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Hyper-V: Taking it on the Chin?

In the course of tracking reader response to articles on the Virtualization Review Web site via Google Analytics, I have noticed that my Nov. 10 blog, "Hyper-V, We've got a Problem (Actually Three)" has had some pretty good legs. I guess it still does, because while I was away for the holidays, the following e-mail came in from Christopher Whitfield, Principal Consultant with BT Global Services. In a nutshell, he seems to think that Hyper-V got a bad rap.

Christopher writes:

I don't always spend much time responding to these since I know you probably get bombarded every day by thousands of emails and may never even see mine, much less respond. Likewise, I am not a fan of the flame wars that comments and responses often devolve into.

First I will say that I am not religiously tied to any particular platform for virtualization or even OS. I have always believed strongly in using whatever is best for the situation at hand be that focusing on price, features, or even "religious issues of technology". This perspective has helped me through the past 13 years of my career, but it has also made me have some significant problems with some of the so-called 'experts' which, in this instance is Gartner (not that they don't periodically have some good insight).

There are several key problems I have with the points brought to light in the article and I will address each in order for convenience.

1. The issue of market share, while largely accurate, is by no means a determining factor. Take, case in point, the Novell vs. Microsoft story back in the day. Novell had by far the largest portion of the market and could theoretically have kept it, had they not underestimated Microsoft. Does that mean I think MS has this in the bag? Not even remotely, but they have been terribly smart in their approach by building technologies to enable the adoption of Hyper-V without sacrificing or overly complicating the existing investments in VMware in the form of System Center Virtual Machine Manager. As a consultant working in the field, more and more people are starting to think about possibly adding Hyper-V to their environment. Perhaps it's just for the dev or QA stuff or maybe some small offshoot project that they can't, or won't, commit production VMware resources for. Once they do, they'll see that the product is solid…really solid. And once the security folks get into the fray, the battle may go further against VMware (that's another conversation though).

2. And as for your comments about PowerShell and requiring the OS, you missed the mark in part there as well. Starting with Server 2008 R2, PowerShell is now available in Core mode installations of the product which have many other common components stripped out. On top of this, Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, which has most of the remaining OS components stripped out, is now capable of everything that the Hyper-V role on Server 2008 R2 is capable of…AND you can install PowerShell on it if you want to (though I would personally probably use VMM myself). That aside, you are missing one of the benefits of Hyper-V over ESX: the support for a wider array of hardware. Even when using Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 instead of Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Hyper-V role installed (and there IS a difference), you get the benefit of support for a much wider array of devices. Take my laptop for example, which is running Server 2008 with the Hyper-V role installed, I am able to use a run-of-the-mill external drive to host all my VMs that is connected via either my USB or eSATA ports. ESX can't do that.

3. Patching and OS. This one irritates me to no end as it is often quoted as the reason to avoid using a Microsoft solution for this or that. The big problem with this is, if you are constantly patching your Windows Servers, the problem is not the Microsoft OS, it's the ability of the organization to understand what 'patch management' really means. It's not merely applying patches just because patches exist, but rather evaluating the applicability of patches to a given system or role. For example, there is no need to patch a security vulnerability for Windows Media Player unless you are using your server to watch movies on and, if you are doing that, you deserve what you get. The same goes for IE vulnerabilities and many other components of the OS as well. Personally I wish Microsoft would group patches by roles or activities so as to make this more clear. And as to the reboot factor, ANY solution (including VMware) requires a reboot of the host system when certain patches are applied. The beauty of a high availability solution, if properly designed, provides a simple and effective manner in which to address the problem.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think VMware is bad for the most part; rather I believe that Hyper-V is simply better than most people give it credit for. When you throw in the price aspect for both hardware AND software, is VMware really worth the extra when you have perfectly functional free alternatives that don't sacrifice any functionality? In the desktop arena on the other hand (VMware Workstation vs. Virtual PC 2007/Windows Virtual PC), VMware has the living daylights beat out of Microsoft and just about every other product on the Windows platform I have tried to date.

Anyway, just my own thoughts on the matter, but I thought I would share anyway.

Do you agree or disagree with him? Please e-mail your comments to me at bhoard@1105media.com.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 01/05/2010 at 12:48 PM


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