Mythbusting:Can a VMware private cloud cost 5 to 16 times more than Microsoft private cloud?

<updated April 20 2012: VMware response to Microsoft’s whitepaper. See the end of this blogposting>

Microsoft claimes their private cloud solution is 5 to 16 times cheaper than a compareable VMware’s private cloud solution. This posting shows this claim is unfair and inaccurate because it compares apples to oranges.

In January Microsoft announced the new System Center 2012 suite. The Redmond company also published a new whitepaper titled ‘Microsoft private cloud, a comparative look at functionality, benefits and economics’ in which it compares the products being part of System Center 2012 to the VMware products in a usage scenario for private cloud. Also the total costs for a Microsoft solutions based private cloud are compared to a VMware solutions based private cloud. Microsoft conclusion is:

Our analysis shows that a VMware private cloud solution can cost from five to sixteen times more than a comparable Microsoft private cloud solution over a period of one to three years.

Microsoft also released an online calculator titled Microsoft Private Cloud Economics Tool.It calculates the cost of creating a private cloud solution with Microsoft and VMware technologies. The calculator follows a simple methodology by considering the software acquisition and support costs for a private cloud solution.

Lets have a more closer look on how Microsoft came to this conclusion and if they are really comparing apples to apples like they claim in their whitepaper.

To start with we need to have a definition of what a private cloud is. A private cloud is not a virtualized infrastructure as most organizations are currently running. According to Microsoft’s whitepaper a private cloud has the following characteristics:

  1. it has a self-service experience
  2. is has a service model
  3. it has process automation capabilities
  4. it has tools to configure and deploy the infrastructure and application layers
  5. infrastructure and applications needs to be “discovered” and monitored for reporting and health tracking

Lets have a look at another definition of which components or characteristics a private cloud should have. The image below shows what according to Gartner should be part of a private cloud. Read the posting of Peter Noorderijk titled “the Private Cloud explained” to understand which Microsoft solutions deliver this private cloud mode.


The table below shows the products required to deliver IT as service using a private cloud computing model. As you can see below, to build a comparable private cloud based on VMware, you need several components like Cloud Infrastructure Suite products (vSphere, vCenter, vCloud Director, vCenter Site Recovery Manager), vCenter Operations Management Suite and vFabric among others.

While Gartner does not mention data protection/disaster recovery as part of a private cloud, Microsoft does. Microsoft compares VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) to a combination of Data Protection Manager and Orchestrator. This is not a fair way to compare. It is like comparing apples to oranges and a way to make the VMware solution much more expensive. I will explain why.

Disaster Recovery: compare Apple 1 to Orange 1
First of all, SRM is a totally different solution than DPM. SRM is able to replicate virtual machines using either storage replication (synchroneous) or host based replication (hypervisor). Replication means that an organization has an exact copy of a virtual machine somewhere in a recovery site. This replica can be started instantly when needed. Also SRM is able to verify the replicated virtual machines can start.
DPM on the other hand is a backup tool. It stores virtual machine metadata and data of virtual machine in a backup file. When a virtual machine is lost a timeconsuming restore process needs to be performed. This proces might be automated using Orchestrator but comparing to SRM is comparing an ultralight plane to a Boeing: both can fly but with a total different experience.

Not only compares Microsoft two totally different solutions, it also assumes an organization running 500 VM want to protect all 500 VM’s using SRM. This is not a reallife scenario. SRM will be used to protect TIER1 applications. There are lots of applications which do not require a recovery time of lets say less than 1 hour. Also some applications take care of replication themselves (Active Directory) or can easily be reinstalled (Citrix, RDP servers).

Security: compare apple 2 to no orange nor another apple
In a private cloud you will need some sort of security to isolate virtual machines  because of political or compliancy reasons. Microsoft does not mention in their text and image a security solution. Still they add the costs of VMware’s security solution vShield to the costs of the VMware private cloud. That is wrong and unfair for several reasons:

  1. Microsoft does not add a comparable security solution in the cost calculation for their own private cloud. To isolate network of tenants in a Microsoft infrastructure you will need Microsoft TMG. This is not part of the System Center 2012 suite so additional costs are involved.
  2. Included in the vCloud Director license is vShield Edge delivering firewall, NAT and DHCP features. For an overview of the vShield family of solutions see this posting. While vShield Edge is already paid for in the vCloud Director license, Microsoft adds the costs.
  3. Included in the vSphere Advanced edition is vShield App. Microsoft uses the vSphere Enterprise Plus edition license in the calculation which also is including vShield App. Microsoft adds by mistake the costs of vShield Add.
  4. Part of the System Center 2012 suite is Microsoft Endpoint Protection. This is a malware/anti virus agent. VMware’s endpoint protection solution is called vShield App. It is not an anti-virus product but a middleware solution which enables anti-virus vendors to write applications to protect virtual machines. Instead of installing an agent in every VM like Microsoft Endpoint Protection using VMware’s solution anti-virus/malware detection is done in the kernel offloading resources. Both solutions cannot be compared.

While Microsoft adds costs for Disaster Recovery and Security in the VMware solution they do not have add costs for an alternative, *equal* solution themselves.  This adds 33% to the costs of the VMware solution.

Missing components in Microsoft solution
In the Gartner definition of a private cloud a couple of preferred components of a private cloud are listed:
chargeback system and capacity management.
Microsoft does not have a software solution for Chargeback. In Windows Server 8 Powershell and WMI command will be available so IT can meter the usage of resources. Complicated scripting will needs to be done. Expected is that third party suppliers will use the metering to built tools on.
More information on metering of resource usage in this article titled Shedding light on Hyper-V 3.0 resource monitoring on

VMware has a solution titled VMware vCenter Chargeback Manager which is able to perform chargeback out of the box. Chargeback Manager is part of VMware Operations Management Suite. Microsoft included the license costs of VMware Operations Management Suite in the comparison.
So with Microsoft private cloud chargeback is very limited with no out of the box functionality in VMware ‘s solution a full chargeback solution is offered.

Microsoft also does not deliver a solution for Capacity Management. Using some third party management packs for System Center Operations Manager some rough capacity estimates can be given. This cannot be compared to the capacity management offered in vCenter Operations Manager. vCenter Operations Manager is part of VMware Operations Management Suite.
So with Microsoft private cloud Capacity Management is very limited, it is fully integrated in VMware’s private cloud offering.

While the costs of buying the software, maintenance and support are clear (listed in a pricelist) the costs of using the software are not. At this point it is impossible to judge how well the System Center 2012 products can interact with eachother and how eassy they can be used by IT-staff. I do not have experience with the VMware private solutions to say anything about how well those components work together.

VMware response
At April 9 VMware responded to the Microsoft claim by posting a blogposting titled 7 Reasons Why Microsoft’s Cloud Math Needs Remediation. VMware makes it’s own cost calculation and it turns out to be 15 % cheaper than Microsoft private cloud solution. This calculation is questionable as well. VMware compares vCenter with System Center. System Center offers a lot more functionality than vCenter Server alone.
The conclusion of VMware is
The Microsoft white paper is nothing but an attempt to artificially inflate VMware’s prices and distract customers from the shortcomings of their own products.

Microsoft want to believe that their private cloud solution is 5 to 16 times cheaper than VMware’s solution. In real they are comparing apples to oranges.


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