Virtual Cloud Strategy

ESXi Is Hyper-V, Management Isn't

Hear this, Hyper-V deniers: The hypervisor you hate is the hypervisor you love.

Hyper-V and ESXi are produced by different companies. The features are different in name, similar in function.

But strip away the marketing fluff and contentious debate, and today's unbiased eye will be hard-pressed not to find striking similarities.

ESXi has long been lauded as an almost "appliance OS." Its console offers a GUI-less, text-oriented experience. Its installation requires little more than a hostname, disk configuration and a few network settings. Once connected, the bulk of its management occurs within vSphere. Configurations set in that studio are relayed to ESXi hosts where actions are ultimately executed.

ESXi updates are another activity best done through vSphere. Updates there are collected, bundled and scheduled for installation on awaiting hosts. Running VMs are evacuated before hosts get rebooted, preserving uptime for mission-critical workloads.

Hyper-V installed onto a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2012 is also almost an "appliance OS" -- when the manufacturer recommendations are followed and Hyper-V stands alone. The Hyper-V Server Core console offers a GUI-less, text-oriented experience, and an installation that requires little more than hostname, disk configuration and a few network settings.

Once connected, Hyper-V is managed by System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), with configurations relayed to Hyper-V hosts.

You can install Hyper-V updates manually, but doing so isn't a best practice. VMM 2012 in combination with Microsoft Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) collects, bundles and schedules update installations on awaiting hosts. While many Windows updates require a reboot, VMM automatically evacuates running VMs.

We introduce this comparison to bring an end to a trend. On alternating days we've been labeled VMware fanboys and Microsoft shills. In reality, we're simply tired of the hypervisor war. We believe the best virtual strategy is an unbiased look across the range of technologies to find the one -- or more -- that best fits business needs. We further believe that the longstanding vitriolic hypervisor war has unnecessarily forced many people down a less-than-optimal path.

Notably, though, a sea change is afoot. An important tenet in our mindset evolution is IT's collective conscious beginning to separate "the hypervisor" from "tools that manage the hypervisor." This is a good thing.

That's because the hypervisor has become a utility. You can find evidence of this by skimming any virtualization-related articles or sessions at this year's conferences.

Replacing it is something more valuable. The interest in virtualization today lies in its management studio -- the extended portfolio of tools that facilitate automation in operating your virtual and cloud-enabled environments.

Critically important to recognize is that studio is no longer vSphere and VMM alone. Fully benefiting from your virtual investment requires a far more diverse toolset. You need tools that monitor behaviors, tools that deliver configurations both onto and inside VMs, not to mention tools that orchestrate all the little business rules of your particular environment.

You also need administrators who are willing to use those tools.

The virtual environment that pays dividends is one that's moved beyond mere VMs. Replacing that early focus on VMs is a new emphasis -- one step higher -- on IT services and IT service delivery.

This extended management portfolio now exists and is becoming impressively mature. Microsoft delivers automation via its extended System Center suite: Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Orchestrator and others integrate to fulfill all the functions IT services require. The VMware vCloud and vCenter Operations Management suites offer a similar and yet different toolset for managing your workloads, VMs and services.

Today's hypervisor has become a commodity, just like physical servers did a generation ago. Those servers are simply workhorses, driving whatever IT services run atop their hardware.

It's the management that matters.

About the Authors

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. He’s the President of PowerShell.org, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. Follow Don on Twitter at @ConcentratedDon.

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