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Why vSphere Is King of Hypervisors

Every now and then a report surfaces comparing vSphere to its hypervisor competitors. Everyone focuses on performance and how fast a live migration takes and how many concurrent live migrations can be run at the same time. But that's not enough, so they move on to memory management and "monster" VMs.

Before I continue, it is worth noting that I love VMware products and am a recipient of the VMware vExpert award. Even then, I also appreciate products from Citrix, Microsoft and others. In fact, I am an old time XenApp fellow and a huge supporter of XenDesktop. I also think Microsoft App-V and Hyper-V are fantastic products.

Now all that being said, when I am advising customers on a virtualization strategy, I keep emotions aside and make my recommendations not just based on features and pricing, but also and most especially on company focus and strategic vision. It's the reason I recommend vSphere 9 out of 10 times -- most certainly, it has a lot to do with features, performance, and stability, as well as supporting products in vSphere's realm.

VMware has a very clear strategic vision on where it wants to go and how it wants to get there. They are focused on the cloud, and every product it has fits perfectly in that strategy and is a building block leading up to it. vSphere as a virtual infrastructure is complete from every angle. It ties very well and has very large support from all storage vendors, lots of support from networking vendors and compute vendors.

I'm not saying that other hypervisors don't have support for these components. Take XenServer, for instance, sure, it has StorageLink and Hyper-V also has APIs for storage. So, the question is, how many storage arrays support these? We can talk about the network and you will notice that Cisco announced that it will extend Nexus 1000V support for Hyper-V 3. I am not going to go into how long this took, I am a strong believer that eventually all hypervisors will be on par from a feature and performance standpoint. It is the plugins and additional software that make all the difference in the world.

On another note, vSphere is a complete infrastructure deployment that addresses how security should work in a virtual environment with vShield, it addresses antivirus in a virtual environment with vShield Endpoint. We can't keep using agent-based approaches in a virtual world. Agent-based technology was perfect in a physical world because it is an isolated stack of compute, storage and networking. In the cloud era, having an agent-based approach in VMs defeats the purposes of the cloud where shared resources are the building blocks.

Let's shift to vCloud Director. It integrates perfectly with vSphere, is easy to deploy and use and has fantastic third-party support. vCloud works for your internal, on-premise clouds, but can also be used for your hybrid clouds. Again, we're talking one management console, one interface and excellent community support. Citrix and Microsoft have competing products, but do they integrate as well? How comprehensive is their communities' support? I am not trying to rub it in Citrix or Microsoft’ face right now; I am just explaining why we make certain decisions.

Let's look at vCenter Operations. Sure, this was an acquisition, but it also has been integrated perfectly in the virtual infrastructure. What is so special about vCOPS? It is a different way of looking at metrics, it is an easy way of taking a look at metrics and making sense of them. For years, we have had these monitoring systems that all gave us the same data, and for the most part they all plugged into perfmon and gathered the same data and put it in cool graphs. Did we ever use our monitoring tools? Come on, be honest. We looked at it, and when it was all green, we said, "perfect" and moved on. Today, we can measure health, we can measure trends, we can measure capacity. We have moved into proactive monitoring.

The point I'm trying to make is it does not matter anymore if a hypervisor performs a bit better or worse than another. What matters is how we are going to use this hypervisor today and how we can use it tomorrow. Here's an example: When I'm engaged in a desktop virtualization project, 9 out of 10 cases I recommend VMware vSphere for the virtual infrastructure, but in 9 out of 10 cases I also recommend Citrix XenDesktop for the broker. Why? For starters, vSphere is already likely the infrastructure in the environment; it has great storage support, which is imperative for desktop virtualization. It has an antivirus solution that is perfect for desktop virtualization, which is critical for desktop virtualization and it has remarkable networking support. So, by marrying best-of-breed software, you can leverage all the features, bells and whistles and come to an environment that runs very well.

Now that is just one example of many I can give, but what about strategic vision? What else is VMware working on that is not here yet? Another example: Who does not love Dropbox? In the age of cloud, an enterprise-like Dropbox solution would be very welcome by users and organizations alike. We should expect to see something from VMware in this area in the next year. Another strategic approach they have taken, is they have embraced "social business" by acquiring SocialCast, VMware is highlighting and emphasizing the era of social networking in the workforce and we will see social media integrated throughout the VMware product line where it makes sense.

So you see, it is not just about hypervisor pricing, it is not an apples to apples comparison anymore. In the age of virtualization, the hypervisor is the foundation, but it is all the added amenities which supports the transformation into IT as a Service.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 10/03/2011 at 12:49 PM


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