The Rise of Virtualization Coexistence

Increasingly, Hyper-V and vSphere will operate in the same data center. What does that mean for IT?

By Doug Hazelman, Vice President, Product Strategy, and Chief Evangelist at Veeam Software

Determining 2012’s top virtualization trend in is a no-brainer. It’s the rise of virtualization coexistence. Clearly, VMware and Microsoft are delivering the needed features to IT environments and this is not going to stop any time soon. Microsoft has arrived in the data center, and yes, for some, Hyper-V is ready for prime time.

Even though the coexistence trend is really no big surprise, many are wondering how it all happened. VMware has always been a virtualization market leader. This success is due to its first-to-market innovations, its richest feature set, and its quick ROI, which many customers have leveraged time and time again.

Take a deeper look at what is going on here. Decisions are still being made today about the right virtualization platform for new deployments or systems collections to be virtualized. Do these decisions still need to occur? Sure, many people are comfortable deploying virtualized systems on VMware vSphere technologies. What if a new collection of virtualized systems could be deployed using Microsoft Hyper-V, now that all of the required management and availability features are available? Worth considering? I believe many enterprises will think so.

Although vSphere technologies continue to lead the way, Hyper-V has not been idle since its initial release. The current Hyper-V technologies meet today’s demanding performance, scale and availability requirements. The next version of Hyper-V, dubbed “R3,” along with the upcoming Windows Server 8 release, are taking these benefits even further. As a result, new virtualization deployment decisions will become increasingly tougher to make.

The coexistence trend is complimentary to what is happening in the larger IT ecosystem, where hardware vendors, software systems, and other critical components fully embrace both Hyper-V and vSphere technologies. No longer does IT need to create exceptions in standardized infrastructure policies for “this virtualization thing.” This is a critical point. Although underlying virtualization technologies are very important, they are not the defining characteristics we really care about. The applications that run on virtualized infrastructure truly define the capabilities IT can offer.

Today’s application landscape embraces cloud development platforms and private deployments to give the IT decision-maker ultimate flexibility, and no longer requires deep deliberation on whether Hyper-V or vSphere platforms adequately address today’s application requirements. Both platforms are now ready to meet IT professionals’ needs.

Hypervisor coexistence is the result of vSphere’s and Hyper-V’s substantially different approaches to meeting current and future IT environment needs. The biggest difference between vSphere and Hyper-V is storage. Many IT professionals were first exposed to shared storage during the initial waves of server consolidation with virtualization. It didn’t take long for them to realize that shared storage is a central virtualization theme and a critical element for success.

In a nutshell, vSphere and Hyper-V each has a different approach to storage.

vSphere’s proprietary storage system, VMFS, is built from the ground up to run virtual machines. VMFS is also a clustered file system that scales high thanks to recent vSphere 5 improvements. vSphere supports NFS storage systems, a network-attached storage realm mainstay for years and used in many environments. Virtualization environments leveraging VMFS find it possible to transition to this clustered storage technology.

Hyper-V is based on the NTFS file system and leverages Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS). VSS can enable tasks such as application-consistent backups to be performed more efficiently on storage systems.

vSphere and Hyper-V approaches may seem significant, but the results may not necessarily be that different. Many key virtualization technologies -- such as storage, virtual machine provisioning, management, and data protection -- require different approaches yet may yield the same benefits. We can deliver needed applications for both platforms today. We can protect at required levels on both platforms today. We can also choose the virtualization technology to run our business now and in the future.

Whether this trend includes coexistence for every virtualized infrastructure is surely a topic for passionate debate and discussion. However, in 2012, Hyper-V and vSphere will increasingly operate in the same data center, managed by the same IT staff, and happily delivering needed apps and services to IT stakeholders.

Doug Hazelman is vice president, product strategy, and chief evangelist at Veeam Software. He consults with customers, partners, and industry analysts on key considerations for implementing virtual server infrastructures. He works with Veeam’s R&D team to enhance and develop new Veeam products to address market needs, and advises customers on best practices for managing virtual environments. Doug shares his expertise via the Veeam blog and other social media outlets and has spoken about virtualization management at VMworld, the Nordic Virtualization Conference, Interop, and other events including regional VMUG meetings. He is a VMware vExpert for 2011 and has also appeared on VMworld.com's "Ask the Experts."
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