Kevin Remde's IT Pro Weblog

VMware or Microsoft?–Did you know that there’s no extra charge?

VMware or Microsoft?–Did you know that there’s no extra charge?

  • Comments 21
  • Likes

This week at VMWorld the VMware faithful are learning all about the latest news and updates from their virtualization vendor.  And hopefully at the same time Microsoft is able to reach them with some free custard and some good information to help them understand:

So today, for the latest article in our “VMware or Microsoft?” series, I thought I’d address an area that perhaps a lot of VMware customers don’t know much about.  One of the important things that we really want VMware customers to understand is that they may be paying for features or technology or high availability or virtualized storage or virtualized networking that they wouldn’t have to if they went with Microsoft’s version of the “Software Defined Data Center”.  And add to this the fact that many enterprises using VMware already also own System Center; well, that means that they already own all that they need do to everything that otherwise requires the vCloud Suite and VMware’s Enterprise Plus licensing.

While I don’t have the time to write (and you won’t have patience to read through) an exhaustive list of examples, let me just pick a few key scenarios that you’re either already paying too much for, or perhaps haven’t purchased because you thought the capability was just too expensive.  In each example, while I won’t list any retail prices (which are always subject to change), I’ll try and point out what versions or SKUs you would have to obtain (purchase or simply download) to gain the described benefits.

Disclaimer: VMWorld isn’t over yet, and there may be announcements around licensing changes that may make some of these points obsolete.  And for your sake, I hope so.  Smile with tongue out

The Hypervisor: FREE

While VMware has also has a free hypervisor, theirs is limited in what it can do.  And while this week VMware announced that more capabilities will be made available to more of the purchased vSphere levels, Microsoft will never ever have to make any such announcement.


Because the free Hyper-V Server already does everything that Hyper-V installed under Windows Server 2012 does.  It’s full-featured.  No limits.  No compromise.  All of the scale is there, for no additional cost.  And even though higher versions of vSphere 5.5 now finally support similar scale to Hyper-V, they don’t exceed what Hyper-v already does, and does for free.


Do you see anything on that list that VMware does bigger or better?  At the time of this writing (the day after VMWorld’s keynote), in vSphere 5.5 they did increase the LPs to 320, memory to 4TB, and vCPUs to 64, which matches Hyper-V – but not in their free version.

Live Migration (It’s like VMotion): INCLUDED

You don’t need to buy anything just to get ultimate live portability of virtual machines.  You can do live moves of running virtual machines (Live Migration), live moves of a machines storage (Storage Live Migration), and even a move of the running machine and its storage, all in one operation (“Shared-Nothing” Live Migration); even without the need for a cluster. 

I know that’s not something unique to Hyper-VVMotions have been around for a while.  But unless something new is announced this week, you still have to pay something for that capability.  And, there are some capabilities which, when implemented, actually override and disallow the ability to do a vMotion.  (SR-IOV being just one example.  Check out this vSphere 5.1 document for their entire list.) 
NOTE: I’m guessing that the story here gets better with vSphere 5.5, but I don’t know the details at the time of this writing.  Please enlighten me in the comments if there is something new here.

With Hyper-V, we have no such limitations.

Also with Hyper-V, you can do as many simultaneous migrations of machines and storage as your hardware will allow, with no artificially imposed limits based on network capacity.


HIgh-Availability: INCLUDED

Windows Server (and the free Hyper-V Server) includes the Windows Failover Clustering role, which allows you to create a big cluster of virtualization nodes.

“How big?”

Currently the limit is up to 64 nodes supporting up to 8,000 virtual machines.  And you don’t even need System Center to manage or maintain it.  You can even do rolling updates of the nodes of your cluster, and the VMs will live-migrate back and forth during the process.  That’s just built-in. 

“But what about DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler) and Distributed Power Management?”

Yep.  But in Hyper-V and using System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager, we call it DO and PO – for Dynamic Optimization and Power Optimization.


Replication: INCLUDED

Do you want to create and regularly synchronize to an offline copy of a virtual machine that you can failover to in case of an unexpected outtage or disaster?  Hyper-V provides that in the box with Hyper-V Replica.  And coming in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V Server 2012 R2, you’ll have a couple of new capabilities:

  • Tertiary Replication – You can make a replica of the replica to yet another location (Great for hosting service providers who also want to make a replica of the replica they’re hosting for you.)
  • More flexible RPO (Recovery Point Objective) – Rather than just sending replica snaphots every 5 minutes, you can also choose to replicate every 15 minutes.  Or every 30 seconds.

“But Kevin, VMware includes replication in all editions of vSphere, and in 5.5 they’ve made improvements in RPO and in doing point-in-time recovery with multiple recover points saved.”

Yep.  Just like Hyper-V has had since 2012.  They’re doing more here, definitely, which is good.  But do they support Test Failovers? Do they support automation through PowerShell without some other purchased tool like SRM?  Can they automatically re-IP a server that has failed over to a different IP subnet?  Is it easy to “failback”?  These are all things that you get for no additional cost with Hyper-V Replica.


Network Virtualization: INCLUDED

VMware announced NSX at the VMWorld Keynote.  This is their solution for network virtualization / Software Defined Networking.   The flexibility of defining, isolating, and applying policy to networks of machines that can be programmatically created, and giving the portability to move virtual machines around to different physical networks while the virtual networking and IP addressing of those machines never has to change – that’s all very compelling, yes?

“Yes.  And isn’t that what you can already do with Hyper-V Network Virtualization and the Hyper-V Extensible Switch?”

Yes.  Microsoft started enabling network virtualization in Windows Server 2012, and managed by System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager.  And these capabilities are only getting better and more flexible in the R2 versions of both of those products, and supported by many hardware vendors.

I’d actually like to learn a little more about how NSX is implemented.  Is it just a new version of their switch?  If so, Microsoft also has the benefit of a virtual switch that is Extensible, not just replaceable.  Other products such as firewalls, traffic control, packet filtering – these can easily be added to the switch; configured at a logical level and the applied uniformly to all switches participating in a logical network

Can you use NSX and the Cisco Nexus 1000v at the same time?  No.  But with Microsoft’s extensible switch, you just add the Nexus 1000v extension, and you still have Network Virtualization. 


Storage Virtualization: INCLUDED

At the VMWorld keynote, VMware announced the availability of the public beta for vSAN –the VMware Virtual SAN

This is “a new software-defined storage tier, pools compute and direct-attached storage resources and clusters server disks and flash to create resilient shared storage.”

Have you heard of Storage Spaces?   Windows Server 2012 (and improved in R2) supports the ability to treat cheap disks as pools of storage.  Virtualized.  From the pool, you create virtual disks, which can then contain volumes.

If that volume contains a file share, you can use SMB 3 (and even better with RDMA support) to have fast, live-data support (even virtual hard disks of running machines) on that storage.

Single failover cluster with CSV and file shares

Supporting that storage, you could have a cluster of file servers who actively share access to that same share, which makes the supported files and filesystem “Continuously Available”; meaning, if a file server goes down – even if it’s the one serving access to a particular file (or running VM’s hard disk or SQL Server’s database files), you’ll never lose connectivity.  (See “Scale-Out File Server for Application Data Overview” for more information.

And I should probably remind you: This is included in Windows Server 2012.

But it gets even better.  In Windows Server 2012 R2 we add the ability to automatically support tiered storage in storage pools.  If you have local SSDs alongside of HDDs, go ahead and put them in the same pool.  And Windows Server will automagically move the more active files to the SSDs and the less active files to the HDDs.  (Yes, you can also designate that certain files must always have faster performance and should therefore be put on the SSD tier; like your VM’s hard disks.)


Automation: INCLUDED

VMware agreed with Microsoft during their VMWorld keynote when they said that automation “is the control plane for the datacenter of the future”, and that what is missing (?) is a common set of management and, importantly, automation tools for working with virtualized machines and applications – even in a hybrid cloud environment.  And their solution for this is their vCloud Automation Center.

Microsoft’s answer to this is a combination of PowerShell (which, for no additional cost, is available to fully manage all of Hyper-V, all of Windows Server, and even configure and manage Infrastructure-as-a-Service resources in Windows Azure or other hosting providers), and System Center 2012 SP1, which, through automations in Virtual Machine Manager, App Controller, and extremely rich (and cross-vendor) automations driven by Orchestrator.

Oh.. and did you know that, with these same tools, you can also automate your configuration, deployment, management, monitoring, and reporting against vCenter-based virtualization resources too?  Yes, System Center 2012 SP1 can do that, even if you want to stick with vSphere, or use Hyper-V in addition to vSphere for virtualization. 


I could go on, but I think this is a good start.

What do you think?  Are you paying too much for capabilities that should just be “included”?  Have I opened your eyes at least a little bit to the idea that Microsoft has a full-featured, enterprise-ready solution? 
If you haven’t lately, it’s definitely time to take another look. 

  • 1.

    I really don't know how important it is to have VMs with a size of 64 vCPUs and 1TB of RAM. How many are using servers in the size of 320 lCPUs and 4TB of RAM. Who has the higest numbers? -> This is in technical terms nothing worth to look at, because sometimes MS and sometimes VMW has and near nobody uses it.


    Implementation and architecture of the products. There is the main difference. Yes MS has Live Migration like VMW's vMotion. MS ist unlimited VMW has 4 at 1G and 8 at 10G NICs. This is only the view to a surface. Are they really identical? Have you tested to move 60 VMs with 4G each running memtest over 10G? VMW was 30% faster than MS in our tests.


    Stability of the hypervisor. Look at this:

    MS has a also very bad MPIO stack which causes a cluster in a traditional FC-SAN to instability in heavy I/O load to the disk, like at backup times.

    If you have seen the video above and the message from the bluescreen: Your PC has encountered a problem... I would say this is the real thinking of MS. A DC is like a PC only a littel bit biger.

    Conclusion: Things are looking identical but they are not - thats the point.

  • Our VM administrator has been saying that Hyper-V ends up costing a lot more with the requirement of VMM Manager to perform higher-level tasks.  I don't know what he's referring to unfortunately, but can you explain what VMM Manager allows us to do in comparison to vSphere?

    On a separate note, I'm a big fan of the new Azure Management interface, and would love to see that kind of interface carry over to the System Center in general.  Any hints on whether something like that is up and coming?  

  • Thanks for the comment, Sergio.  Your points are good ones, though of course I don't agree 100%. :)

    1. I think we both agree that the capacity capabilities of both vSphere and Hyper-V allow either one to support the biggest machines you can imagine today.  Even VMware seems to be admitting (by their lack of any big improvements in this area in 5.5) that the hypervisor is really a commodity (in VMware's case, an expensive one), and that the real value in future lays in improving private cloud, hybrid cloud, cloud management, and technologies supporting and managing the "Software Defined Datacenter".

    2. I'll concede that VMware does faster migrations compared to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and earlier.  But I'll make two points about that.  First: Is it really worth the cost of vSphere and vCenter to gain 30% faster migrations when the migrations are done live, with no machine downtime, anyway?  It's not worth the additional $$$.  Second: Please comment again when you've tested your migrations using Windows Server 2012 R2 or Hyper-V Server 2012 R2, which support data compression to significantly improve migration speeds.  And then test it with NICs that support RDMA, and be prepared to be amazed.

    For "what's new" in live migrations, check here:

    3. I watched the video, but am not convinced.  Boot volume failure or non-availability happens so rarely that it’s not a concern, and that’s what failover clustering is for after all.  I agree that if it were to happen, it's nice if the host will continue to run.  

    I don't know, so I really can't comment on whether or not R2 addresses any of this, or if there are plans to improve how Hyper-V hosts handle a boot volume failure.  But if I hear of something, I'll add more at that time.

  • Son - Thanks for the comment.  What are you using to manage your vSphere servers now?  vCenter? When comparing, you have to look at VMM and vCenter side-by-side, not VMM and vSphere.  If you're only running vSphere today, then Hyper-V, the included or free Hyper-V Manager, and PowerShell are going to give you a similar amount of manageability for no additional cost.  VMM on the other hand is a component of System Center 2012 SP1 (and soon R2), and so yes, that is an additional cost.  But consider this about System Center 2012 and VMM:

    1. System Center includes all of our top end machine, network, service, application, cloud, automation, deployment, monitoring and storage management tools.  

    2. System Center Virtual Machine Manager manages clouds, storage, networks (virtual, logical, and otherwise), drives deployment to bear metal of virtualization hosts, virt host clusters, network configuration, and even continuously available file servers (in R2).

    3. System Center Virtual Machine Manager not only manages Hyper-V, but also VMware, and Citrix virtualization.  

    Regarding your comment/question on the Azure user interface - I agree, it's great.  And what you may be happy to know is that with Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and an additional free installation of something called the "Windows Azure Pack", you'll be able to configure, manage, and provide services to your business users with a similar browser-based user interface.  

    For more information on the Windows Azure Pack, go here:

  • I added a comment earlier and notice that's it not appearing - are comments being moderated?

  • They are, but I approved of anything that's not abusive or profane.  I didn't see any comments that I might have missed.  Please re-submit it.

Blog - Post Feedback Form(CAPTCHA)
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment