Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V compared to VMware vSphere 5.1

Disclaimer: opinions written at this blog are mine.

This posting is one in a long series of blogpostings in which I compare various features of VMware vSphere with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V compared to VMware vSphere 5.1
vSphere 5 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: storage integration
vSphere 5 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V:management
vSphere 5 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: high available VMs
vSphere 5 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: Resource metering for chargeback
vSphere 5 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: costs
vSphere 5 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: hybride cloud
VMware vSphere 5.1 versus Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: replication

Now that both Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V (September 4) and VMware vSphere 5.1 (September 11) are GA we can do a nice compare of two real products.

I did a similar compare in January 2012. See this post for a compare of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V beta version and vSphere 5.0
Since January 2012 a lot has changed.

One note: I appreciate any feedback. Please use the comment feature or send me an email for additions, corrections etc. Address is listed in the left column.

How did VMware respond to the new Hyper-V release?

They discontinued the infamous vRAM. While at the introduction of vRAM VMware stated vSphere 5 would cost not more than vSphere 4 for most customers, one year later they found out it was not such a good idea after all. A big Mea Culpa of Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware for introducing this what Microsoft called vTAX.

VMware did more: they added features like storage vMotion, Hot Add, Fault Tolerance and vShield Zones to the vSphere 5.1 Standard Edition with no extra charge. These feature were previously available in more expensive editions.
VMware also added their DR tool vSphere Replication to Essentials Plus and higher editions with no extra charge.

They enhanced the vMotion feature such it can be used to move VMs to another host without shared storage. And last but not least VMware replaced the Data Recovery backup tool by a newly built backup tool based on EMC Avamar named Data Protection.

The Enterprise Plus edition has SR-IOV added and can now use 64 virtual CPU’s which is equal to Hyper-V.

The price for vSphere 5.1 has not changed.

Whats happening at Microsoft?

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 on paper looks like a good solution for many small organizations. It has been made available for MSDN, Volume License customers etc since September 4.

There is one BUT: System Center 2012 which delivers a lot of features on private cloud needs Service Pack 1 to be able to use Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. See my earlier post about SP1 here.
System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 without SP1 cannot connect to Windows Server 2012 running Hyper-V hosts.
However VM and host management on Windows Server 2012 can be done using Hyper-V manager, Failover Cluster Manager or even PowerShell but still features like deployment using templates are missing. Also to be able to extend the functionality of virtual switches SC2012  SP1 is needed. The same applies for using Virtual Networking.

Also backup of Cluster Shared Volumes 2.0 in Hyper-V is only supported by SC2012 when DPM 2o12 SP1 is available. Strange as third party tools of Altaro (more info here)  and Veeam Backup & Replication 6.5 will or already support CSV2.0

Looking at enterprise class features vSphere is still in the lead. Microsoft lacks a feature to control Storage IO consumption. This can easily lead to a noisy neighbor situation in which a low priority VM consumes all storage bandwidth/iops  resulting in bad performance for business critical VMs. A way to solve this in a Hyper-V infrastructure is replacing CSV and buying third party tooling like Sanbolic Melio FS. Another  method is manually move the noisy neighbor to a LUN /storage array which does not interfere with business critical VMs.

vSphere has a feature called Storage IO Control. It kicks in when latency gets above a defined threshold. It will throttle the HBA queues and will give VMs with a higher share value priority to the storage array. More info here.

Microsoft leads in scaleability. 1024 VMs can run on a host while vSphere can do 512.  However I do not think we are going to see many organizations having the need to run 1024 VMs on a single node.

At the launch Microsoft also announced now 8000 VMs can run in a cluster. The old value was 4000 VMs. I will change the table soon!

The virtual disk format VHDX of Hyper-V can be as large as 64 TB. This makes it a clear winner over vSphere VMDK which is limited to 2 TB. Using Raw Device Mappings (having some disadvantages) larger volumes can be presented to VMs.

One of the less matured aspects  of Hyper-V is its ecosystem. For example  I am not aware of a enterprise Disaster Recovery tool which allows to test failover, orchestrate failovers and report on testing for 100s of VMs. vSphere has at least three solutions offering DR for the enterprise market

An overview
The table below shows an overview of features of Windows Server 2012 and vSphere 5.1 Standard edition. The vSphere 5.1 Standard Edition matches features of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V most.
The features which are new to vSphere 5.1 compared to vSphere 5 are marked in red and bold.

If you are interested in an overview showing all vSphere 5.1 editions and features compared to Hyper-V see this link.

Still both solutions offer features which are unique. vSphere standard + vCenter Server does not have dynamic placement of VMs as DRS is not available, Hyper-V+SCVMM 2012 has Dynamic Optimization.

I could not list all features, the table would just be too long. However all important and relevant features are listed.

Besides features costs is an important aspect. Hyper-V comes in different editions. All editions have the same feature set.

Hyper-V Server 2012 can be used free. It has only the Hyper-V role so you cannot install AD, IIS, file services or other roles. No problem because why would you like other software running inside the hypervisor kernel? Also the free edition does not have a graphical userinterface. If you want a GUI, third party tooling like vtUtilities will give you one. And you do not get free virtualization rights.
All these limitations apply to vSphere as well.

However the management of Hyper-V is not free. If you want to use SC2012 SP1 you pay per managed host. Sc2012 SP1 delivers a lot of features which cannot compared to vCenter Server.

Hyper-V Replica enabled organizations to replicate VMs to another location for Disaster Recovery purposes. VMware included vSphere Replication for free in vSphere 5.1. This is however limited in features. It does not offer a failback feature like Hyper-V Replica. Nor does it reconfigure the IP-adress of VMs when it has failed over.

Microsoft marketing department made a compare as well. Obviously biased as the unique features to vSphere 5.1 are left out.See this whitepaper titled Why Hyper-V? Competitive Advantages of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V over VMware vSphere 5.1
Conclusion
Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V features are roughly equal to those of vSphere 5.1 Standard Edition. Some important differences are the 64 TB virtual disk support of Hyper-V and Hyper-V Replica which has more advanced features than vSphere Replica.

For smaller environments Hyper-V + SC2012 delivers lots of value for money for less money than vSphere 5.1 standard + vCenter Server.

For enterprises and cloud providers (large, complex  infrastructures)  vSphere Enterprise Plus has much better features. Control of storage consumption per VM, distributed virtual switches, a rich ecosystem for DR, vMotion over long distances, support for metrocluster  are just a few examples.

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MIND THE TABLE BELOW COMPARES vSPHERE STANDARD EDITION TO HYPER-V. YOU WILL MISS THE FEATURES PART OF  THE OTHER, MORE EXPENSIVE EDITIONS. THOSE ARE LISTED IN THIS OVERVIEW

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