The timing on this post might seam a little strange, but I’ve been meaning to write this for a while and I finely got a chance to do it.
Back when Hyper-V 1.0 was released it wasn’t all that great of a product. It showed some promise, but it really wasn’t there. I had all sorts of people (mostly from Microsoft) telling me that it was way better than ESX and that I needed to give it a shot. My personal feelings are that it wasn’t anywhere near where ESX was, and for my production environment I needed the better product, so we went with ESX 3.5.
Well a while back Microsoft released Hyper-V 2.0 and it is a much better release than it was at the time. I’d even be willing to stack it up next to VMware’s ESX 3.5 which was VMware’s competing version at the time of release. Put next to ESX 3.5 you would have two well matched products. Both included a real time online migration solution vMotion for ESX and life migration for Hyper-V. Both support being put into a high availability cluster. Both support pass through disks so that the guest OS has direct access to the fibre channel storage.
However shortly after Hyper-V 2.0 was release VMware released vSphere 4.0 which is the successor to ESX 3.5 and with vSphere 4.0 they’ve blown the doors off of Hyper-V yet again.
vSphere gives us FT or Fault Tolerance which basically runs a single VM on two machines with only one of the machines being active at a time. In the event that one host fails the other host being running the VM actively with no outage to the guest. Users connected to the guest won’t even know that the guest has switched to another machine.
VMware has also introduced some interesting features as experimental which means that we will probably see them show up as full on features in a future release. This includes the ability to map an HBA directly to a virtual machine to give the VM actual direct access to the HBA. At the moment that HBA can only be mapped to a single VM, but hopefully in the next release they will fix that.
Now don’t get we wrong, I think that Hyper-V has come a long way since the v1 release. Do I think that Hyper-V is an Enterprise Ready solution? Yes I do. Do I think Hyper-V is ready to be called the winner in the virtualization server space? No, not at all. I think it is anyone’s game still before we have a clear winner. Hyper-V has a big selling point to it, the cost to get into Hyper-V is free, as long as you don’t want to cluster it. Then you’ll need to purchase a management tools license for each host machine. How with VMware you’ll want the management tool weather you cluster the machines or not, but its a single purchase from VMware at least.
What it really comes down to is that you need to fully evaluate both platforms and due a solid CBA (Cost Benefit Analysis) as well as a full feature analysis before picking a platform for your enterprise. Because once you pick one platform moving from one to the other is very tough to do.