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Hyper-V 2012 Heats Up VMware vs. Microsoft Server Virtualization Showdown

VMware and Microsoft are increasingly at each other's throat these days, and that can mean only one thing — each company sees the other as a real threat when it comes to competing in the server virtualization and private cloud computing markets.

VMware has long dominated the server virtualization technology market, and even though the second iteration of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, Hyper-V 2012, is much better than the first one, VMware still looks like top dog. So while the company has had to suffer the constant sniping of Microsoft, including Microsoft's risible attempts to ridicule "VM Limited" with its Tad Talks videos, VMware has been content to rise above it all and simply say nothing to this point.

But with Windows Server 2012 and the third iteration of Hyper-V just over the horizon, things are changing. Virtually Speaking - RoundedAt Microsoft's TechEd in San Francisco this week, Jeff Woolsey, the company's server virtualization head honcho, boasted that the new Hyper-V will be formidable.

"The guys at VMware claim that they can deliver up to 300,000 IOPS from a single VM. With Windows Server 2012, we're delivering 985,000 IOPS from a single virtual machine, more than three times [the IOPS claims of VMware]," Woolsey said. "We can go much, much higher, but this is as fast as the hardware will go."

Hyper-V 2012 cheaper than vSphere?

Sooner or later it was inevitable that VMware would stop ignoring Microsoft and fight back (just as it was inevitable that Microsoft would eventually stop ignoring Apple and fight back in that arena). That's because VMware's platform is generally perceived to be much more expensive than Microsoft's, and once Hyper-V 3 is available there will be fewer and fewer reasons to pay the VMware "tax".

But is a virtualization infrastructure built on the vSphere hypervisor really that much more expensive than one built on Hyper-V? That's certainly the story Microsoft likes to peddle.

To refute this argument, VMware has commissioned a company called Principled Technologies (no, we hadn't previously heard of them either) to produce a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) report comparing vSphere and Hyper-V. "We are simply responding to Microsoft's claims that Hyper-V is far cheaper than vSphere," explained Eric Horschman, VMware's director of marketing, regarding the report.

The research claims to show that vSphere infrastructure costs about the same as Hyper-V infrastructure when you include server and facilities costs, and that vSphere infrastructure is cheaper to operate when carrying out five "typical" datacenter tasks.

"Microsoft looks at the software acquisition costs, but they should be looking at the total infrastructure cost," said Hoschman. With VMware, "we need fewer servers, less data center space, less power and cooling, and so on." The reason for this is partly that you can pack more VMware VMs on a physical host than Hyper-V ones, he explained.

When you take all this into account in a 1,000 VM data center, you get 91% lower operational costs with VMware than with Microsoft, the report concludes.

The problem with these sorts of reports, of course, is that the devil is in the details. The choice of five "typical" data center tasks could be crucial, as could the choice of a 1,000 VM data center rather than, say, a 2,000 VM one or a 300 VM one.

And that means reports like this one won't exactly convince anyone that vSphere is really cheaper than Hyper-V — the reports can reach just about any conclusion desired with the right parameters and assumptions used.

In fact, a recent Microsoft study concluded that a VMware private cloud solution on vSphere 5 can cost eight to sixteen times more than a comparable Microsoft private cloud solution on Hyper-V over a period of one to three years. But that was based on 42 hosts — why 42? Who knows? — with 2 CPUs each. Oh yes, and this report doesn't include hardware, storage or IT costs.

What VMware's report does do is generate uncertainty, which ultimately is what this is all about. VMware wants to make potential customers uncertain that its solutions are more expensive than Microsoft's, and Microsoft wants to make potential customers uncertain that its platform is technically inferior to VMware's.

What's most significant about all this is that VMware clearly believes Microsoft is now a very credible player in the server virtualization and cloud space — VMware has to knock Hyper-V, because Microsoft's hypervisor can no longer safely be ignored.

Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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This article was originally published on June 22, 2012
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