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VMware customers cast a wary glance at Microsoft's virtualization tools

Hyper-V on back burner for VMworld attendees

By , Network World
September 02, 2010 01:08 PM ET

Network World - VMware customers attending VMworld are taking a look at Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization software, but say the Microsoft technology falls a bit short and that it would be problematic to start over after investing heavily in VMware.

The investment in VMware involves not only money but also the time and training it takes to build institutional knowledge about the IT world's most-used x86 virtualization platform.

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"I suppose we are a VMware shop, so we kind of stick with what we know more than anything else," said Chris Bennett, a VMware ESX administrator at Linklaters, a law firm in London, England.

Linklaters has virtualized 80% of its servers with VMware, but recently considered adopting Hyper-V for a project to virtualize servers in small branch offices around the world. Using Hyper-V, a free add-on of Windows Server, would have saved some money. But the law firm instead stuck with VMware for the branch office project to avoid complications in IT management. This, for example, allows Linklaters to use the same virtual machine templates in branch offices as it does in the data center.

"We decided against [Hyper-V] purely because of the in-house knowledge we have of VMware," Bennett says.

In addition to customers' knowledge of VMware technology, VMware's use of long-term enterprise license agreements (ELA) makes it difficult to switch, says Nik Gibson, the enterprise desktop practice leader at Forsythe, a technology consulting firm. Gibson is also a former employee of both VMware and Citrix.

"VMware does a great job getting ELAs out to customers. If you've invested that heavily, you're probably not going to be bringing another hypervisor into the mix," Gibson says. "VMware's done a great job locking a lot of these big customers in."

Bennett says Hyper-V is a good product overall and that some of his staff members use it informally for test and development. The only major problem Bennett sees in Hyper-V is its organization of storage, which he says is more complicated than VMware and more difficult to manage.

The same issue was reported by Josh Gray, an engineer at Aurora Bank in Denver. Aurora uses VMware for its server virtualization deployment, but Gray says "I've played around with Hyper-V, just really briefly in a Microsoft lab."

Gray says connecting storage to virtual machines requires more steps in Hyper-V than it does in VMware, making the management process a bit more of a hassle.

"Microsoft has a long way to go [in virtualization], kind of like their mobile phones," Gray says. "It will have to be extensive, groundbreaking stuff in order to really steal that market share."

Raci Dearmas, lead engineer at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Wash., also tested Hyper-V and says "It was a lot more complex to manage. Not only that, but having a team that is already familiar with VMware, to go to something totally different and manage two separate systems wasn't ideal for us."

Configuration of virtual LANs is one area in which Dearmas says Hyper-V was problematic.

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