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Convert to Hyper-V or vSphere?

A question that seems to be on the minds of many, today, is the question of whether to convert to Microsoft's Hyper-V or VMware's vSphere. The first thing I hear after that is a price comparison, followed by an argument in favor of one or the other. My answer, as usual, is, "It depends." IT should not be looking at everything from a cost perspective all the time -- it's not the sole function of IT. I understand that the great recession molded us in a way where all we think about is cost savings.

Today more than ever, IT is an essential part of any business's success. So, IT has to grow up and understand that its role has evolved. We are no longer able to just rack, stack, cable and install operating systems and applications and expect to rule the world. Instead of IT focusing on how to justify every penny it needs and instead of being viewed as a cost center, it is time for IT to start thinking in business terms. I live and die by one rule, and so should you: "There are no IT projects, only business projects."

With that rule in mind, instead of comparing Hyper-V and vSphere from a cost and features standpoint, consider the business implications. Have you considered the implications of your decision not just on today's requirements but also on your one-, three- and five-year IT strategy plans? I will stop with the rhetoric and get more specific. Here is a list of questions that will help you frame which virtual infrastructure is good for you (and in some cases, it might be both):

  • Do you have a one-, three- and five-year IT strategic plan?
  • Do you have a cloud computing strategy? Private and public?
  • Have you evaluated your current applications and their supportability and performance on the virtual infrastructure of choice?
  • Have you considered applications that the business could be looking at that you have not been informed of yet? Have you communicated with the business?
  • Do you have a backup and recovery plan and, if so, have you considered its implications and requirements?
  • Are you considering converged infrastructures?
  • Are you considering automation and orchestration at both the virtual and physical layers?
  • Are you considering advanced virtual networking, security and data mobility across geographies?

These are just sample questions and one could probably make the argument for both Hyper-V and vSphere, but where your role comes into play is to evaluate where both these infrastructures are at from a capabilities perspective as it aligns with your current and your short- and long-term objectives. Which company's private cloud strategy is more mature and addresses your requirements? Which company's technology is more aligned with other players in your datacenter that could help you implement your strategy? And, more important, which company's vision is more closely aligned with your needs?

You must build a business case and judge the technologies based on what they can deliver today as well as look at the potential for technology delivery in a timely manner tomorrow.

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, "I am an SMB company and this seems complicated and applies to enterprises only," then I disagree with you, I think SMBs also have a strong ambition to leverage the cloud and limit or eliminate a managed physical infrastructure. As a result, your technology selection will affect your company's ability to deliver services.

If you choose a hypervisor and then realize that your company needs one that can migrate from a private to public cloud, for example, or if you choose a virtual infrastructure that did not have the right level or maturity of integration with a converged infrastructure (again, to deliver services), you should re-evaluate your decisionmaking process. It's not just about "good enough," it's about "what we are doing next." Once you've decided on one virtual infrastructure over another, both Microsoft and VMware offer free tools to help you migrate to their platforms.

Microsoft just released its Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter, which allows you to convert VMDKs created with vSphere 4.0 or newer into VHDX format to run on Hyper-V of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 with Hyper-V or newer. Conversely, VMware also has a free tool called VMware vCenter Converter, which would help you convert Microsoft Virtual Hard Drive file format into vSphere.

The point I am trying to make here is that there is no lack of tools to convert you from one platform or another. My advice to you is to put the marketing and vendor pressure aside and make a decision not solely on cost today, but also on alignment and value that you can realistically deliver to your organization.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 10/31/2012 at 3:04 PM


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