As cloud computing gains traction, driven by global digital migration, transformation and acceleration, the role of server virtualization software becomes increasingly important.
The technology, designed to manage physical data center resources by efficiently creating multiple virtual machines (VMs) using hypervisor software, is used by all major cloud providers. Additionally, large enterprises, medium businesses, sectors like education and healthcare, and government agencies use server virtualization software to increase physical server utilization, reduce costs, improve security and disaster recovery, and enhance flexibility.
In 2023, under this highly competitive and growing environment, five top vendors have established themselves as market leaders:
- VMware vSphere: Best for large enterprises and cloud providers (Read more)
- Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines: Best for Microsoft integration (Read more)
- Citrix Hypervisor: Best for virtual desktop and application deployment (Read more)
- Red Hat Virtualization: Best Linux-based virtualization solution (Read more)
- Oracle VM VirtualBox: Best high-performance solution (Read more)
Top server virtualization software comparison
The following chart compares at a glance the different features of top server virtualization software providers.
|Ease of use||Innovation||Sustainability monitoring||Management features||Support||Starting price|
|VMware vSphere||Good||Built-in seamless support of new tech, AI, ML, and 3D graphics||Integrated||Advanced||24/7 multi- channel support||$576.96/yr.|
|Complex||User must integrate technologies||Not integrated||Advanced||24/7 multi- channel support||Pay-as- you-go complex license model|
|Citrix Hypervisor||Excellent||User must integrate technologies||Not integrated||Advanced||24/7 multi- channel support||$10/mo. per user|
|Red Hat Virtualization||Complex||User must integrate technologies||Not integrated||Advanced||24/7 multi- channel support||$179/yr.|
|Oracle VM VirtualBox||Complex||User must integrate technologies||Not integrated||Advanced||Support only available for paid plans||Non- commercial: Free. |
- Key features of server virtualization software
- How do I choose the best server virtualization software for my business?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Best for large enterprises and cloud providers
VMware vSphere has been one of the top virtualization providers since it entered the scene in 2009, offering a wide range of features and capabilities. VMware features work in areas such as resource management, networking, storage, security and manageability. It’s also scalable, so it can be used to support a wide range of workloads.
The vSphere solution is an enterprise-grade workload platform that allows companies to transform physical data centers and on-premises infrastructure with cloud integration. This enables better productivity with central management, global insights, and automation.
The software can also free up GPU resources to improve operations and supports sophisticated infrastructures and the needs of innovative technology such as AI and machine learning (ML). DevOps uses VMware vSphere leveraging the cloud console to improve containerized workloads and deployment flexibility. Additionally, vSphere is also known for its state-of-the-art security.
Top vSphere Products include:
- VMware vSpere Essential Kit: For small businesses, with a cost of $576.96 per year.
- VMware vSphere Essential Plus Kit: All-in-one solution for $5,596 per year.
- VMware vSphere Standard: Entry-level solution for $1,394 per year.
- VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus: For data centers, $4,780 per year.
- Centralized Cloud Console: Drives centralized and consolidated management of all vSphere deployments with the vSphere+ Cloud Console.
- vSphere with Tanzu: Integration of Kubernetes allows companies to quickly deploy and run container-based modern apps on top of their existing infrastructure.
- Configuration: Using vSphere configuration profiles, users can manage host configurations at a cluster level.
- vCenter Lifecycle Management: Keeps server hardware up-to-date and consistent.
- Scaling, automation, and visualization: Can optimize, right size, and automate the capacity needed to run workloads across the entire environment. Users can plan capacity for future infrastructure and workload scaling.
- Sustainability: With vSphere Green Metrics, users can track the power consumption at host and VM levels and identify risks and opportunities to meet sustainability targets.
- Innovation: Provides the resources to support and enhance large AI and ML workloads.
- High computing performance: Provides insight into infrastructure, centralized management and data governance. Enables rapid provisioning of servers, minimizing host configuration drift and gaining visibility into compliance across sites.
- Remote and Branch Offices (ROBO): Can manage remote and branch offices with minimal local IT staff or even none.
- Wide range of features: vSphere offers a wide range of features, including resource management, networking, storage, security, and manageability.
- Scalability: vSphere is scalable, so it can be used to support a wide range of workloads.
- Performance: vSphere offers excellent performance.
- Security: vSphere security is among the best in the market and can protect applications and data.
- Ease of use: VMware vSphere requires advanced technical skills.
- Deployment and management: vSphere deployment and management in large-scale environments can be challenging.
- Cost: Despite its excellent performance, vSphere can be expensive for both small companies that are scaling and large organizations running sophisticated infrastructure.
- Vendor lock-in: vSphere is a proprietary platform, so organizations that use it may be locked into the VMware ecosystem.
For more information, read our full VMware vSphere review.
Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines
Best for Microsoft integration
Microsoft Azure VM, based on the company’s Hyper-V hypervisor, is popular for a number of reasons. It is included in Windows Server, so it is a cost-effective solution. Additionally, organizations already using Microsoft products find Hyper-V familiar. Large and small companies alike use this technology, benefiting from the support provided for a wide range of workloads. Hyper-V is an excellent option for cloud providers that need to manage VMs for their customers.
Hyper-V also provides computing environment management features, disaster, recovery and backup, optimization of servers and VM, remote connectivity, and top-of-the-line security.
Microsoft offers pay-as-you-go licenses as well as several 12-month-free Azure products.
- Computing environment management: Azure VM features allow users to customize configurations to their needs. The solution allows for a wide range of different storage and networking configurations.
- Security, disaster recovery and backup: For rapid disaster recovery, Hyper-V Replica creates copies of VMs intended to be stored in another physical location. The VM can be restored rapidly from the copy. Backup features enable saved states and the uses known as Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), allowing application-consistent backups for programs that support VSS.
- Optimization: Microsoft enables easier use of the OS in a Hyper-V VM through customizable services and drivers, known as integration services.
- Migration: Features include live migration, storage migration and import/export to distribute VMs efficiently.
- Remote connectivity: With Hyper-V Virtual Machine Connection for Windows and Linux, Microsoft provides a console for full visualization.
- Troubleshooting: Support for VMConnect Enhanced Session Mode and PowerShell Direct.
- Linux support: For mixed-OS environments, Windows Server supports Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server inside shielded VMs.
- OS: Offers built-in integration services for many guest operating systems.
- Easy to use: Azure VM is easy to use, even for organizations new to virtualization.
- Reliable: Supported by Microsoft and the company’s experience, Hyper-V reliability is among the best in the market when it comes to availability and reliability.
- Secure: Microsoft keeps Hyper-V constantly updated, and provides the necessary tools for users to ensure infrastructure security and privacy.
- Open source: Hyper-V is based on the open-source Xen hypervisor, making it ideal for developers.
- Hyper-V’s centralized management features are more complex and less comprehensive than those offered by other virtualization platforms such as VMware.
- Large enterprises may face challenges and complexities when deploying a large number of VMs.
- Hyper-V licensing can be complex. Tracking usage in pay-as-you-go models can be challenging.
- The solution may not be compatible with all hardware and software.
Best for virtual desktop and application deployment
Citrix Hypervisor is the top competitor of VMware, offering many of the same features. It has become popular among companies that need to deploy virtual desktops and applications. It is also known among developers for its excellent 3D graphics support and advanced scalability.
Citrix Hypervisor is an easy-to-use virtual management solution for all environments that can drive heavy workloads and secure virtual infrastructure from advanced threats.
Citrix Hypervisor is included in Citrix Desktop as a Service (DaaS). Citrix DaaS licenses are:
- Citrix DaaS Standard: Starting at $10, under a pay-as-you-go monthly subscription.
- Citrix DaaS Advanced Plus: $13 per user, per month.
- Citrix DaaS Premium: $20 per user, per month.
- Citrix DaaS Premium Plus: $23 per user per month.
- Optimized for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops workloads: Citrix Hypervisor features are designed for Citrix users.
- User experience: Enterprise-class features and performance can handle different workloads, mixed operating systems and complex storage or networking requirements.
- Active integration: Support of multiple user accounts on a server or pool. Uses Microsoft Active Directory services for authentication, enabling users to log into a pool of Citrix Hypervisor hosts using their Windows domain credentials.
- Role-Based Administration and Control (RBAC): With RBAC, users can assign users, roles, and permissions to control who has access to Citrix Hypervisor hosts.
- VM management: vApps can group multiple VMs, to start up, shut down, and set HA and recovery order policies, all at the vApp level.
- DMC: Automatically adjusts the memory, specifying minimum and maximum memory values. This allows for a greater density of VMs per host server.
- Live migration: Allows administrators to manually manage live migration across their infrastructure and eliminate any outages to plan for downtimes.
- XenCenter: Offers live patching and automated updates.
- Extensive network features: Network features include, Basic Network Security Groups, Open Virtual Switch (OVS), and Multicast Support.
- Security, recovery and compliance: State-of-the-art security, compliance, and recovery technology.
- Innovation: Enables high-end 3D graphics within VMs and VDI deployments for various use cases. Hardware GPU providers include Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA, with each GPU having a one-to-one relationship with a particular VM.
- Modern interface and ease of use: Citrix Hypervisor is easy to use. Its modern interface allows any organization to run server virtualization, no matter how advanced their skills are.
- Performance: Citrix Hypervisor offers excellent performance and visibility to run and manage critical VM and applications.
- Security: From backup to updates, support and compliance, Citrix offers several features and services to enhance security.
- Cost-effective: Citrix Hypervisor is a cost-effective option for organizations.
- Citrix Hypervisor is less popular than other virtualization platforms, such as VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. This can make it challenging to find support and resources.
Red Hat Virtualization
Best Linux-based virtualization solution
Red Hat Virtualization is the go-to server virtualization solution for Linux-based users. Given the large number of developers and businesses that choose Linux-based technologies, Red Hat is very popular. Red Hat services are also supported by a large community of users, benefiting support, operations, and troubleshooting.
Red Hat Virtualization is a solid enterprise virtualization platform. It supports key virtualization workloads, including resource-intensive and critical applications.
Red Hat Virtualization is included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux plans. Plans start as low as $179 per year and can exceed $2,499.
- Built on Linux: Allows users familiar with Linux to automate, manage, and modernize their virtualization workloads.
- Integrations: Integrated with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, Red Hat OpenStack Platform, and Red Hat OpenShift to improve overall IT productivity and drive a higher return on investment.
- Open source: Developed, tested, and supported enterprise virtualization based on over 10 years of open-source KVM and oVirt innovation.
- Live migration: Supports live migration, allowing users to move VMs from one host to another without any downtime. This can be useful for disaster recovery and maintenance purposes.
- High reliability and availability: Provides high availability, ensuring VMs will be preserved upon host failure.
- Storage virtualization: Allows users to pool physical storage resources and present them to VMs as a single logical volume.
- Integrated management tools: Includes integrated management tools, such as the Red Hat Virtualization Manager and the Red Hat Virtualization Console, to manage and monitor VMs.
- Support for cloud computing: Can be used to deploy and manage cloud-based applications.
- Linux environment: The Linux-based solution is an excellent choice for those who are familiar with Linux.
- Scalable: Red Hat Virtualization is a scalable platform and can be used to support a wide range of workloads.
- Open source: It is free to use and modify.
- Community-supported: The solution is supported by Red Hat and a large community of developers.
- Maybe complex to deploy and operate for those unfamiliar with Linux.
- Licenses and plans are varied, generating confusion.
- Scaling organizations may face licensing costs.
Oracle VM VirtualBox
Best free, open source solution
Oracle VirtualBox is a powerful enterprise level virtualization product. It is suitable for small, medium, or large companies. VirtualBox is popular for its high-performing design. Rich in features, it is also open source and available for free in its basic version. The technology is lightweight and well-supported. However, it requires knowledge and misconfiguration may lead to performance issues.
Oracle VM Virtual Box is free to download and use. The Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack Enterprise license, which includes using the Product for commercial purposes or to operate or run a business, organization, governmental organization, or education institution, costs $50 per user for a perpetual license.
- OS: Runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, and Solaris.
- Automates cloud deployments: Using Vagrant boxes with VirtualBox, IT teams can quickly provision development VMs with preconfigured Oracle software and automate the production release.
- Oracle Cloud: Features allow developers to import and export VMs in standard OVF format, on-premises, or in the cloud. A single click enables developers to upload or download a VM for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
- Quality assurance, testing, and demos: Provides software quality assurance teams with a single physical device to test software on multiple OS platforms and versions.
- Legacy applications: IT teams can extend the lifetime of legacy applications by using VirtualBox to run them on modern hardware.
- Security: Secures access to restricted applications, facilitates the distribution of desktop-based images to manage remote workers and helps organizations increase security with role-based restrictions to datasets within these applications.
- Cost: A non-commercial license is free and the Enterprise version is cost-effective.
- Open source: The solution is open source, free to modify and redistribute.
- Cross-platform: Can be run on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
- Powerful: Lightweight system with a variety of features that enable high-performing systems operations.
- Can be complex to deploy and operate.
- The free non-commercial version has limited features.
- Support can be slow for the non-commercial version.
Key features of server virtualization software
There are some basic features all server virtualization vendors must offer, such as hypervisors and VM management. Additionally, security and compliance have also become must-haves, and network management, storage, and scalability are features most companies today look carefully into.
On the other hand, some new features, like tracking energy consumption, providing high computing power to drive AI and ML, and intense graphics and video are also in high demand. Let’s break down the top features.
Hypervisors are at the core of all server virtualization software. They allow companies to create, deploy, run, and manage VMs on a single physical server.
Resource management features give users insight, visibility, and the tools necessary to better allocate, assign, transfer, and manage resources to get the most out of their hardware and software. Resource management may be seamless and centralized or complex, depending on the vendor´s solution. Because these features are used to optimize your resources and improve performance, companies must make sure their team of experts fully understand how they work.
Server virtualization software allows users to pool physical storage resources and present them to VMs as a single logical volume. This can help to improve performance and scalability.
Security, compliance, and backup and recovery
From updates, role-based access control (RBAC), and encryption to backups and automated compliance, server virtualization vendors will offer different security features to meet modern demands.
Technology continually innovates at a high pace and top vendors respond by offering support for them. From AI and ML to 3D graphics, if your company works with innovative tech, it’s essential to know whether they will be supported. New technology will consume a lot of computing power and have strict hardware and software requirements.
A more recent addition to some virtualization services, sustainability monitoring helps businesses keep track of their energy usage and find ways to limit consumption while preserving operational efficiency. Besides the environmental impact, this can save companies tremendous amounts of money over time, as ballooning data storage needs come with ever higher power consumption and cooling expenses.
How to choose the best server virtualization software for your business
There are several factors that companies need to consider before deciding on which server virtualization software is best for their business.
Companies must first outline their business goals and answer the question of what they are trying to achieve and how server virtualization can help them achieve those targets. The goals must be outlined, whether it be reducing IT costs, consolidating systems, modernizing, or improving performance.
What follows is an honest evaluation of the budget. While switching vendors is possible, migration can be complex. Therefore, companies must know how much they plan to spend today and in the future. Licenses are a significant differentiator in the market, with some solutions being affordable and others ranging up to thousands of dollars a month. Furthermore, if your company plans to scale, it’s essential to establish budget considerations.
The next step is to evaluate each vendors’ features against your company’s goals. We have already discussed the top features from hypervisors to resources management, networks, and security. Companies can also read online reviews from trustworthy aggregate confirmed review sites.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How does server virtualization software improve performance and reduce costs?
Server virtualization software provides visualization and tools to create and manage VMs on physical servers. This reduces the cost of IT, increases performance, better assigns and manages hardware and software allocated to VMs, and improves scalability and security.
2. Are advanced skills required to operate server virtualization software?
Some vendors provide comparatively intuitive and user-friendly server virtualization software, with centralized dashboards and exhaustive support and guides, allowing anyone with basic skills to use them. However, advanced technical skills are required to leverage the full benefits of these technologies.
3. What are the benefits of server virtualization software?
Benefits include improved performance, reduced costs, increased flexibility, better security, and consolidation of resources.
4. What are the challenges of server virtualization software?
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is complexity. Users must understand how to configure and manage VMs, networks, and storage, and have the skills to manage virtualized servers. Failing to properly configure or manage resources will impact performance, security, and compliance. Additionally, licensing can also be complex to understand.
We examined sites that compile aggregate data based on verified user reviews to write our review and evaluate the top server virtualization vendors. We also reviewed the official sites and test-drove the software when possible. We scoured through the vendors’ resources and carefully evaluated their features, customer service, user-friendliness, price, scalability, and more.
Bottom line: The best server virtualization software for your organization
The server virtualization software sector will continue to expand, as companies need to better manage their digital assets. By creating and managing VMs, enterprises can unlock the full potential of their resources in the cloud or on-premises.
As innovation pushes forward, server virtualization will become increasingly important. New technologies, hungry for storage, processing power, and computing resources, can only operate at the highest level with proper management of the digital assets. And server virtualization software is the right tool for the job.
This report reviewed the sector’s top vendors, strengths and features. Ultimately, each company must decide which is a better business fit for its goals and operations.
Even the best server virtualization software can fail. Make sure you have one of the best VM backup software to quickly recover from disaster.
Featured Partners: Server Management Software
Track the performance of Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and OS X servers with more than 60 performance metrics including CPU, disk, memory, thread, and handle count of processes and services. In addition to monitoring servers, install ready-to-use 50+ plugin integrations and Microsoft applications including IIS, SQL, and Exchange.
BDRSuite offers comprehensive server management capabilities, providing oversight of backup and disaster recovery operations on servers and hosts within your environment. Effortlessly protect your critical data across diverse environments, including Virtual, Physical, Cloud workloads, and SaaS applications. BDRSuite's robust server management features ensure seamless monitoring, management, and protection of your valuable data.