Hyper-V, not in my datacenter (part 1 – Hardware)

When posting on my blog I try to stay as objective as I can. Although I’m a big VMware fan I try to look at other products with an open mind and not be biased, I found myself in doubt when creating a presentation in which I was comparing Hyper-V to VMware ESX. I wasn’t questioning myself whether I should or should not be objective, the problem was that I had trouble believing that the presentation I had created was an objective view of things.

Browsing through my presentation multiple times, I was convinced that what I’ve written about Hyper-V and ESX is an objective view on how things are at the moment, but still it looks like the only thing I’m doing is Windows-bashing. I decided to dedicate a blog post to it, so everyone can find out for them self if my points are valid. The big question of my presentation is: “Which is better for my datacenter, Hyper-V or ESX?”.
I’m looking at both hypervisors to see which features they have that would make them suited for running in the datacenter discounting nice features that I would rarely use. Here we go…….

Deploying the hypervisor

The first question of course is: “On which hardware can my hypervisor run?”. Now, Microsoft will definitely tell you that they are hardware independent. If Windows runs on it, you can run Hyper-V on it and we all know that Windows runs on almost anything. I don’t think this statement holds for the datacenter for a number of reasons.
1. I’m surprised that Microsoft is playing this card so often, they make it look like a unique selling point, a strong selling point that they have no HCL and that VMware has only a very limited HCL. Well the datacenters I’ve visited are running HP, IBM, Fujitsu-Siemens and Dell. Maybe some other brands, but it is clear these are the big players and when looking at the VMware HCL, you can see that they are all on it.
VMware’s HCL is not small at all, have a look for it yourself: VMware HCL for ESX 3.5. You’ll find 35 brands of systems that are supported and I guess at least 400 specific systems in total. You’ll have a hard time finding a top quality server that is not on the HCL.
2. When connecting your hypervisor to the network, you will probably want the connections to be redundant and do a little load-balancing. With Hyper-V you are now running into a small problem when wanting to pick just any network card you have lying around, because they will probably not support VLAN trunks and Teaming in the driver. Actually, you will have trouble finding many nics that do support these options, so you will again endup with the high-end nics you were already using to team the nics of your physical server.

In fact, I think you will come up with a smaller number of supported nics for Hyper-V, because ESX does the VLAN trunking and teaming independent of any drivers. In ESX you can easily create a virtual switch that has an HP, Intel, Broadcom and whatever nic combined and still do VLAN trunking and teaming. Have a look at the VMware I/O HCL and learn which nics are supported. Please try to find as many nics for Hyper-V.

3. Another point about the difference in hardware support I would like to point out is support and stability. Looking at a “normal” server these days, you will not be surprised that a hypervisor has to run about 30 VMs or more at the same time. Now, do you really want to put just any hardware underneath those VMs? We all know about the issues drivers have caused in Windows, even if those drivers where in the MS certified program. And do you think that if a driver throws errors at you, that Microsoft is going to solve this issue for you? Come on, get real. With VMware if there are problems with a driver, I call VMware and they have to solve it for me. Of course, there will sometimes be problems with drivers in ESX, because it is software and software will always have bugs. But I do know that these drivers have been tested thoroughly and have been written with one thing in mind: virtualization and performance.

My conclusion, on the hypervisor hardware is that the VMware HCL is not limiting me in choosing my hardware at all. In fact, choosing a system that is on the VMware HCL makes me more confident that I have reliable hardware that will perform without issues and I can’t get this with Hyper-V.

Thank you Alan Renouf for checking this post before publishing.

Hyper-V, not in my datacenter (part 1: Hardware)
Hyper-V, not in my datacenter (part 2: Guest OS and Memory overcommit)
Hyper-V, not in my datacenter (part 3: Motions and storage)