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Choosing VMware vSphere: A vSphere comparison vs. other hypervisor tools

Part one of this review of vSphere covered some of the features in vSphere that are most important to storage managers and vSphere best practices. Part two will

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examine how it compares with other hypervisors and the pros and cons of using vSphere.

vSphere has some advantages over other hypervisors such as:

  • Features -- vSphere has many advanced features. However, you have to pay extra for many of them.
  • Support -- VMware's online VMTN support forums provide quality support and advice from the almost one million worldwide members that frequent them.
  • Third-party vendors -- VMware has a rich ecosystem of partner vendors. There are multiple vendors with quality applications for just about every need you might have, including backups, reporting and management.
  • Information -- There are more blogs and websites devoted to VMware products than all the other hypervisors combined. These provide an excellent source of information, tips and tricks and real world experiences.

VMware is more expensive than other hypervisors. However, depending on your organization's needs, it may be a good fit. Also, keep in mind that VMware does offer a free edition of ESXi. Although the free edition of ESXi does not have many advanced features, it's still good enough for many small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). VMware is available in several editions with different costs and features; Essentials bundles are also available for SMBs to make vSphere more affordable. Listed below are the features and costs of the various vSphere editions.

A look at VMware vSphere editions

 

ESXi free

Essentials

Essentials Plus

Standard

Advanced

Enterprise

Enterprise Plus

Cost per physical CPU

$0

$995 1

$3,624 2

$1,068

$2,717

$3,479

$4,229

vCenter Agent

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

Cores per processor

6

6

6

6

12

6

12

vSMP support

4-way

4-way

4-way

4-way

4-way

4-way

8-way

Max host memory

256 GB

256 GB

256 GB

256 GB

256 GB

256 GB

1 TB

Thin provisioning

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Update manager

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

High-availability

 

 

X

X

X

X

X

Data recovery

 

 

X

 

X

X

X

Device hot add

 

 

 

 

X

X

X

Fault tolerance

 

 

 

 

X

X

X

vShield zones

 

 

 

 

X

X

X

VMotion

 

 

 

 

X

X

X

Storage VMotion

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

DRS and DPM

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

Distributed vSwitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Host profiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

1 - VMware vSphere 4 Essentials Bundle for three hosts (Max two processors per host and six cores per processor) + Subscription for one year
2 - VMware vSphere 4 Essentials Plus Bundle for three hosts (Max two processors per host and six cores per processor) + Basic (12x5) One Year Support

The Essentials bundles occasionally go on sale and currently, the Essentials bundle is listed at 50% off ($495) its normal price of $995. Also, be aware that the Essentials bundle only includes Subscription (product updates) and no support, which must be purchased separately. Essentials Plus and all other editions include one year of both Subscription and Support. The Essentials bundles include a special version of vCenter Server which can only be used with the Essentials licenses, which is normally $6,000 if purchased for the other vSphere editions. Essentials and Essentials Plus make are targeted at SMBs that want to gain the benefits of virtualization, but do not have the budgets of larger companies.

The following table compares the features in vSphere to other hypervisors:

A comparison of VMware vSphere and other hypervisors

 

vSphere 4.0

Hyper-V R2

XenServer 5.5

 

Storage

Thin provisioning of virtual disks

Yes

Yes, not recommended for production as it has no monitoring or alarms

Limited, requires
StorageLink and
supported SAN

Hot extend of virtual disks

Yes

No

No

Dynamic growth of storage volumes

Yes

No, requires third-party storage area network (SAN) tools to grow and shrink LUNs

No

Live Storage VMotion

Yes

No, Quick Storage Migration is not live

No

 

Network

Distributed vSwitches

Yes

No

No

Third party vSwitches

Yes

No

No

Cisco Discovery Protocol

Yes

No

No

NIC Teaming

Yes

Limited (Third party)

Yes

 

Availability

VMotion

Yes

Yes

Yes

Storage VMotion

Yes

No

No

High-availability

Yes

Yes (requires MSCS)

Yes (requires everRun)

Fault tolerance (FT)

Yes

No

No

 

Manageability

Management client

Yes (vSphere client)

Yes (MMC or SCVMM)

Yes (XenCenter client)

Web management

Yes

No

Yes, unsupported

 

Ease of use

Disk footprint

ESXi -- 70MB
ESX -- 1.7GB

Server Core -- 3.6 GB
Full install -- 9.5 GB

1 GB

 

Security

Virtual firewall

Yes, vShield Zones

No

No

Security APIs

Yes, VMsafe

No

No

 

Backup and data protection

Integrated backup & recovery

Yes, VMware Data Recovery

No

No

VM snapshots

Yes

Yes

No, SAN level requires StorageLink

 

Yes

No

No

 

Scalability

Host max RAM/CPU

1 TB, 64 logical CPUs

1 TB, 64 logical CPUs

128 GB, 32 logical CPUs

VM max RAM/CPU

255 GB. 8-way vSMP

64 GB, 4-way vSMP

32 GB, 8-way vSMP

Memory overcommitment

Yes

No

No

Memory TPS

Yes

No

No

 

Cost savings

DVFS

Yes

Limited, uses core parking

No

DPM

Yes

No

No

 

Extensibility

Programmatic interfaces

Yes

Yes

Yes

vSphere is very popular in large data centers and is used by the majority of the Fortune 1000 companies. But while vSphere can scale to very large environments, it is also is just as suitable for smaller environments. Features, such as high availability, that are often complicated and expensive to implement in physical environments can be simplified with virtualization. You can read more about vSphere in the following documents on VMware's website:

About this author: Eric Siebert is an IT industry veteran with over 25 years of experience covering many different areas but focusing on server administration and virtualization. He is a very active member in the Vmware Vmtn support forums and has obtained the elite Guru status by helping others with their own problems and challenges. He is also a Vmtn user moderator and maintains his own VMware VI3 information website, vSphere-land. In addition, he is a regular blogger and feature article contributor on TechTarget's SearchServerVirtualization and SearchVMware websites.


 

This was first published in May 2010

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