Virtualization Best Server Virtualization Software for 2021

Best Server Virtualization Software for 2021

Server virtualization software burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. The meteoric rise of VMware – the market pioneer – came about as organizations realized the benefits of consolidating multiple physical servers onto one virtual machine (VM). Gone were the days of low rates of server utilization and one physical server hosting one application.

Server virtualization remains a growth area of IT. According to Market Research Future, the server virtualization market is expected to grow at approximately $8 billion by 2023, at 7% of CAGR between 2017 and 2023. That represents a market that will almost double in that time.

While VMware remains the market leader, alternatives from Microsoft, Red Hat, Citrix, Oracle, Proxmox, IBM, Virtuozzo, and others offer plenty of competition. Those companies offer a slew of features that have given new life to virtualization. The latest generation of products incorporate features for the cloud, containerization, hyper-convergence, and software-defined computing.

While containers are hot and interest in serverless computing is growing, the reality is that server virtualization remains a rock-solid technology that powers the vast majority of enterprise applications – some estimates put VM saturation as high as 90 percent.

For the moment, it is difficult to envision enterprises moving mission-critical applications running smoothly on VMs to either containers or a serverless platform. Users with heterogeneous environments, in particular, will likely still use VMs because containers need to run all on the same OS and can’t be mixed between Linux and Windows. But for new applications built with the DevOps and agile methodologies, developers will have to decide whether to run them  in a VM, a container, or a serverless environment. Long term, this will pose a challenge to server virtualization.

Choosing server virtualization software

When choosing server virtualization software, successful implementation depends largely on whether the tool reflects a company’s unique business needs and goals. here are a few factors to consider.

Supported operating systems

The first thing to consider when shopping for virtual solutions is each software’s supported operating systems (OS). Some are developed to support specific OSs, such as Windows or Mac. However, if you want to execute multiples types of OSs (Mac, Windows, Linux) simultaneously, there are platforms specifically designed to allow this functionality.

Virtualization software scalability

For internet-based companies, virtualization software scalability to support fluctuating numbers of users and the ability to quickly deploy new features is a valuable asset.

Reduce resources with virtualization

Some companies that need to save headroom for their actual machine (VM) will likely want to reduce resources with virtualization software that consumes less memory. If a system is limited on RAM, the extra resource usage needed to support a robust virtualization tool can seriously slow down a system. Ultimately, this could lead to spending more money on upgrading hardware. And if the price is the main concern, there are free virtualization options available.

Top virtualization software

Here are the top server virtualization software vendors that you should consider for your business. Whether your company values speed, cost-effectiveness or scalability, one of these software options should serve your needs.

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VMware vSphere

VMware is the vendor to beat in server virtualization with VMware vSphere. It is likely to be on all shortlists as it has dominated the market for so long. It top all competitors on overall user ratings.

But it may be a victim of its own success. The company has steadily advanced functionality to the point where it may be a little too complex for SMBs that are not tech savvy. In addition, some users believe that there are better alternatives around for Linux-heavy environments. Pricing is another area where competitors can gain ground. VMware has always offered a premium product at a premium price.

However, in large enterprise environments – with a large budget – that cross a variety of platforms, OSs and architectures, VMware remains king.

Read our in-depth review of VMware vSphere

Red Hat Virtualization

Red Hat Virtualization does well against VMware in Linux environments. It is lower cost and is said to be easier to manage. Overall user ratings are only slightly behind vSphere. While it is used by many SMBs, they tend to only be those with IT staff already experienced in open source and Linux deployments.

Overall, it is more of a tool for large deployments that require significant server density. Where Linux is preferred to Windows, Red Hat Virtualization should be on the short list.

Read our in-depth review of Red Hat Virtualization

Proxmox VE

Proxmox is a lower-cost alternative to Red Hat in Linux-rich environments. It has carved out a niche in Germany and other parts of Europe, particularly among SMBs with IT staff experienced in open source software. Its combination of server virtualization, containers and software defined storage in one product makes it especially attractive to organizations wishing to implement these technologies. It also competes closely with Virtuozzo (see below).

Read our in-depth review of Proxmox VE

Microsoft Hyper-V

Open source environments are unlikely to view Microsoft as their top choice for a virtualization platform. And it very much works the other way. Why use Linux-oriented and open-source tools to manage VMs on Windows servers? This play in Microsoft’s favor: any Microsoft or Windows shop will typically avoid open source vendors, and instead place Hyper-V on it short list.

Hyper-V scores only a little behind VMware on user ratings, but is less expensive and more tightly integrated to the entire Microsoft ecosystem. But VMware may be a better option for more environments. However, check compatibility carefully as Hyper-V has a wider range of supported hardware, and offers certain advanced features without requiring additional license fees.

Read our in-depth review of Microsoft Hyper-V

Citrix Hypervisor

Citrix Hypervisor offers an enterprise-level feature set as a low-cost virtualization platform alternative to VMware vSphere. It leads the industry in 3D graphics support, and can span both Windows and Linux workloads.

Hypervisor is graded a little behind VMware by users, but not by much. It also has a following among SMBs. For those with an existing Citrix presence, it is an attractive option. It is also a candidate where there is a large mix of Windows and Linux machines. But where one or the other of these operating systems predominates, other virtualization platforms may be a better fit.

Read our in-depth review of Citrix Hypervisor

Oracle VM Server

Oracle VM VirtualBox is clearly a good choice for Oracle application users in an x86 or AMD/Intel64 environment. Because it’s open source, skilled IT teams appreciate its flexibility and speedy performance when testing, developing, demonstrating and deploying solutions across multiple platforms from one machine. This cross-platform virtualization solution supports Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Oracle Solaris and a variety of guest operating systems.

While it falls behind in automated conveniences and elegant interfaces compared to the competition, it makes for these drawbacks with powerful performance, flexibility, and a large library of third-party prebuilt emulated systems. The price point is also a large draw, as it’s freely available under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.

Read our in-depth review of Oracle VM Server


Just as VirtualBox is the obvious first choice for Oracle apps, IBM PowerVM should be the first port of call for those seeking to virtualize AIX, IBM Linux, and IBM i clients.

However, VMware, Citrix and other open source tools may also get the job done if IBM’s solution proves over-engineered. The IBM option is often used by larger enterprises with significant budgets. Small businesses deploying IBM PowerVM may be better to bring in outside help to get it up and running. The complexity of the solution requires some true expertise.

Read our in-depth review of IBM PowerVM


Virtuozzo is basically a company set up to provide commercial support for the open source Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) platform. It adds a great many enhancements to KVM, which is the most popular open source hypervisor.

Those using KVM who wish enhanced functionality and support should consider Virtuozzo, as well as anyone wanting to virtualize Linux servers. Its user base is comprised of mainly small and mid-sized companies as opposed to large enterprises. Virtuozzo combines server virtualization with software defined storage and containerization. But many other vendors’ can scale better and have more features akin to VMware. SMBs should consider Virtuozo, if cost is the primary concern. But larger organizations with bigger budgets may want to look elsewhere.

Read our in-depth review of Virtuozzo




Overhead %





Key Differentiator

Vmware vSphere






1,024 VMs per host



5 to 25



SMB-large enterprise

Standard: $995 per license, plus $273 per year support Enterprise Plus: $3,595 per license plus $755 per year for support

Drag and drop or command line

Market leader in virtualization

Red Hat Virtualization


up to 400 hosts

5 to 20

Highly-scaled deployments with budget constraints.

Standard: $999/per managed hypervisor socket pair each year Premium: $1,499 per managed hypervisor socket pair each year

Manually or automated

Strong in Linux environments

Proxmox VE


Up to 32 nodes per cluster

5 to 10

Hyperconverged infrastructure, Ceph Storage cluster, software-defined data center, cloud computing.

Community:$85 per year & CPU Basic:$270 per year & CPU socket Standard: $398 per year & CPU socket Premium: $796 per year & CPU socket

One click in Web interface

Lower cost provider in Linux environments

Microsoft Hyper-V


240 vCPUs per VM

9 to 12

Windows Server users, Microsoft/Azure customers

Standard: $1,323 for up to 16 cores Datacenter: $3,607 for up to 16 cores

Import/export enables easy VM move

Top offering for Windows data centers

Citrix Hypervisor


64 VMs per host

5 to 10

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops users, data center server consolidation, high-performance 3D graphics.

Standard: $800 per CPU socket Premium: $1,525 per CPU socket 

Can move a running VM from one host to another

Lower cost alternative, popular among SMB

Oracle VM VirtualBox


256 vCPUs per guest

5 to 10

Oracle app users


Move over secure SSL links Geared for Oracle users and customers looking for a free, flexible solution



AIX, Linux and IBM i clients

1000 VMs on a single server

10 to 15

Virtualization for AIX, Linux and IBM i clients running IBM Power platforms

$590 per core

Move active or inactive VMs Very well suited for IBM environments




About 50 virtualization instances per server

5 to 20

KVM users, open source users, SMBs

$990 per month per business

Command line interface Focused on open source


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