CiRBA compares VMware and Hyper-V head to head

This year has been a coming-out party for server virtualization. With several vendors to choose from, selecting a platform for virtualization becomes an issue that’s too important to be decided on the basis of marketing bumf and media hype.

Enter Richmond Hill, Ont.-based CiRBA Inc., with a set of analysis templates to help companies decide which of two leading hypervisors – VMware’s or Microsoft’s Hyper-V – will provide the best bang for the buck for their individual computing environments.

“It’s very useful to take an objective view,” said Andrew Hillier, co-founder and chief technology officer of CiRBA. With so many entrants into the market, “there’s lots of viable choice.”

The analysis templates apply rulesets to the technical requirements of the enterprise, taking into account hypervisor features, operating system and topology compatibility issues and the like. When business constraints are factored in, the comparison “begins to sculpt an answer” to the question of which platform is most appropriate, Hillier said.

“There’s a spectrum from the very technical to business-oriented to financial” in the analysis, Hillier said. The results for each hypervisor are displayed side-by-side on dashboards; one displays the technical analysis, with resource demands, consolidation ratios, power consumption, etc.; the other compares the platforms’ return on investment and total cost of ownership.

“The ultimate decision should be based on the long-term cost,” Hillier said. But there are technical considerations, too.

For example, Hyper-V can’t live-migrate, or motion, virtual machines. “Motioning may be of very high value,” Hillier said. “If it’s a 24-by-seven environment, it’s harder to bring a virtual machine down.”

There are also compatibility issues between operating systems and Hyper-V. For example, some operating systems have different limits to the number of virtual CPUs that can be run per virtual machine, varying from four to only one. Under those circumstances, a company might want to leave the physical server in place or change the operating system, Hillier said.

But businesses may discover that higher consolidation ratios don’t necessarily translate into lower TCO. “Maybe the one requires an extra physical box, but it’s still cheaper,” Hillier said.

Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president of enterprise research with The Yankee Group, said that while he hadn’t been briefed on CiRBA’s offering, he could see the relevance.

“Any time you can correlate what happens on the IP side or what happens on business or vice versa, there’s value in that,” Kerravala said. “A lot of times something will happen in the infrastructure and you don’t really know what impact it has on the business processes.

“People have been searching for that for a long time.”

As for the differentiators between platforms, VMware’s live migration features top Kerravala’s list – but they’re not all that’s on it.

“Vmotion is the big one, the ability to take a virtual server and move it in real time to another physical server,” he said. “It poses a lot of really interesting disaster recovery opportunities.

But Kerravala also believes VMware’s offering is a more rounded platform than Hyper-V.

“The richness of the WMware product and the vision around cloud and stuff like that is much broader than Microsoft’s,” he said. “Microsoft’s just sort of entering the market today. Where Microsoft gets their leverage is the fact that they own the OS and they’re making the hypervisor deeper in the operating system.”

David Floyer, co-founder of knowledge-sharing site, agrees that Microsoft’s appeal will be on the operating system side.

“Microsoft would say it’s not so much the features but, ‘You are used to working with Windows, it’s a great operating system, therefore what we’re offering you is a virtualization of that Windows environment and we can build in a much more robust set of virtualization tools and management process which reflect what you use at the moment,’” Floyer said.

“The VMware argument would be, ‘We already have a very powerful framework that’s already in place and you can use it for Windows and you can use it for Linux or whatever else you want to use it for. The tools are more developed and you can get there more quickly and with VMware get a more robust environment today.

”Both those statements would be true.”

Kerravala said VMware has to lean on the breadth of its offering.

“The challenge for VMWare is to make virtualization a lot more than the hypervisor,” Kerravala said. “If all people want is a cheap hypervisor and make one server look like five, then Microsoft has the advantage of price.”

— With files from Greg Meckbach

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