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SCVMM vs. Hyper-V Manager: Which tasks are best suited to each?

Although SCVMM offers capabilities far exceeding those of Hyper-V Manager, Hyper-V Manager has the advantage of being simpler to use and not requiring an additional license.

Microsoft provides a variety of different tools to manage Hyper-V environments. Two of the most widely used tools include System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Hyper-V Manager. The real question, however, is which tool you should use.

The biggest advantage to using Hyper-V Manager is that, like PowerShell, which you can also use for Hyper-V management, it's included as part of the Windows OS. As such, you can use Hyper-V Manager without incurring any additional license costs.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), on the other hand, is a completely separate product. The starting price for a System Center 2016 Standard Edition license is $1,323, with the Enterprise Edition starting at $3,607.

Being that there's a fee associated with licensing SCVMM vs. Hyper-V Manager, it's hardly surprising that it's a far more capable management tool. Even so, there are situations in which SCVMM doesn't provide any significant advantage over Hyper-V Manager.

Hyper-V Manager contains all of the functionality necessary to create and manage Hyper-V VMs. This tool allows you to create as many VMs as necessary, and you can manage, modify or delete those VMs on an as-needed basis. Smaller organizations will almost certainly find that Hyper-V Manager provides all of the functionality they need to manage their Hyper-V environments.

Hyper-V Manager VM list
Figure A. Hyper-V Manager shows a list of VMs and their statuses.

Choosing SCVMM vs. Hyper-V Manager

The main reason why an organization might want to use SCVMM vs. Hyper-V Manager is that even though Hyper-V Manager provides all of the essential functionality to manage a Hyper-V environment, it doesn't scale very well.

Hyper-V Manager provides a server-centric view of Hyper-V resources. You can attach Hyper-V Manager to multiple Hyper-V hosts, but you need to interact with each host and the VMs on those hosts individually. Conversely, SCVMM provides a consolidated view of VM resources. If an organization has hundreds of VMs spread across dozens of Hyper-V hosts, it can be difficult and time-consuming to locate one specific VM using Hyper-V Manager. Because SCVMM provides a consolidated view of Hyper-V resources, however, you can easily locate a particular VM without having to search each individual host.

SCVMM consolidated view
Figure B. SCVMM shows a consolidated view of hosts and VM resources.

Another important distinction between SCVMM vs. Hyper-V Manager is that SCVMM enables you to manage a greater variety of infrastructure components. Hyper-V Manager provides management capabilities for two main components: Hyper-V hosts and VMs. You can also manage more granular object types through Hyper-V Manager, including virtual hard disks, virtual switches and VM checkpoints, but let's limit the discussion to major infrastructure components.

Hyper-V Manager provides management capabilities for two main components: Hyper-V hosts and VMs.

In addition to enabling Hyper-V hosts and VM management, SCVMM enables you to manage a number of other resource types, including things like hosts, VMs, storage arrays, Preboot Execution Environment servers, Windows Server Update Services servers and even VMware vCenter servers.

It's also worth noting that you can add failover clusters directly to SCVMM for the sake of managing highly available VMs. You can, of course, manage highly available VMs without SCVMM, but the required functionality isn't exposed through Hyper-V Manager. If you want to manage high availability for a VM, you have to use either PowerShell or Failover Cluster Manager.

You can also tie SCVMM into Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud with an add-in. Although SCVMM doesn't provide comprehensive management capabilities for cloud-based VMs, you can at least see which VMs reside in the cloud, and you can perform basic tasks such as starting and stopping VMs.

SCVMM VM templates
Figure C. SCVMM shows the VM templates that can be used for automatic VM creation.

Perhaps the most compelling reason why you might want to use SCVMM vs. Hyper-V Manager is that it enables you to create templates that automate VM creation. Suppose for a moment that you needed to create five new domain controllers. While you can accomplish this task using Hyper-V Manager, it would be an entirely manual process.

With SCVMM, you can completely automate the creation process, which not only saves time, but also ensures that new VMs are created in a uniform manner and that they adhere to your organization's requirements. Having the ability to automate VM creation is especially helpful in multi-tenant environments, which is something else that SCVMM supports.

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