How does Microsoft Hyper-V rate?

While Microsoft Hyper-V is a version 1 product, you might be surprised at how well its virtual machine management tools stack up against VMware's tools.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 | Part 6

The making (or unmaking) of a hypervisor has everything to do with the tools that support its operation in your data center. VMware, for example, has been in the hypervisor (or x86 virtualization) market for the past 10 years. This has given the company the opportunity to create an abundance of tools all centered around virtual machine (VM) and host server management. These tools include not only the management of virtual machines in production environments, but also in lab and staging environments, which are essential to ensure that only stable and certified solutions are delivered into your production network.

With Microsoft releasing its very first hypervisor this year -- Windows Server Hyper-V -- some might think that its arsenal of management tools would be meager, but that is not the case. Microsoft has been in the management space for Windows networks for several years with its System Center line of products and has been able to easily adapt existing tools to the management of virtual machines. After all, virtual machines are easier and simpler to manage in a lot of ways, and Microsoft has been able to enter the hypervisor fray with a series of tools that directly address some of the most common needs in VM management.

When it came to management of operations not traditionally supported by common tools, Microsoft was able to deliver utilities with new functionality that address those needs. Virtual machine creation and administration is a good example of that. Microsoft delivered System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), a tool centered around virtual machine creation, protection and manipulation. In fact, Microsoft is set to release a second version of VMM that will include additional improvements such as management of Hyper-V or VMware host servers.

Table 1 outlines the different functions required for administering virtual machines. It also lists the various tools available from both VMware and Microsoft in support of each function.

Table 1. VMware and Microsoft Management tools for VM environments

Feature VMware Microsoft
VM/Host Management VirtualCenter Hyper-V Console System Center Virtual Machine Manager
VM Provisioning Lifecycle Manager SC Virtual Machine Manager
Live VM Migration VMotion Quick Migration
LAN High Availability: VMs High Availability Failover Clustering
LAN High Availability: Storage Storage VMotion plus third-party Windows Server Simple SAN plus third-party
Backup Consolidated Backup plus third-party Windows Server Backup Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) writer SC Data Protection Manager
VM Placement Management Distributed Resource Scheduler SC Operations Manager SC Virtual Machine Manager
Policy-based Resource Allocation Distributed Resource Scheduler SC Operations Manager
Security VMsafe plus third-party Windows Server Integration plus third-party
Patching and Updates Update Manager Windows Server Update Services SC Configuration Manager
Host Power Management Distributed Power Management SC Operations Manager at host level
WAN BCM Site Recovery Manager Failover Clustering, Geoclusters
Physical to Virtual (P2V) Conversion Converter SC VMM
Single VM Staging for Testing or Development Lab Manager SCVMM Self-service Web Portal
Testing or Development    
Entire VM Environment for Testing or Development Lab Manager Third-party or custom scripts
Lab Environment Graduation Management Stage Manager Third-party or custom scripts
System Automation VI Toolkit for Windows (PowerShell ) Windows PowerShell in WS08

As you can see from the table, Microsoft and VMware are almost neck and neck in terms of management tool availability. VMware has a different approach, however: Each new tool integrates into the core VMware management environment, namely VirtualCenter. This way, administrators only need to use one single tool to manage the data center.

As for Microsoft, all System Center tools rely on a single interface, so operators running System Center Operations Manager or Virtual Machine Manager will need little retraining as far as accessing the tool is concerned. However, other tools, such as the Hyper-V console, do not use the same interface and in some cases even uses different language than System Center. For example, an image of the state of a virtual machine at a specific point in time is called a snapshot in Hyper-V, while it's dubbed a checkpoint in Virtual Machine Manager.

These simple details aside, Microsoft has made a major inroad in terms of virtual machine and hypervisor management, and the company continues to offer new tools in support of the move toward virtualization. Hyper-V may be a version 1 product, but its management is not. IT pros should consider this when making the choice of which hypervisor to go with. Also, keep in mind that management tools that only manage a single hypervisor are dead-end tools; the future is clearly leading us toward heterogeneous hypervisor management.


THE BIG QUESTIONS SURROUNDING HYPER-V
 Can Microsoft really make an impact with Hyper-V?
 What does it have to offer?
 How does Hyper-V rate?
 Can it meet high availability requirements?
 How does it fit in the dynamic data center?
 The bottom line

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest are IT professionals specializing in systems administration, migration planning, software management and architecture design. Danielle is Microsoft MVP in Virtualization and Nelson is Microsoft MVP in Windows Server. They are authors of multiple books, including the free Definitive Guide to Vista Migration for Realtime Publishers and Windows Server 2008: The Complete Reference for McGraw-Hill Osborne. For more tips, write to them at info@reso-net.com.

This was first published in November 2008

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