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Last summer I wrote about an IT manager’s virtualization platform decision on Server Virtualization Blog, and bloggers took great exception to the fact that the user had chosen Microsoft Virtual Server over VMware ESX.
The general opinion was that the user was misinformed and misguided, and ESX users were quick to point out why. On the other hand, on his blog Scott Lowe summed up the pragmatic readers’ view, which goes something like this: If you’re looking for a no-frills, non-production virtual machine platform, then freebies like Microsoft Virtual Server and Vmware Server are right up your alley. Their simplicity also suits that functionality picture. If you are moving upstream, however, paying the price for a production-level platform is the best option, and Vmware ESX is arguably the best option these days.
Recently, I got an update on today’s ESX versus the other virtualization platforms scenario from a Microsofft MVP, Steve Kaplan, and his cohort, Bryan Dickson, both of system integrator and Vmware consulting firm AccessFlow Inc. Kaplan said:
Virtual Server runs on top of a 150-million lines-of-code Windows 2003. This inherently has the performance, reliability and security limitations of a fat underlying operating system. It misses essential features for an enterprise data center platform such as four-way SMP, 64-bit guests, 16GB memory per guest, VMotion, High Availability, Distributed Resource Scheduling, centralized management, etc. Microsoft realizes the limitations of VS [Virtual Server], which is why it has made the product EOL, and why Microsoft is coming out with an ESX-like hypervisor, Viridian. But Viridian is going to be comparable to ESX 1.0 (2001).It is going to lack many of the features and industry support that make ESX the standard.
By comparison, ESX is 150K lines of code – it is extremely robust and secure. It is also supported by nearly every major hardware and software manufacturer on the planet. And, far from being a deterrent, the hundreds of third-party manufacturers building .vmdk compliant virtual appliances are adding enhanced capabilities around storage, backup, firewall, etc. that are simply not available in the physical realm.
Kaplan has more to say about price performance in the article, Should VMware lower pricing of ESX Server?
Moving upstream brings benefits and added costs, said Dickson, but the pay-off is greater, too. He said:
Yes, ESX3/Virtual Infrastructure I3 is more expensive, and it is more complicated to administer [due to] it’s extensive feature list. I am sure the consolidation ratios and administration time, and feature benefits would more than make up the difference in cost. We have never seen a customer not realize a strong ROI in a short period of time. You can get much more with VI3 while still having a positive ROI.
I’d like to hear from more IT pros about whether ESX/VI3 give good ROI and whether Microsoft is going to be playing catch-up in the virtualization market for years. Will Microsoft’s traditional play of lower cost and almost-as-many features work put Viridian into more production environments, and will that be a good thing? Comment here, please, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.