Review: Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 narrows the gap
Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V combines easy setup and management with new features that lower the entry barrier to highly available virtualization clusters
With the release of Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V gains increased scalability in terms of both raw specs and features that make larger environments easer to manage. Hyper-V 2012 pushes the limits to 4TB of RAM per host and 64 nodes per cluster, and it adds advanced features such as a virtual switch, a virtual SAN, and live storage migration that were previously available only from VMware. It also includes native clustering capability, so you have the ability to build a highly available virtual machine cluster with commodity hardware and two OS licenses.
Although Microsoft has made great strides in many feature areas, there is still a fairly substantial gap between Hyper-V and VMware vSphere at the high end. VMware has many features focused on service providers, whether they're companies offering services for sale or large enterprise IT departments delivering services to business units within the company. Hyper-V 2012 does not have anything like VMware's vSphere Storage DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler), for example, where you can provision different classes of storage based on a set of requirements to include cost and performance. Hyper-V also lacks many of the new virtual data center features recently introduced by VMware. (See my review of VMware vSphere 5.1.)
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That said, Hyper-V 2012 also introduces many new features that make it more attractive to small and midsized companies where cost is a significant driver. The new capabilities in SMB 3.0 allow anyone to stand up an HA Hyper-V cluster using low-cost servers and commodity SAS disk drives. In the past you would have been required to purchase a high-dollar storage system to get the same level of reliability, and you would have needed to buy the virtualization software from a vendor other than Microsoft. Low-cost HA clustering alone will make IT managers think twice about spending scarce IT budget dollars on additional software when Windows Server 2012 comes with Hyper-V in the box.
In addition to examining features and manageability, I ran a few performance tests. Using the Sandra 2013 benchmarks for a Windows 32-bit client, I tested Windows VM performance under vSphere 5.0, vSphere 5.1, Hyper-V under Windows Server 2008 R2, and Hyper-V under Windows Server 2012. The server hardware used for this review was a Dell PowerEdge R715 with dual AMD Opteron 6380 CPUs, 64GB of memory, and two Seagate ST9300605SS 10K 300GB SAS drives configured as a RAID1 array.