Good question! A lot of people like to say that Hyper-V is “free” like a new puppy is “free.” The initial acquisition cost for the new product, as is the case for a new puppy, is certainly low, but like anything else, there are costs associatd with maintenance. If you don’t maintain your Hyper-V system, you may not be able to take advantage of all that it has to offer and if you don’t maintain your puppy… I won’t even say it.
At TechEd 2012, Microsoft was very proud to say that their Hyper-V Server 2012 product, a “free” product, can go head to head against VMware’s $3,500 per socket Enterprise Plus behemoth. And, from a direct feature standpoint, it can. Of course, the real proof will come when people really start using Hyper-V 3 in a heavy production environment.
Where I expect to see Microsoft recapture revenue from Hyper-V is in the acquisition of management tools. Whereas customers need to pay VMware for the hypervisor plus additional money for vCenter, the vCenter cost is centralized and one-time and the tool’s license can manage multiple hosts. For Microsoft’s System Center 2012 Data Center edition, the management tools costs are licensed per processor per host. As such, if you have 10 Hyper-V 3 hosts, each with two processors, you’ll need ten dual processor System Center 2012 licenses to run the software. That charge will not be insignificant and will begin to erase Microsoft’s economic edge.
That said, Microsoft has removed the Virtual Machine Manager dependency from many Hyper-V features. In theory, an organization could use even high end Hyper-V features without needing to buy a System Center license.
So, yes, Hyper-V itself is really free, but it’s the add-on software that you need in order to automate your environment that will cost.