We’ve all heard the story: organizations are standardized on VMware, and they’re not going to change. IT departments live and die by the scale they build into their environment. They daily suffer the consequences of previous regimes that left them managing a complex ecosystem of hardware, OSes, applications, etc. Based on that, we KNOW that no organization will want to add the complexity of multiple hypervisors to their virtual environments…OR DO WE???


A Q3 2011 survey by independent market research company Vanson Bourne indicated that 38 percent of businesses are planning to switch hypervisor vendors within the next year due to licensing models and the robustness of competing hypervisors. We’d be naïve to think that that means organizations are totally removing VMware from their environment. The fact is that VMware just works, and it works very well. That’s why they are almost always at the center of these discussions. They have owned the market, and are the incumbent in most situations. We’re really pretty comfortable with, and maybe even accustomed to, deploying mission critical applications on VMware vSphere virtual infrastructure. However, there is a growing noise in the virtualization marketplace. Companies, large and small, are talking about Microsoft Hyper-V. But, why? I believe one major reason is because of the hype surrounding Hyper-V 3.0.


But first, let’s step back for a second and look at why companies are looking at Hyper-V, even today, presumably months before the 3.0 release. I see two primary drivers for this consideration:


  1. Organizations realize that VMware is getting a lock on their business, and that monopoly power makes people nervous – they want to keep a second option open to improve their negotiating position for their next contract with VMware or in case VMware continues to raise their prices even more.
  2. Companies want a hypervisor vendor and a roadmap that will not make them regret their investment – RedHat or OpenStack don’t give them that confidence yet because they’re relative unknowns in the virtualization landscape. Only VMware and Microsoft have an established track record here.


To date, Hyper-V has not been able to compete head-to-head with VMware from a technical standpoint. VMware had a big jump on Microsoft, but Microsoft has been investing heavily in the last few years to catch up. While Microsoft hasn’t bridged the technical gap yet, there is lots of buzz about upcoming functionality in Hyper-V 3.0 that will add key functionality that will help them cross the technical chasm. The major features expected in Hyper-V 3.0, expected out later this year, are as follows:


  1. Improved Scalability – larger cluster support, native NIC teaming, and new VHDX file that will support up to 16 TB virtual disks. This enables Hyper-V to handle more mission-critical applications and workloads – particularly for Microsoft applications like, like SQL & Exchange.
  2. Extensible Virtual Switch – providing partners the capability to build in advanced networking features, like capture extensions lets them build tools to monitor and sample traffic. This also creates opportunities for networking vendors to create third party virtual switches like the Cisco Nexus 1000V for VMware.
  3. Live Migration Enhancements – Live Migration will perform much more like vMotion with live storage migration (previously, this required downtime) and concurrent live migrations of virtual machines. Microsoft may gain an advantage on VMware in this area because shared storage is not required for Live Migration. This could allow Hyper-V access to the environments with no shared storage such as small businesses and large public clouds. VMware and Xen require shared storage. RedHat’s RHEV is the only other hypervisor that does not require shared storage for live migration.
  4. Replication - embedded host-based replication will help Microsoft make Hyper-V a better fit for mission-critical applications and enables organizations to use branch offices as failover targets.


So, it’s obvious that Microsoft is extremely focused on competing with VMware technically. Hyper-V will still needs some capabilities strengthened to be a viable competitor to VMware’s DRS and other advanced functionality in more sophisticated environments. However, most moderately-sized and smaller organizations aren’t ready to actually implement this technology yet. So, Hyper-V still has some time to catch up. We’ll just have to keep an eye on their roadmap to see what features they’re planning to introduce next!


In the meantime, we’ve just released a new free tool called VM Monitor for Hyper-V that will allow you to start gaining some visibility into a Hyper-V server (we also have a VMware version of the same tool called, you guessed it, VM Monitor for VMware). Stay tuned next week for more exciting announcements around support for Hyper-V in SolarWinds products (wink, wink)!