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The rise and rise of virtualisation coexistence

01 Feb 2012

Determining 2012’s top virtualisation trend in is a no-brainer. It’s the rise of virtualisation 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 centre. 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 virtualisation 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. But take a deeper look at what is going on here. Decisions are still being made today about the right virtualisation platform for new deployments or systems collections to be virtualised. Do these decisions still need to occur? Sure, many people are comfortable deploying virtualised systems on VMware vSphere technologies. But, what if a new collection of virtualised 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. While 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, is taking these benefits even further. As a result, new virtualisation deployment decisions will become increasingly tougher to make. The coexistence trend is complementary 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 standardised infrastructure policies for "this virtualisation thing.” This is a critical point. While underlying virtualisation technologies are very important, they are not the defining characteristics that we really care about. The applications that run on virtualised 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 virtualisation. It didn’t take long for them to realise that shared storage is a central virtualisation theme and a critical element for success. In a nutshell, here are how vSphere and Hyper-V each approach 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 very high with recent vSphere 5 improvements. vSphere supports NFS storage systems, a network-attached storage realm mainstay for years and in many environments. Virtualisation environments leveraging VMFS find it possible to transition to this clustered storage technology.
  • Hyper-V, however, 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 done more efficiently on storage systems.

While vSphere and Hyper-V approaches may seem significant, the results may not necessarily be that different. Many key virtualisation 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 virtualisation technology to run our business now and in the future. Whether or not this trend includes coexistence for every virtualised infrastructure is surely a topic for passionate debate and discussion. I do believe, however, that in 2012 increasingly Hyper-V and vSphere will be operating in the same data centre, managed by the same IT staff and happily delivering needed apps and services to IT stakeholders.