Stage 4: Selecting the platforms
While the consultant was doing the server utilization analysis to determine which apps could run on virtual servers and which needed to stay on physical servers, the IT team at Fergenschmeir started to think about what hardware would be used as the hosts in the final implementation.
[ Start at the beginning of Fergenschmeir's server virtualization journey ]
The virtualization engine
It was obvious that any hardware they chose had to be compatible with VMware ESX, the virtualization software they had tested, so infrastructure manager Eric Brown’s team started checking the VMware hardware compatibility list. But server administrator Mary Edgerton stopped the process with a simple question: “Are we even sure we want to use VMware?”
Nobody had given that question much thought in the analysis and planning done so far. VMware was well known, but there were other virtualization platforms out there. In hindsight, the only reason Eric’s team had been pursuing VMware was due to the experience that the intern, Mike Beyer, had with it. That deserved some review.
From Eric’s limited point of view, there were four main supported virtualization platforms that he could chose from. VMware Virtual Infrastructure (which includes VMware ESX Server), Virtual Iron, XenSource, and Microsoft’s Virtual Server.
Eric wasn’t inclined to go with Microsoft’s technology because, from his reading and from input from the other server administrator, Ed Blum, who had used Microsoft Virtual Server before, it wasn’t as mature nor did it perform as well as VMware. Concerns over XenSource’s maturity also gave Eric pause, and industry talk that XenSource was a potential acquisition target created uncertainty he wanted to avoid. (And indeed it was later acquired.)
Virtual Iron, on the other hand, was a different story. The two were much closer in terms of maturity, from what Eric could tell, and Virtual Iron was about a quarter the cost. This gave Eric some pause, so he talked over the pros and cons of each with CTO Brad Richter at some length.
In the end they decided to go with VMware as they had originally planned. The decision came down to the greater number of engineers who had experience with the more widely deployed VMware platform and the belief that there would also be more third-party tools available for it. Another factor was that CEO Bob Tersitan and CFO Craig Windham had already heard the name VMware. Going with something different would require a lot of explanation and justification -- a career risk neither Eric nor Brad were willing to take.