Virtualisation suites compared

Virtualisation suites compared

Summary: Getting the foundation right for cloud means succeeding in virtualisation, but with multiple products available, which one is right for your business?


Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V

Microsoft has been playing catch-up with VMware and Citrix, with the current version of Hyper-V certainly stepping up to the mark as a strong contender. It is, however, a big installation; almost 3GB (or up to 10GB for the full server installation), whereas the other two use a Linux underpinning and happily reside on a CD (at least for the basic hypervisor).

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V
(Credit: Enex TestLab)

Microsoft's approach is to install Windows Server 2008 R2, and then install Hyper-V as a Role, which is really quite a simple process. The Hyper-V Manager is easy to drive, and it has a simple and logical layout. Creating and configuring the VMs is also easy, and pretty much any operation you would want to carry out can be achieved via the manager. However, in a large cluster, Hyper-V Manager is simply not sufficient; you cannot automate or run tasks in a batch mode, so be prepared for lots of pointing and clicking.

To take the pain out of managing a large infrastructure, the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (MSCVMM) is the way to go. It removes the need for repetitive tasks. The MSCVMM is, incidentally, also able to manage VMware's ESX Server.

Hyper-V is big on features, although in some instances it does lag behind the latest version of ESXi. For example, each host can have a maximum of 64 physical CPUs and 512 vCPUs, whereas ESXi supports a maximum of 160 logical CPUs and 2048 vCPUs per host.

VM virtual processor support is naturally dependent on the OS, but is limited to a maximum of four per VM.

Processor compatibility mode allows VMs to migrate across hardware, where the physical hosts can have different CPU architectures. This feature is new to Hyper-V; in the previous version, hosts had to contain identical CPU architectures, which meant that you could migrate across Intel to Intel or AMD to AMD hosts, but not Intel to AMD.

Physical memory per host is a healthy 1TB, but the maximum per VM is just 64GB. However, Hyper-V does feature dynamic memory, where the maximum and minimum RAM can be specified, and allocated memory can grow or shrink depending on the VM's needs. VMs can be assigned priority levels, so that when the host begins to exhaust physical memory, the RAM allotment to the VMs will be reduced based on their priority.

The size of a Hyper-V cluster is limited to 16 nodes in a failover cluster, with a maximum of 1000 VMs and a limit of 384 virtual nodes per physical machine. The maximum number of VMs allowable per node does not change, regardless of physical cluster size.

Guest OSes include Windows and flavours of SUSE, Red Hat and CentOS; other versions of Linux are unsupported, but many are reported to run without any issues.

High availability requires confirmation of the "Certified for Windows" test during implementation — largely requiring identical specifications for hardware nodes in both operating system varieties, CPU families and interfaces, such as networking and host adapters. Servers must also be members of the AD domain, necessitating a domain controller somewhere in the schema.

The "Live Migration" feature, enabled by the (new to Win2K8R2) Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV), recommends use of a private network for migration traffic. This is in addition to the private network requirement for internal cluster communication, separate virtual networking provision and separate storage network.

Virtual Networking follows the standard virtual switching approach, with the decoupling of the OS network stack to allow better throughput, although I/O performance will depend on the number of VMs attempting to communicate with the outside world.

For load-balancing services, the standard Microsoft Network Load Balancing (NLB) component is required, and is configured in the same manner as for physical nodes.

The inclusion of "snap shotting" via the Hyper-V Manager makes some inroads on the immaturity of the Microsoft product, which sports all of the features expected for taking, managing and redeploying snapshots to live VMs. While the possibility exists for automation via scripting in the snap-shotting feature, it is principally for use in test and development environments, and not ideal for a transactional production infrastructure — it certainly should not be considered as being the only disaster-recovery (DR) solution in a production environment.

Topics: Virtualization, Microsoft, Open Source, Oracle, VMware

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  • Virtualisation suites compared

    I would have loved to see RHEV compared here as well! Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.
    Nirmal Pathak
    • Side-by-Side Virtualization Feature Comparison

      @nirmalpathak I've put together a comparison of Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Oracle VM and Red Hat for you here:

      (Full disclosure, I work for Ombud, an online platform to research enterprise technology. Ombud allows users to compare solutions feature-by-feature and then customize those comparisons according to their needs)
      • latest Server 2012 v vSphere 5.x v XenServer 6.x v Redhat KVM comparison

        Just posted this as response to a similar thread - one of the best for the above comparisons seems to be - at least it's always updated by the looks of it (not just a blog). Most of my guys use it - wish they would add more details on VDI and Cloud.

  • No comparison to Windows Server 2012

    Nice writeup, although don't you think it would have been appropriate to compare Server 2012? I guess it hasn't been officially released, so maybe we'll see another write-up in September.
    • Fanboy alert

      • The author included VirtualBox for no better apparent reason..

        ..than to give it some credit for being free and light.

        I would count this a lot closer to fanboyism than someone asking that one of the platforms being compared be the most current version.
  • Virtualisation suites compared

    i think you should watch these and and after that do a comparison (it is done there)
  • Why is VirtualBox in there?

    "it is not a direct competitor to the other three virtualisation implementations. "

    VirtualBox doesn't even belong in this comparison. As others have said, you dropped the ball by excluding RHEV (among probably others) that would have fit the bill much better.

    If you want to talk about VirtualBox, you should be including it in a comparison with VirtualPC, VMware Workstation (or VMware Player, if you strictly want to stick with "Free" offerings).

    You don't do Oracle or VirtualBox developers any kind of service comparing it to a Type-1 hypervisors, and you don't do your own readers (who might be looking for a useful comparison) any service, either.
    • Seriously

      Im quite confient if you where in person you could have said this more nicely. No since in being an "a s s" when its not necessary. Just make a nice recomendation.Read parson project above and see how humans interact.
      • You must be new here...

        "Im quite confient if you where in person you could have said this more nicely. "

        I'm quite confident I could also have been a much bigger jerk. Have a look at some of the more "popular" articles that get posted around ZDnet and I think you'll agree I was being quite tactful, relatively speaking.

        I chose to take the middle road and point out one or two reasons why it may be ill advised to include a desktop virtualization platform in a comparison with Type-1 Hypervisors, and why there may have been more relevant solutions that should have been included. It is possible that Steven and Thomas are experts when it comes to these technologies, but this type of oversight calls that expertise into doubt very, very quickly.

        If you prefer to take everything a blogger writes at face value with a pat on the back and a "nice write up", then so be it. I prefer bloggers be kept honest myself, and one of the best places to do that is in the comment section, disecting and challenging important assertions that those bloggers make.
        • Don't mind daffy

          He's always been a rude ass. He even beats me in that department. And that's a lot.

          • The one big difference..

   you tend to be rude without provocation.
    • I use VirtualBox and VMWare Player and I agree

      For Linux users VirtualBox is the best desktop virtualization suite. For a true hypevisor you have to go elsewhere.
      • Try out Workstation...

        VirtualBox does a good job of filling the gaps that the free VMware Player leaves, however give Workstation a comparison to VirtualBox (you can download a trial version for 30 days).

        I find the performance quite a bit better, and there are some features that just work better overall (snapshots, linked clones, which I know VirtualBox supports to a degree, but I find those much easier to manage in VMware, and I've also found it a lot more reliable).
  • Is this review for real?

    On August 5th 2012 you do you are review and use Windows 2008 R2 (Hyper V 2) and not the RTM version of Windows 2012 (Hyper V 3)??????????????

    I am no lover of Microsoft by far, but dam get a clue.

    Virtual box????????????? A layer 2 host product compared to the others?????
    • I agree.

      Sever 2012 with Hyper-v 3.0 did reach rtm last week, so it would have been logical to compare it instead of Hyper-v 2.0 certainly because the additions to it are major.

      Virtualbox does not compare to type 1 hypervisors, so is certainly out of place.