Virtualization shoot-out: VMware vSphere

The world's leading server virtualization platform is still tops in performance, scalability, and advanced features

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Even beyond vSphere's native features are the tools designed and built by other vendors, such as the Dell server management plug-in for vCenter. Dell has developed a crisp and clean interface for its iDRAC server management processors that functions within the vSphere Client [view screen]. This means you can perform physical server tasks -- everything from simply lighting up an ID light on a particular ESXi host to firmware updates and even bare-metal ESX host deployment -- from the same place you manage VMs. Also, with just a few clicks, you can quickly locate serial numbers, asset tags, firmware revisions, and other physical server information.

The setup for the Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter is quite straightforward, though it does require deploying a lightweight (one vCPU and 512MB of RAM) Linux-based VM to the farm. This VM is used to interface with vCenter and the physical servers, acting as a proxy of sorts for the host interaction. It's responsible for performing scheduled inventories of each physical host and carrying out commands sent from the client.

The tight integration of physical host and virtual server management within one client is surprisingly captivating and seemingly indispensible once you fully realize the ease of administration it provides. You'll find vCenter plug-ins from additional VMware partners as well, including HP, NetApp, and EMC.

VMware vSphere performance
VMware vSphere posted very good numbers across all tests; on those occasions it wasn't at the top of the pack, the solution scales out well, as each physical host can maintain suitable performance even when pushed quite far with a significant VM load. There's no doubt that the RAM management code is responsible for some of this scalability, but the recoded software iSCSI initiator also performs better than previous versions.

Although XenServer posted faster times than vSphere in some of the unloaded, single-VM tests, its results suffered as additional load was placed on the server. vSphere, however, largely maintained similar performance figures in both the loaded and unloaded tests, with the results showing only minor performance degradation even when all physical cores on a physical host were fully tasked with loaded VMs. (See the main article for test details and a discussion of comparative performance.)

VMware is quick to claim that you can run more VMs per host with vSphere than other solutions. From what I've seen, I have no reason to doubt this point, though RHEV also offers page sharing and memory compression, advanced memory management features that enable high VM density.

VMware vSphere's host configuration layout is clean and easy to navigate.
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