Virtualization Pro

Apr 2 2008   6:05PM GMT

VMware’s competitive edge shrinking in light of Hyper-V hype, experts say

Adam Trujillo Profile: Atrujillo

My Digg reader kicked out a great interview with VMware’s “product guru” Raghu Raghuram today in which he discusses the company’s product philosophy and how it translates to the VMware product line. During the interview, Raghuram says that there is a “stark difference” between Microsoft’s and VMware’s approach to virtualization. He had this to say about how he positions VMware ESX Server against Hyper-V:

Our view is that the core virtualization layer belongs in the hardware. It also has to be much smaller in order to reduce its surface area for attacks. This is why we introduced the 3i architecture . . . The Microsoft approach is to have virtualization be an adjunct to the OS . . . With the Hyper-V architecture, they’re still maintaining the same dependency on the OS.”

VMware ESX and Hyper-V are both bare metal virtualization products. To belabor an explanation, this means that they both sit in a thin OS layer abstracted from the hardware. This veritably eliminates hardware dependencies. However, Raghuram seems to be suggesting that Hyper-V is more of a hosted virtualization approach. This could be a misunderstanding on his part, questionable editing, or just a case of Microsoft being Microsoft.

At any rate, one difference that is certain can be logically approached when considering ESX versus Hyper-V. Something that virtualization expert Andrew Kutz said at a recent virtualization seminar keeps flashing in my mind. In his (and others’) view, Hyper-V will be the virtualization vendor to beat. This isn’t because Hyper-V is particularly a better product, but because VMware can’t compete with Microsoft on the level of supporting applications and interoperability.

In other words, after years of development and being the big guy in the computing space, Microsoft has a support cloud of applications and services all designed to work together that VMware will need to emulate in order to remain the leader in enterprise virtualization. This remains to be seen. But especially considering the low Hyper-V price tag ($28), VMware must be prepared to counter, at least with lower pricing.

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  • Bobstep1
    Hyper-V is not a bare metal hypervisor in the same sense as ESXi. Hyper-V requires a root VM running at least a bare bones version of windows in order to have access to device drivers and virtualizatoin services. ESXi runs directly on the bare metal, does not require a root partition, and is only 32MB. That's the point that Raghu was making. Hyper-V is roughly equivalent to ESX 1.0.
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  • Kadbet44
    Hyper-V is a container based virtualization rather than bare metal virtualization. Will require host Windows OS, and guests will have to be of same version/release. Mixing Windows and Linux will not be possible either, which VmWare will allow.
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  • Akutz
    Hyper-V sits between the hardware and OS, meaning that it is bare-metal in the strict sense, although not necessarily how VMware wants it to be defined. - "A core component of Hyper-V, Windows hypervisor is a thin layer of software between the hardware and the OS that allows multiple operating systems to run, unmodified, on a host computer at the same time. It provides simple partitioning functionality and is responsible for maintaining strong isolation between partitions. It has an inherently secure architecture with minimal attack surface, as it does not contain any third-party device drivers" has a visual diagram. The diagram you see is how Xen or ESX 3.5 works (basically). People can argue semantics, but if isn't a hosted model then it is either bare-metal, hybrid, or containerized. It isn't hybrid since the hypervisor isn't a kernel module that relies on the Windows kernel for memory and cpu management, and it is not a container model. Check out my TechTarget article on hypervisor architecture models for examples at,289483,sid94_gci1297582,00.html. The best way to understand the confusion is that the definition of "bare-metal" is changing. Prior to 3i, VMware would argue that 2 and 3 were bare-metal hypervisors. Under their new definition, created by removing the privileged partition/domain/service console, the older ESX architectures wouldn't qualify. Is Hyper-V bare-metal? I suppose that depends on who you ask and when you ask it.
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