there are three planned events (two of them virtual).
Combine excited IT pros, education, certification, popular user groups, and a steady stream of exciting new product features, and you have an army of virtualization evangelists. Those virtualization experts are finding that there are many more job openings for those with vSphere knowledge than with Hyper-V knowledge (which results in higher pay).
So I ask you: Should you select the a hypervisor that offers the most options for training, certification, and for your career, or the hypervisor with the least?
Don’t Get Stuck on Cost or Scalability
In my justification for vSphere, you may notice out that I didn’t talk a lot about the cost or the “configuration maximums” (AKA scalability). It’s not that these things don’t matter. Of course they are important. However, both vSphere and Hyper-V have gotten to the point that they are plenty scalable for every potential use case and, if there is some scaleability limitation that a small percentage of very large enterprises hit, then there is an architectural design decision that is made to accommodate for it, such as not having more than 32 hosts per cluster.
On the cost side, what Microsoft undeniably holds over the heads of most every enterprise that uses Windows Server — and most enterprises do — is that if you buy Windows Server Datacenter Edition then you get an unlimited number of Windows Server guest VMs. This is undoubtedly a benefit to using Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Edition Hyper-V that VMware cannot match, as it simply doesn’t own the Windows OS.
However, I won’t trade all the benefits that vSphere offers simply to save money on my Windows licensing costs, so I’ll save you an extensive cost comparison. Most every unbiased cost comparison that I’ve seen — including the one that I did in my vSmackdown: vSphere 5.1 vs Windows Server Hyper-V article — shows that if you left out the Windows licensing benefits that Microsoft has the luxury of “giving away” that Hyper-V and vSphere are similarly priced with vSphere costing more as you move up to higher editions, such as VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus.
However, if you’re selecting a hypervisor based on the absolute lowest cost, then you aren’t making the smartest decision. Do you buy the absolute cheapest server that you can find? Do you use the absolute cheapest smart phone or laptop? Would you buy the cheapest parachute or bungee jumping cable? While some people do have a need for the absolute cheapest of everything, the vast majority of people purchase products that offer the most benefit for a reasonable price. Those people have learned that the cheapest product may also be the least reliable, poorest performing, and quickest to be replaced. If you want to bet your datacenter, your company, and your career on the cheapest solution possible, then buy Hyper-V.
On the other hand, if you want to use the leading software-defined datacenter solution that continues to innovate and grow their amazing ecosystem of partners and educational resources, choose VMware. By selecting VMware, your employer, coworkers, and your career will thank you.