Hypervisor comparison: Weighing hybrid environments

Last year, a hypervisor comparison meant choosing one hypervisor to suit a particular environment. Now, solutions providers must consider the hybrid approach.

Solutions provider takeaway:When conducting a hypervisor comparison, it is often difficult for solutions providers to find one single hypervisor that will suit all of the needs of a customer's environment. The best decision often involves considering a hybrid environment.

More resources on a hypervisor comparison

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Microsoft Hyper-V R2 features and comparison guide

Microsoft Hyper-V vs. VMware ESX cheat sheet

It's always interesting to take a long-term view of the IT industry. Products that seem unstoppable one minute are faced with stiff competition only a minute later. But it's exactly that competition that makes products stronger. And companies that don't evolve with the times are often left out in the cold.

In recent years, the virtualization industry has bifurcated into two distinct camps, with VMware's aficionados firmly entrenched on one side and Microsoft's fans on the other. And as the decibel level between these two sides gets louder, the real winners in this debate are the companies that make smart decisions about their virtual environments. Your job, as your customers' trusted advisor, is to assist them in coming to the right conclusions.

When making a hypervisor comparison for customers, solutions providers should be open to recommending more than one single hypervisor. Whereas yesteryear's decision revolved around which hypervisor customers should deploy across the board, today's solutions providers have to decide which hypervisor is right for a particular workload. As a result, customers and solutions providers are beginning to see the value in the hybrid approach. With today's third-party ecosystems that enable support for multi-hypervisor management, right-sizing a hypervisor to a workload isn't so difficult.

Keep this fact firmly planted in your mind while you consider how the hybrid hypervisor approach can be a boon to managed service providers (MSPs). All three of the major hypervisor vendors today (Citrix Systems Inc., Microsoft and VMware Inc.) have partner programs that bring great benefits to MSPs. At the same time, many other companies have their own third-party tools, programs, support and assistance to help you with choosing and recommending hypervisors.

Furthermore, many of today's feature sets that are baked into competing hypervisors are relatively similar. Every hypervisor can power on, run and snapshot virtual machines (VMs). Microsoft's Live Migration is equivalent to VMware's VMotion and Citrix's LiveMotion. Second Level Address Translations (SLAT) atop AMD-RVI- or Intel-EPT-capable hardware boost VM performance for more than one hypervisor and in more than one VM use situation. Each hypervisor is capable of taking advantage of disaster recovery with automated failover, even if one hypervisor does require more products or more architecture than the others.

Yet, in other situations, the differences between hypervisors become more apparent. All three vendors today offer a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product for hosted virtual desktops. One VDI tool could have greater raw power, while another has better right-size application delivery based on application and user needs. And another particular hypervisor could be most cost effective for micro-implementations, such as a virtual-desktop-in-a-box environment.

Raw cost calculations (calculations that aren't part of a return on investment) can also help solutions providers when they are making a hypervisor comparison. Higher cost usually translates into greater performance and features, but not every workload requires such raw power and capabilities. Today, solutions providers can virtualize pretty much every workload, but some of those workloads won't function well when they're combined with others atop the same host. Virtualizing everything might require 1:1 virtualization in some cases, where only one virtual server runs atop a host. But virtualizing all technology is often difficult considering the pricing models of some vendors.

In the end, today's hypervisor war will eventually reveal where you and your customers should be focusing your efforts -- on the products that manage both physical and virtual environments. Conducting a hypervisor comparison and considering a hybrid environment can help customers get tasks done at the lowest cost and with the greatest long-term business benefits.

About the expert
Greg Shields, MVP, vExpert, is a partner with Concentrated Technology LLC. Get more of Greg's tips and tricks at www.concentratedtech.com.


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