I recently floated the idea of implementing a mix of virtualization products in your data center as a way to better customize your virtual environments. The query was part of a larger discussion I wanted to get going about how VMware will compete when Hyper-V is generally released. I threw out the notion that data center managers might use, for example, Hyper-V for end-user file servers; VMware ESX for apps that require dynamic load balancing, sophisticated disaster recovery and migration; and Xen for commodity Linux boxes.
The idea behind that supposition was to match your enterprise investments to appropriate workloads because, let’s face it, running everything on ESX is going to be expensive compared to other options. Big deal if you don’t get ESX-level features because you may get enterprise level features on silver-medal products.
Now, I wish I could take credit for that idea (for better or for worse), but that really came from SearchServerVirtualization.com‘s editor, Jan Stafford. At any rate, a few people had comments about that note and I thought it would be fitting to continue that conversation with their input:
One of the reasons I think Hyper-V is interesting is the server core concept. The ability to create appliance virtual machines for specific roles such as DNS, DHCP, DC etc. means you can drastically reduce the manageability overhead and the attack surface for those servers. Weird – I’m finding myself suggesting that an all-MS platform may actually be more secure than the alternatives!
On the other hand, you may be correct that fully-fledged servers with complex HA needs will be better off on ESX.
There are flaws to this query, the base of which stem from whether ESX, Hyper-V and Xen-based virtualization products can even be compared; never mind that there are disparities between Xen-based virtualization vendors (xVM isn’t Red Hat isn’t Citrix Xen etc). This was the point that some folks took issue with:
Just a comment about an “apples and oranges” comparison you made:
I understand the point you were trying to make about using the right virtualization product for the right job, and at times this might mean using multiple solutions, but you can’t really compare Hyper-V or VMware to Xen. Both Virtual Iron and Citrix offer a virtualization solution based on Xen technology, but neither sells just Xen. Your reference to Xen brings to mind what a Suse or Red Hat shop might do with Xen technology, but not those that would consider Hyper-V or VMware as a virtualization solution.
So, there are still many problems that have to be approached before we even ask the question of implementing a mixed enterprise virtualization infrastructure. Ultimately, people will have to decide on what functionality, support and management interfaces are important. Is quick migration support good enough, or do you need live migration? How does each platform approach P2V conversions? Does VirtualCenter have the right kind of management options for your installation? Will you be better off using System Center Virtual Machine Manager?
Let’s keep prodding at this idea and brainstorm ways that using multiple virtualization products in one environment could work. Send us your comments and feedback. If you’ve tried the mixed virtualization environment, we’d love to hear about it.