VMware vSphere® and Microsoft® Hyper-V® are both enterprise-class hypervisors, and the question of which hypervisor is better has been hotly debated over the past several years. Asking someone which hypervisor is better is a lot like asking someone whether a PC or Mac® computer is better. The answer is likely to be based on personal biases, when in reality, both PCs and Mac computers are very capable. The same is largely true of vSphere® and Hyper-V. Both are excellent and adept hypervisors, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
VMware has been in the server virtualization market for far longer than Microsoft. The company has been in business since 1998 and shipped its first product (VMware® Workstation) the following year. VMware released its first true server product (ESX® Server) in 2002.
Even though Microsoft was founded in 1975, and is therefore a much older organization, the company did not start producing virtualization solutions until some time later. Microsoft purchased Virtual PC from Connectix Corporation in 2003. However, it was not until the release of Windows Server® 2008 that Microsoft made Hyper-V available to customers.
Because VMware has been offering virtualization solutions for far longer than Microsoft, and because virtualization is VMware’s core business, it should come as little surprise that VMware is the more established and feature-rich of the two platforms.
It is worth noting that some regard Hyper-V as being inadequate for enterprise use. This reputation largely stems from early versions of Hyper-V found in Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. Since that time, Hyper-V has matured and is now more or less on par with VMware with regard to its suitability for the enterprise.
VMware offers several different editions of vSphere (Essentials, Essentials Plus, Standard, and Enterprise), with vSphere Enterprise currently retailing for $3,479 (prices vary depending on your region).
Similarly, Microsoft offers several different flavors of Hyper-V (Hyper-V Server, Windows® 10, Windows Server Standard Edition, and Windows Server Datacenter Edition). Its Windows Server 2016 Datacenter Edition currently retails for $6,155 for up to 16 cores.
Although these prices cover licensing for the hypervisor itself, there are typically additional costs to factor in. For example, Microsoft and VMware both offer a separate management server. A one-year basic license for VMware vCenter Server for example, retails for $7,254. In contrast, a two-year, 16-core (two processor) of Microsoft System Center 2016 Datacenter Edition retails for $3,607.
As you can see, VMware’s core hypervisor is less expensive than Microsoft’s. However, Microsoft’s management server cost less than VMware vCenter Server. It is the guest operating system licenses, though, that may ultimately determine which platform is less expensive. A Windows Server 2016 Datacenter Edition license entitles the Hyper-V host to run an unlimited number of Windows Server 2016 virtual machines. As such, Hyper-V is generally going to be the less expensive option for organizations that need to run Windows virtual machines.
The issue of complexity is somewhat subjective, especially given that there is a learning curve associated with both hypervisors. Even so, Microsoft Hyper-V is commonly regarded as being less complex and more intuitive than vSphere. There are, however, at least some people who claim to find the VMware platform easier to use. So it’s going to come down to the individual taste/experience of your admins.
Although the question of whether Hyper-V or vSphere is the better hypervisor is often debated, the truth is that there are many similarities between the two platforms. Sure, both hypervisors have some unique proprietary features, but the product’s core functionality is very similar. Ultimately, neither platform is superior to the other in every situation. As such, organizations that are considering a hypervisor purchase should carefully consider which hypervisor will best meet their own unique needs.
Brien Posey is a 13-time Microsoft MVP with over two decades of IT experience. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities and has served as a network engineer for the United States Department of Defense at Fort Knox. Posey has also worked as a network administrator for some of the largest insurance companies in America. You can follow Brien on Twitter® at @BrienPosey
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