Is Hyper-V only suitable for SME?
If you talk to virtualization experts, the opinion is clear - Hyper-V is only something for small organizations - for larger installations it has to be VMware. But is this true and why does Hyper-V often not make the cut?
by Frank Wagner on 3/18/2022
The world of virtualization is divided between VMware and, well - the rest. Depending on the statistic you look at, VMware has a market share of 40%-50% and Hyper-V only a few percent.
Considering that the entire Azure Platform runs on Hyper-V and Hyper-V is included in every Windows installation, this is quite an interesting result.
Of course, this also has a lot to do with marketing - Microsoft doesn't market Hyper-V as a separate product, but rather Windows and Azure. But let's focus on the technical reasons here.
Supported guest operating systems
A key argument in favor of VMware is its broader support for operating systems. For example, VMware supports macOS, Solaris and some rare Linux derivatives. Hyper-V, on the other hand, focuses on Windows (of course) and the major Linux versions (e.g., Ubuntu, SUSE, Red Hat).
The question is: in how many companies do you actually find VMs other than Windows (often accounting for more than 80% of VMs) and the enterprise Linux versions of SUSE, Red Hat or Ubuntu?
In our experience: in very few.
High availability and live migration
You often hear that Hyper-V is not highly available and does not support live migration of VMs.
Both of these are completely false, and are probably caused by ignoring - sometimes deliberately - the fact that Hyper-V is part of Windows Server. And thus Hyper-V does not have its own cluster solution, but integrates into the Windows Failover Cluster. Migration is possible even without failover cluster or shared storage. Virtual machines can also share disks and therefore form clusters themselves and that without any additional products.
So there are hardly any reasons that speak only for VMware.
VMware has implemented numerous memory optimizations - e.g. Guest Balooning, Page Sharing and Oversubscription. Hyper-V only offers Dynamic Memory here, which is roughly equivalent to VMware's oversubscription.
In practice, however, all memory optimization features should be viewed with caution. Most software manufacturers recommend fixed memory allocations for software on virtual machines, because otherwise it is difficult to analyze the cause of performance problems. And even without this restriction, for cost reasons alone - RAM is relatively cheap - more RAM is often provided rather than too little.
Sizing of the hosts should therefore always take into account the maximum workload of each application, and then optimization here is often rarely useful or possible.
VMware has a central tool with the vCenter Server to manage all aspects of the virtual environment.
Hyper-V management, on the other hand, is spread across numerous tools. Microsoft typical there are basic tools like Hyper-V Manager, Event Viewer or Failover Cluster Manager available in the management tools (often started locally on the hosts by the admins).
And, of course, there's Microsoft System Center: Microsoft recommends System Center to manage large server landscapes - including tools to manage VMs. However, all of this is less of a one-size-fits-all solution, so you always have a bit of a click-together feeling.
This starts with how the VMs are created. Where VMware stores the data of the VM, it organizes by itself - with Hyper-V you work directly on the file system of the host and how to organize the files properly, you have to know in case of doubt.
Here VMware is clearly ahead.
We could compare numerous other aspects - e.g. storage solutions and scalability. However, in these areas the differences are less significant for the original question: why does Hyper-V have the reputation of not being suitable as an enterprise solution?
From our point of view, Hyper-V installations often lack a clear management concept at the beginning. Storage, cluster, monitoring and deployment are distributed over different parts of the Windows Server solution and each company or each admin has to think about its own concept for management.
With VMware, this does not play a role until there is a very large number of VMs or a high degree of automation. And the implementation requires the support of experienced consultants anyway, so best practices can be taken into account right at the start.
With Hyper-V, on the other hand, you can just "get started" and for example manage VMs directly on the host with the Hyper-V Manager - a supposedly simple solution, but one that quickly becomes confusing with a larger number of VMs and hosts.
And even without a large storage and network design, you can start quickly and get bogged down just as quickly when more complex requirements such as clusters or VLAN are added.
So there is a creeping transition between small and large installations, which is actually an advantage of Hyper-V in terms of scalability.
However, this leads to many IT departments being overburdened beyond a certain level of complexity and suddenly looking for an alternative.
This can quickly give the feeling that Hyper-V is only suitable for SMEs - but this is fundamentally wrong: Hyper-V is also suitable for SMEs and can - with appropriate planning - scale to any company size.
Not to forget: with Azure, one of the largest hyperscalers in the world runs on Hyper-V!
- Author: Frank Wagner