Choosing the Right Virtualization Platform (Part 2)

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Choosing the Right Virtualization Platform (Part 1).


In the first article of this two-part series, we heard from Eyas Taifour, a Delivery Architect at Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) / Enterprise Services as he compared the scalability and security of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V with both VMware vSphere hypervisor and VMware vSphere 5.1 Enterprise Plus. In this second and last article, we’ll continue this comparison by considering the mobility, VDI support and licensing for these platforms.


With virtualization, IT must be able to move virtual machines whenever necessary without disrupting the business. The ability to move a VM across Hyper-V hosts in a cluster is available in Windows Server 2008 R2, through a feature called Live Migration. Windows Server 2012 builds on Live Migration and now allows concurrent Live Migration, as well as Live Storage Migration, which lets the administrator move Virtual Hard Disks that are attached to a running Virtual Machine.

Live Migrations in Windows Server 2012 are not limited to a cluster anymore: Virtual Machines can be migrated across cluster boundaries. Shared-Nothing Live Migration opens up a world of scenarios for organizations. For example, a VM could be running in a test Hyper-V servers, where it resides on local storage, and can be “promoted” to a production system by being migrated to a highly available cluster with fast SAN access. Shared Nothing Live Migration ensures this is performed seamlessly, and with no interruption or downtime.

To make the isolation and mobility seamless, Microsoft provides Software Defined Networking (SDN), which resolves many drawbacks of typical networking, such as VLANs. Table 2-1 below compares the mobility features of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 over VMware’s.

Capability Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V VMware vSphere Hypervisor VMware vSphere 5.1 Enterprise Plus
VM Live Migration Yes No Yes
1 GigE concurrent Live Migrations Unlimited N/A 4
10 GigE concurrent Live Migrations Unlimited N/A 8
Live Storage Migration Yes No Yes
Shared-Nothing Live Migration Yes No Yes
Network Virtualization Yes No VXLAN

Table 2-1: Capability comparison of Hyper-V extensible switch and VMware’s vSwitch

With Hyper-V Network Virtualization, network traffic from different business units or customers can be isolated, even on a shared infrastructure, without the need to use VLANs. Network Virtualization also allows IT administrators to move VMs while maintaining correct configuration and without changing the underlying infrastructure.

vSphere 5.1 Essentials Plus edition, and higher, support vMotion (virtual machine live migration), but VMware restricts the number of concurrent migrations to 4 on 1GigE connections, and 8 on 10GigE networks. Just as vMotion, Storage vMotion is unavailable in VMware vSphere Hypervisor, and is found in the Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus editions of vSphere 5.1, available at a license cost.

For VMware customers to obtain functionalities similar to Network Virtualization, they will need to purchase vCloud Networking & Security product, and also upgrade to Enterprise Plus edition (since VXLAN requires vSphere distributed switch).

The Network Virtualization features of Hyper-V in contrast are available inbox in all SKUs, and offer multi-tenancy with minimum reconfiguration or effect on isolation, simplified network resource use, and no need for new purchases.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Windows Server 2012 empowers IT professionals to provide users with flexible access to data and applications anywhere, on popular devices, all with a rich user experience. The improvements in Virtualization in Windows Server 2012 are not limited to Hyper-V, but also include enhancements to Remote Desktop Services. The redesign of RDS in Windows Server 2012 had 3 goals:

  • Provide richer user experience: technologies such as RemoteFX Hardware GPUs, RemoteFX Software GPUs, RemoteFX Adaptive Graphics, RemoteFX for WAN, RemoteFX Multi-touch, RemoteFX USB redirection, RemoteFX Media remoting, Windows 8 Remote Desktop App, User Profile Disks, are some of the technologies available in Windows Server 2012 that enhance and unify the user experience.
  • Lower costs: Windows Server 2012 aims at achieving higher ROI for VDI scenarios and flexible work styles through deployments on lower-cost storage with Server Message Block file shares, or the usage of session virtualization fair share (which enables higher densities for session virtualization through equal distribution of resources).
  • Simplify deployments and improve management, with a simpler wizard-based set up, a unified management console, and simplified creation, assignment, and patch management of standard and pooled VMs.

A rich virtualization stack is necessary to provide a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Windows Server 2012 provides Operating System virtualization, User state virtualization, Application virtualization, and session virtualization.

When comparing VDI offerings, the first important aspect to note with VMware is that VDI capability is not included in the box with vSphere Hypervisor or vSphere 5.1, but is instead a separate product: VMware view 5.1 (which comes in two editions, Enterprise and Premier). For customers who already have vSphere 5.1, VMware View 5.1 can be purchased as an add-on. For customers with no current investment in VMware technologies, VMware View 5.1 can be purchased as a standalone product, yet some restrictions apply (it can be used solely for hosting virtual desktops, and not server operating systems).

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, along with Remote Desktop Services, poses no restrictions on customers. This provides flexibility, without additional infrastructure licensing costs.

VMware View 5.1 lacks a unified user experience. VMware’s display protocol (PC over IP), unfortunately cannot be used for connecting to session-hosts, lacks persona management, and has no USB support for the session-based desktops.

Ease of Licensing

Windows Server 2012 ships in two editions: Standard edition and Datacenter edition. The packaging and licensing of Windows Server 2012 editions have been updated to simplify purchasing and reduce management requirements, as shown in Table 2-2 below. Windows Server 2012 editions are differentiated only by virtualization rights – two virtual instances for the Standard Edition, and an unlimited number of virtual instances for the Datacenter edition. Running instances can exist in either a physical operating-system environment (POSE) or a virtual Operating-system environment (VOSE).

Edition Running instances in POSE Running instances in VOSE
Datacenter 1 Unlimited
Standard 1(see footnote) 2v

Table 2-2: Capability comparison of Hyper-V extensible switch and VMware’s vSwitch

When a customer is running all allowed virtual instances, the physical instance may only be used to manage and service the virtual instances.


Windows Server 2012 utilizes new, innovative hardware capabilities and enables what were once considered advanced scenarios and capabilities out of commodity hardware. This creates several opportunities for different types of organizations, regardless of their size. It is worth mentioning that new features of Windows Server 2012 such as continuous availability over SMB storage, Inbox network teaming, Cluster Aware Updating, InfiniBand, Support for NFS, Storage spaces, or SMB over RDMA, are not specific to the Hyper-V role, and yield tremendous benefits to organizations wishing to virtualize and consolidate their environments, as it allows them to design their fabric using a wide spectrum of hardware, from commodity to enterprise grade.

IT pros and solution providers can easily convert existing VMware-based virtual machines and disks to Hyper-V based virtual machines and disks using the Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter (MVMC) Solution accelerator, downloadable from the Microsoft website. MVMC simplifies low-cost, point-and-click migration of Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2 with SP2, and Windows Server 2003 with SP2 guest operating systems from VMware to Hyper-V. Because MVMC has a fully scriptable command-line interface and can be invoked through Windows PowerShell, it integrates especially well with data center automation workflows such as those authored and run within Microsoft System Center 2012 Orchestrator.

For large environments that contain hundreds or more of existing VMs running on VMware, switching is easily affordable through the Hyper-V switch program which is offered by Microsoft Services and Microsoft partners, depending on the region. It is specifically designed to overcome the challenges faced by large enterprises and hosting providers. The Hyper-V switch program offers assessment, capacity details, planning, and automation and orchestration of the migration efforts. It leverages existing proven technologies such as the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, the Virtual Machine Migration Toolkit, and System Center 2012 Orchestrator.

Organizations are now looking beyond virtualization. Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V offers more scale, and greater level of extensibility that the standalone VMware vSphere hypervisor or VMware vSphere 5.1. Windows Server 2012 is not feature locked, and advanced features are inbox. Microsoft provides solution accelerators, toolkits, guidelines, and services to assist customers transition to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, which represents the most comprehensive virtualization platform for the next generation of cloud-optimized infrastructures.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Choosing the Right Virtualization Platform (Part 1).

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