While I was at VMWorld last week, a question that I was asked over and over was, “Do you think Microsoft Hyper-V is ready for the enterprise?”, and I said yes. Now, I am not saying that Hyper-V and VMware are equal; anyone who has done their homework knows that this is not the case. However, I will say that they are pretty close and that gap will continue to close now that Microsoft is finally doing a good job of listening to their customers and delivering on those requests.
What features are important when selecting a hypervisor? Well, as a customer I can say that features of Hyper-V pretty much sum that up. So, to support my ever growing VM population as I scale back my physical sprawl, I would say high availability along with improved network through-put and control of LUN populations top my list. Oh, and I can’t forget about my shrinking IT budget to make this happen. This is where Microsoft has delivered.
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 gives me the ability to implement virtualization with little cost while still maintaining my business continuity needs. I able to meet my hardware redundancy needs by utilizing failover clustering which allows for the automatic failover of VM’s should a hardware failure occur. This provides the ability to implement a greater number of VM’s on fewer LUNs with the use of CSV (Cluster Shared Volumes). This allows the ability to store a greater number of VM’s on a single LUN instead of the 1:1, VM to VM service configuration that’s available in Hyper-V V1. Now, the feature that I think has the greatest amount of attention is Live Migration; giving the administrator the ability to move a running virtual machine from one VM host to another without any downtime to the end user. VHD performance has also been significantly improved as well with fixed disk VHD’s running at near native disk speed and Dynamic VHD’s running at 95% of native disk speed. This is a major improvement and one a lot of current Hyper-V sites will be very happy with.
Now, we all have to agree that these features are what most are seeking in their hypervisor solution or at least they are highlighted the most, but what about the other great benefits. A couple that I am pretty excited about surround networking. I work with a tremendous amount of data that puts extra strain on my host, so I am looking forward to implementing VM Chimney and/or VMQ (Virtual Machine Queuing). Keep in mind that these features are only supported in your configuration if you are running one of a handful of supported network cards, but if you are, then you get the ability to take a lot of those CPU cycles used to process the network load and hand it off to the NIC’s. Keeping in mind that even thou there are network cards that support both, there aren’t any that can support both at the same time yet. Jumbo Frames support is awesome and speaks for itself, but for those of you who don’t know let’s take a second and talk about it. Jumbo Frames provides a larger packet windows size allowing more data to be added. This allows data to be sent quicker and more efficiently.
What else is great about R2? Well, how about the ability to hot add or remove storage from your VM. I can’t tell you how many times I have needed to address my VM storage configuration, but would have to schedule a downtime to address them, but not anymore. Hyper-V host capabilities have been greatly improved with the support up to 64 logical processors, 1TB of memory and support for up to 384 running VM’s. This will greatly improve the Hyper-V VM density that VMware is so vocal about Microsoft not having.
Finally, what about cost? You can’t beat it. With VMware I have to invest in vSphere and then I have to purchase any of the extra features that I may require in my enterprise, ex. vMotion, HA, DRS, and then I still have to purchase my Microsoft CALs on top of that. This can get very expensive very quick. Microsoft Hyper-V is included with the Windows Server 2008 R2 CAL and depending on the solution you implement; it comes with a number of guest licenses as well. The best bet for most enterprises that are planning on implementing a large number of VM’s is in build Windows Server 2008 Datacenter into their design plan. DC is priced per a processor, but includes an unlimited guest CAL. This means that you can host an unlimited number of virtual machines with no additional licensing cost and I don’t need to tell anyone what a great deal that is.
So, like I said Hyper-V is not the complete apples to apples hypervisor that VMWare is giving we are missing features like memory overcommit and Storage vMotion. But, these are not important to my enterprise today and I hear the same voices by others. The well thought-out feature set that Hyper-V R2 gives me, I would have to say to completely disagree with the Burton Group and say that I would completely agree with users like me who say that Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V are very ready for the production enterprise.