Beyond Hypervisor hype, hyperbole and hyper-rudeness: Hyper-V vs VMware

Beyond Hypervisor hype, hyperbole and hyper-rudeness: Hyper-V vs VMware

Summary: There are two sides to every debate. This is the VMware side.


If you haven't had a chance to read my Hyper-V vs. VMware debate with Jason Perlow in the Great Debate series, please do so before reading this post-mortem assessment and review. Now that you've had a chance to look over the debate and maybe a few of the always effervescent commentary, I'd like to be able to tell my side of the story with a little less vitriol than a certain opponent of mine tossed my way during and after the debate. I thought the debate was between the virtualization technologies and not about mud-slinging. I know why I decided not to enter Politics: The issues are dull and boring but insults and rudeness keep people's interest. I'd never get elected because the issues are really secondary to reality. I might be wrong about that, since I'm wrong about so many other things as was pointed out by my opponent and by the peanut gallery. The problem for them is that I am, in fact, not wrong.

Although I was accused of spreading FUD and acting like a fanboy, there are facts to be stated in my defense. This post dispels any notions of FUD with facts and any hints of fanboy nonsense with solemn dignity. I think you'll find that I've done my homework both then and now. My story hasn't changed. Neither has VMware's.

Disparity vs Parity

Like lots of other press and analysts, Jason has taken to speaking of Hyper-V 3 in the present tense. The truth is, it’s a product in beta that requires a brand new version of Windows Server. No one knows which features will actually ship and most customers won’t get it running in production for almost two years. Where do you think VMware vSphere will be by then? VMware isn’t standing still.

Shared Nothing gets you Something you don't want

Shared nothing live migration – a neat trick, but who’s going to want their network crushed when huge virtual disk files need to be migrated along with the VM memory. It will be useful only in small lab setups. Production is another story.

Extensible Switch - Promises, promises

VMware has more than just the Cisco Nexus 1000V. IBM also announced recently their distributed virtual switch for vSphere. Microsoft has no working third party extensible switches yet – just promises.

Windows Security - Oxymoron Time

Unless your name is Rip van Winkle, you know that Windows is, shall we say, light on security. There's a good reason why every other major hypervisor is Linux-based in some way or another: Security. That isn't the only reason but it's a darn good start. Plus, how many reboots of your Windows host will it take to continuously patch? Can your production environment withstand the downtime?

Additionally, when your Windows host becomes infected with a worm or virus, how many VMs will it take with it? Answer: All of them.

Virtual Machine Density

In Jason's revised rebuttal, he states that it costs about $100 to $200 per VM to make the switch from VMware to Hyper-V. I'm assuming that he refers only to the labor costs of moving the VMs to Hyper-V because your virtual machine density will be very different. Hyper-V's VM density is about two-thirds that of VMware's. For example, if you're compelled to migrate from VMware to Hyper-V and you have 600 VMs residing on 20 hosts, the equivalent Hyper-V solution would require 30 hosts. If you want to pare down the number of VMs to 20/host, then you'd need 45 Hyper-V hosts to VMware's 30.

Now, let's talk about money.

The "Pencil-to-Paper" Debacle

In my rebuttal, I stated that I had not "put pencil to paper" to calculate the difference between the two technologies. One reason is that I knew about the VM to host disparity. Another is that, you also have to purchase SCVMM for each host. Then there's Jason's labor charge to migrate the VMs from one technology to another. I can do the math in my head and realize that once everything comes out in the wash, VMware is roughly the same price as Hyper-V.

But, if customers such as cloud providers, corporate IT shops and ISPs wanted "cheap" virtualization, then there are cheaper ways to go: Proxmox, Citrix XenServer, Red Hat KVM and others. The fact is that "cheap" isn't the ultimate goal. And, that is the keystone point here. You might believe that a guy who is all about frugality would embrace a less expensive solution. No one has proven to me that Hyper-V is actually cheaper over the life of a virtual infrastructure.

The other issue that I think a lot of people miss on this one is value. Value supersedes cost. And, there's a reason for that. The reason is that value is the 360-degree view of a product. Cost is but one parameter. VMware isn't a single product. It's a carefully orchestrated suite of products built to replace current physical infrastructure with virtual equivalents.

And, focusing on licensing fees alone is not a valid comparison. For example, if Hyper-V requires a third more physical hosts, that means more expense in rack space, power, cooling, maintenance, hardware costs and support contracts. I think we've all seen what "cheap" solutions can do for us. You have to be wise enough to recognize the difference between cost and value to understand. I'm all for cost-cutting but not at the price of value dropping.

The Lock-in Dilemma

There is a great fear among IT people concerning vendor lock-in. The reality is that anytime you choose a particular vendor solution, you're putting up with a certain amount of vendor lock-in. There's no getting around that. Correction, there is one way: Use a purely free Linux distribution, white box hardware and free software. That would keep you away from any type of vendor lock-in.

How much vendor lock-in is too much? When a vendor tells you that their operating system runs better on their virtualization platform running their management tools with their public cloud, then that's too much vendor lock-in.

Microsoft's public cloud offering puts Microsoft in direct competition with its customers who want to provide that same service.

VMware's virtualization platform supports a variety of operating systems with outstanding performance and standardized virtual hardware. VMware only does virtualization. It has no other agenda or purpose. It's not pushing operating systems, user-oriented applications or its own public cloud in your face. VMware does one thing and it does it better than anyone else.

The Thrill of Competition

If you read the debate, the rebuttal and the tweets that followed, it seems like Jason hates VMware and I hate Microsoft or at least that I hate Hyper-V. Nothing could be further from the truth. As in any debate, I chose a side and defended it. Jason did the same. Personal attacks aside, Jason and I both know that VMware is the king of virtualization. Microsoft is a newcomer with its Hyper-V.

Hyper-V is a decent product. However, I do not think that it has a snowball's chance in Hell of real success against VMware. Just to make one thing perfectly clear: I have never been wrong in my assessment of technology trends in 20 years of making predictions. I said long ago that Novell was on its way out with its File and Print Server. I said that NT would be the only OS that Microsoft would support after a while and that the old DOS-based ones were history. I said that VMware had changed the world. I said that Linux would give Microsoft a royal run for its money. And, now I'm saying that VMware is the best virtualization solution in existence.

However, Hyper-V and the other contenders in the virtualization market have the effect of keeping VMware sharp. Iron sharpening iron is the correct term. VMware will continue to innovate, perhaps now at an even higher rate than before to maintain its position and to provide 'best-in-class' technology to the data center and to its customers.

Competition makes good business and the real winners of that competition are the customers. There will be companies, providers and others who make the switch from VMware to Hyper-V. There will be those who switch and then return to the fold. The battle will rage on for years and the customer will emerge victorious. The customer is the most important person or entity that exists in any business. If you are in business and you don't believe that, then you will fail. You'll fail your customers, your shareholders, your employees and yourselves. Customer service begins at the top of any company and I think that there's absolutely no contest in whose CEO (between Microsoft and VMware) has the greater customer focus. There is a clear winner between the two, in my not-so-humble opinion.


When selecting any technology direction, you have to take all facets of that technology into consideration: Cost, life-cycle, customer service, maintenance, stability (product and company), recurring costs, upgrade costs and long-term value. Focusing on cost alone is short-sighted and foolish. You must look at value--the overall value of the product or service.

You must understand value to lead a company. You must understand value to compete with other companies. VMware didn't rise to the top of the virtualization market because it had a cheap product. It rose to that place because it has the best product. I've used Oracle as a comparison. It isn't cheap but it's the best and everyone knows it. There is a value that surpasses cost. And, it's more than perceived value, it's real value.

Microsoft didn't take over the desktop with an operating system that has no value. Even a free operating system like Linux hasn't unseated Windows as the preferred desktop OS. And, it's have plenty of time to do so. There's value in Windows. Microsoft's products, as much as people love to complain about them, are good. They're solid. They have value. They're not free. Heck, they're not even cheap, yet price is what they're basing their Hyper-V hype on (being cheaper than VMware). The real question is, "Is it a better value than VMware?" The answer is, "No."

Hyper-V, like XenServer, KVM, Proxmox, Parallels, etc., is an alternative to VMware.

Better still, let Microsoft tell you which virtualization solution is the best by telling you who they compare Hyper-V to. Microsoft doesn't compare Hyper-V to Solaris' Zones or to XenServer or to KVM. Only tech journalists do those kinds of comparisons. If you're trying to sell a product, you don't compare yourself to anything but the best. Why would you compare yourself to second or third best?

You wouldn't. And, neither does Microsoft.

VMware is the best solution for enterprise-level virtualization. And, price is really a moot point.

Topics: Virtualization, Hardware, VMware


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Price DOES matter

    Would you say the same if VMware costs 100x more? 1000x? Price matters and VMware being slightly better than Hyper-v costs nearly 10x more. This is a fail in terms of basic economics. I heard that majority of customers who race the two in a POC go for Hyper-v. Because after a proper POC you clearly see which one can do what and how much you will pay for the difference. Then it's a no brainer to decide.
    • Wrong

      It definitely does NOT cost 10x more. That's just ridiculous.
      • If you're running 20 Windows VMs on a single physical server

        Then a datacenter license would cover all hosts. That would be a huge savings over VMWare. Period.

        Considering the cost of Server for a physical machine license, even just the base license, compared to ESX you're still looking at, at the very least, 5x the expense for VMWare. And I'm a VCP and I like VMWare. I also use XenServer. But I'd be lying if the features of 8 server aren't very, very attractive and can potentially upset the VM market. I don't expect VMWare to stand still but they will have to lower cost or seriously increase feature set in order to compete.

        And how do you figure Hyper-V 3 is only 2/3 the densitiy of VMWare? Have you tested this?

        Who would setup a Hyper-V host that wasn't hardened? Windows Security would be every bit as good as VMWare's if the host was hardened. Which isn't that difficult to do.

        Hyper-V drivers are going to be in the Linux kernel as of 3.4 I believe. VMware still requires additional tools. So who has the better Linux support?
      • Are you sure?

        Are you sure? I've deployed both, and I gotta say, when you add all the options, VMWare is exceedingly expensive. Not even close to the datacenter license for Windows. The author of this article is clearlt a VmWare fan-boy. Hmm, Migration over a network? Yes please as long as it's a seperate Vlan. That's called Networking 101 and this fan-boy didn't even take it into account in his flawed overview. I've deployed both (Lots and Lots of VmWare), but this will make me reevaluate new deployments, several in favor of Windows 8.
      • Windows Licensing?

        @LiquidLearner The Windows Server Datacenter license is the same on VMware or Hyper-V. The Datacenter License is a per CPU license. As many Windows "guests" as you wish can run on each licensed CPU. In VM talk, the Host is the Physical machine running the HyperVisor. MS licenses virtual machine "guests" the same no matter what platform they run on. The only huge immediate savings over VMware would be the ESXi HyperVisor license. VMware provides more than enough value in their tools to overcome this extra license cost. Also, last I checked VMware drivers are at least distributed in SLES 11 distributions, I'm not sure about RHEL.

        PS - While not related to HyperVisor costs, don't even get me started on how that "Datacenter" license ONLY covers the right to run Windows guests - it does not include CLIENT Access, Advanced Administration tools, etc. All the major commercial Linux distributions are licensed in a way that the price is the same whether or not you install one copy on a physical CPU or 100 copies on VM's (within the same Host) and they don't have Client Licenses. And "DataCenter" edition costs 8 times what the "Standard" Windows edition cost. There is also a 4-instance Enterprise License available. Of course, like I said, the cost is the same no matter what HyperVisor is selected.
      • If you add all the vmware options, you have nothing like hyper-v

        @Greg, if you are purchasing datacenter licenses like @LiquidLearner, then hyper-v might be 10x cheaper! ESX enterprise covers all features of hyper-v and is not even 2x more expensive. If you add in more features, you just get that much farther over and beyond hyper-v. Add in the human cost of patching to hyper-v, what I've got to think is less reliability (I've seen a loaded ESX host go 900 days) and the better density of guests on VMware and they are pretty much tied in cost.
  • Sounds like someone got their feelings hurt by facts...

    • Oh?

      Was it you?
      • Cute :-)

        It simply seemed quite clear that you were struggling to stay objective. Speculating about hyper-v 8 "issues" before its release is FUD.
      • So is preaching unreleased hyper-v software

        @sagec, the only debate that can be had TODAY is hyper-v 2 vs vSphere 5. Anything about hyper-v beta or v3 is just silly talk right now. Once Microsoft finally gets the new version out the window, VMware will already be onto the next innovation and version. I mean storage DRS? After seeing Microsoft clustering since Windows 2000, I can't even imagine them attempting what VMware does *today*.
  • Rebuttals

    @sagec You can't sing its praises without examining its flaws. People are speculating about its features so why is discussing its issues a big deal?

    @greg Yes, I'm sure. And, I'm not a fanboy of anything. I have used every type of virtualization (still do) but I'm also smart enough to know that if you want something that's going to work, you use VMware. I want a company that's focused on this one thing because it works, think Oracle. If you want to have surgery performed by your Barber, please do so. It didn't work out so well, historically speaking. I want my Barber to cut hair, my Doctor to cut flesh and my virtualization company to do virtualization.
    • lol

      So what you are saying, is that you are smarter than everyone at MS? As surely some bright spark there would have thought "hey this guy khess says vmware is super smart and we wont be better than vmware, lets just give up"
    • Virtualisation

      So according to you a software company should not bother with virtualisation especially a software company that owns the biggest OS out there. If this is what you believe then can you explain why VMware tried to purchase Novell.
  • The debate was set up a bit screwy - not your fault..

    ..To be fair, the question of whether "Hyper-V will make inroads against VMware" didn't help at all. Instead of debating the merits of the technologies/cost-benefit, this kind of question just makes it too easy to simply argue semantics about what is exactly meant by "making inroads". In a sense, you both could say exactly the opposite thing and both be right.

    "Fanboi" may be a strong word to describe your stance on virtualization, but it sure didn't seem that inaccurate during the debate.

    Now, part of the reason I personally took issue with your debate style isn't because I hate VMware. Like you I prefer VMware over all others - in fact I'm the only one in my office running VMware for desktop virtualization, and I run a whitebox vSphere machine at home, even though a number of others, including Hyper-V, would probably support my setup better. I actually wanted to see some good points come from your side of the argument, other than "VMware is the best - rah rah rah - Hyper-V is the same as the rest - rah rah rah!" You disappointed me, and I'm sure many of the other VMware advocates.

    The problem is you didn't seem to understand what the real debate was, or how the business is trending even today. Personally I think Hiner dropped the ball awarding you the debate, because you certainly didn't bring as much to the table as Perlow did. On VMware's current strength alone you took that title, you certainly didn't earn it yourself.

    As for your current article, which is really one and the same with your debate, I'll only respond to this:

    "Hyper-V, like XenServer, KVM, Proxmox, Parallels, etc., is an alternative to VMware."

    I would say very true - and your lead up to this statement proves you still don't understand why Hyper-V is going to start eating away at VMware's market share. Unlike XenServer, KVM, Promox, Parallels, etc, many of the systems traditionally hosted on VMware (due to support offered by those systems' vendors) are now being certified under Hyper-V. Despite all the other "features" that keep VMware ahead of the pack, official support alone was the only thing keeping many people off "other" platforms. A lot of the other things you cite mean nothing to a $50M-$100M business with a half-dozen physical servers running 20 or so Windows guests.

    To use the drilling analogy I wrote under the other article, these are the companies currently paying to maintain a triple-stand rig (VMware) to dig an 800m well, and are now discovering that the lease operator (third-party business system vendor) is now supporting their use of a single-stand rig (Hyper-V) to do this work. Unless there is something fundamentally needed from the bigger iron, or the maintenance costs for the bigger iron come down substantially, these companies are going to retire the bigger rigs.

    Regardless of the feature disparity, parity, or what have you, this is happening *NOW*, on Server 2008 R2.

    To be clear - Hyper-V is not going to unseat VMware as king of virtualization, unless VMware *REALLY* screws up. Right now, most people's beef with VMware is price, and that's something VMware can quite easily remedy. However, simply due to partner influence on customers, and third-party support, and, yes, the cost issue, Hyper-V is going to gain on VMware enough, that you're not going to consider just "VMware and the other guys", it will be "VMware, Hyper-V, and the other guys).
    • Good points, but VMW can't easily remedy price

      Good points @daftkey. My reply here is focused one of your claims: "Right now, most people's beef with VMware is price, and that's something VMware can quite easily remedy." I disagree, it's not easily remedied.

      VMware's CFO and CEO need to keep showing revenue growth in high teens and low 20s. If they don't, their stock will take a hit and they won't be able to justify their lofty P/E ratio. What are customers buying from VMware. Well, 49% is software licenses and 51% is services revenue (in year end 2011). And what will customers buy in the future? Well, VMware's R&D (as a percentage of total operating expense) is a healthy 0.25, but down from 0.26 and 0.28 the prior years. How will customers buy these licenses? Well, VMware's sales and marketing expenses are 0.47 of total operating income, up from 0.45 and 0.44 the prior years.

      My point: VMware needs to keep showing growth, and that comes back to maintaining or growing margins. And Motley Fool shows a 3rd way they may show financial growth.
  • I love VMware but your wrong

    I am a huge fan of VMware but seriously in the debate your came across as just a silly fanboi who's main argument was that VMware is market leader so nothing can ever change and how it's just too late for MS. Total garbage IT is always changing. I work for a large IT consultancy and this year is the first year that there has started to be a real interest in Hyper V. I hate Hyper V in its current form compared to VMware but I aint that naive to think things will stay like this and I certainly cannot believe the nonsense about how price does not matter.