Test Center review: Microsoft's Hyper-V does the trick
Microsoft's next-generation server virtualization solution falls short versus VMware's VI3, but has the right stuff for less demanding, Windows-centric environments
The bad news: Unfortunately, manageability is one of the only areas where Microsoft is close to catching VMware. The company has no answer for features like VMotion, which allows for seamless movement of VMs across servers with zero downtime. Microsoft had planned such a feature for Hyper-V but had to scrap it in order to meet its planned ship date of "six months after Windows Server 2008 launches." And while Quick Migration (which leverages Microsoft Cluster Server technology) makes shifting VMs between hosts less problematic, it still requires that the virtual machine be taken offline during the transfer – not an option for environments where high availability is a must.
Further, Hyper-V's official support for Linux as a guest OS is limited to Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10; all other Linux variants are treated as second-class citizens. Others may work, but only Suse gains installation support and extensions to improve integration (such as mouse/keyboard integration between guests and the host OS) and performance/scalability on Hyper-V. By contrast, VMware's ESX Server supports dozens of Linux variants directly by providing guest OS integration components (namely VMware Tools) to improve their performance and behavior on the ESX platform. But of course, Hyper-V's target market is consolidation of Windows servers, and nobody should be surprised that Microsoft is giving short shrift to its biggest competitive threat.
A plan in motion
Still, there are signs that Microsoft is slowly beginning to execute one of its patented embrace-and-extend strategies in an effort to topple VMware. Part of that strategy is to evolve the product to a point where it becomes good enough for a majority of scenarios. For example, though Quick Migration can't provide the same level of seamlessness that VMotion delivers, it's still a viable mechanism for shops where "really good" availability is sufficient, and that covers the vast majority of server consolidation scenarios. Combine this with a technically sound, well-performing hypervisor (Hyper-V), and you have the makings of a viable challenger. Throw in some aggressive pricing (that is, Microsoft's decision to offer Hyper-V as a stand-alone solution for $28) and the challenger becomes a legitimate threat.
Rounding out the strategy is Microsoft's decision to allow mixed Hyper-V/VMware shops to manage VI3 assets directly from within the MSCVMM management environment. Through integration with VirtualCenter, MSCVMM administrators can manage VMware VMs using native, VirtualCenter services, including VMotion. Microsoft has a track record of successfully integrating competing technologies (and tricking their competitors into integrating Microsoft's) in order to co-opt and, ultimately, replace them. The company did it with Novell NetWare and (to a lesser degree) Unix. Clearly, Microsoft thinks it can perform a similar end run around VMware, a company with deep technical resources but also an arrogant streak that may blind it to the reality of the Redmond threat. To quote the Cylon hybrid, "This has all happened before, and it will all happen again."