More third-party software vendors have begun to support Hyper-V, but users of Microsoft's hypervisor say that more partners are key to expanding deployments.
Virtualization data protection and management software maker Vizioncore Inc., a subsidiary of Quest Software Inc., will now support Hyper-V in its vConverter physical-to-virtual conversion tool, the first such support for a company that spent the first eight years of its existence focusing exclusively on VMware with products such as ESX Ranger (now called vRanger Pro). Vizioncore says more Hyper-V support is planned, and other independent software vendors -- including VKernel, Zoho Corp. (makers of ManageEngine virtualization management software) and Reflex Systems -- say Hyper-V is 'on the radar' for new product development over the next year.
Beyond Microsoft's SCOM and SCVMM
Users that already run Hyper-V environments say the need for third-party management tools hasn't been necessary for Microsoft virtualization, because Microsoft can supply its own management utilities through System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).
But as early adopters' deployments grow, third-party support will become more crucial, said Rob McShinsky, a senior systems engineer at Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. McShinsky manages a 550-server environment, about 65% of which are virtualized with Hyper-V. His team has so far "filled the holes" in Hyper-V -- such as live migration, prior to its official release in Hyper-V R2 -- through scripting, but "as more people deploy Hyper-V at a smaller scale and then grow like we have, they'll see some of the problems. … One of the biggest problems we've been having is with disk utilization."
McShinsky has looked at third-party thin provisioning and data deduplication products, such as Virsto and Sanbolic, to curb storage growth. "The base CSV[Microsoft Cluster Shared Volumes] works well, but as you move a little further and need to get a little more performance or solve bottlenecks, that's where we're looking out of the box at ISVs" as well as in backup and disaster recovery, McShinsky said.
Infrastructure management is another need identified by Hyper-V users. Matt Lavallee, the director of technology at Shrewsbury, Mass.-based MLS Property Information Network Inc., manages 26 Hyper-V hosts that virtualize about 80% of his environment. Lavallee said SCVMM and HP's Insight Control Manager cover much of the infrastructure, but from a network monitoring perspective, the Hyper-V cluster remains a "black box" to network administrators. "Right now we have to take a more blunt-instrument approach to things, and we would like to be more elegant," he said. "Right now if we were in an all-Cisco environment, it would be very convenient to have a Cisco [virtual switch] which would allow us to monitor, support and publish VLANs."
MLS has yet to upgrade to the SP1 release of Hyper-V R2, but the current configuration requires clusters to be physically separated onto different networks for security purposes; current tools don't allow Lavallee to create zones between different layers of the virtualization environment. "The cluster is the domain of the admin. … And if you're an admin on the box, you have access to everything on the box."
Barriers to Hyper-V migration
How an evolving ISV ecosystem will change market share or Hyper-V adoption numbers remains to be seen. "This will be more beneficial for net-new customers," said Christian Metz, a systems administrator at a Fortune 300 company that uses VMware in production and Hyper-V for test and development, but says the development of a more robust ISV ecosystem wouldn't be enough to get him to switch. "The main issue for me and admins I've spoken with has been too little, too late. These developments are coming after we've already invested in third-party tools and a primary hypervisor. It's a possibility to switch, but there are so many other costs associated with that."
"Converting from VMware to Hyper-V is not actually very hard," Lavallee countered. "It's the 'fringe features' and third-party tools associated with the hypervisor that start to break apart. It's not if you're running VMware, it's if you're running VMware and the Cisco Nexus switch that there's really no migration path." Lavallee predicted Microsoft's partnership with HP will lead to a ProCurve equivalent of the Nexus 1000V, which would boost the stickiness of Hyper-V deployments in addition to improving their management. "Even if it doesn't work better, a ProCurve [virtual switch] would put the network back in the control of the network admin."
Microsoft's ecosystem may be helped along by friction between VMware and ISV partners in the virtualization management space as VMware continues to develop its own management tools and the Ionix management software suite it acquired from EMC. VKernel's chief marketing officer Bryan Semple published a blog post along with a "attack sheet" from VMware, comparing his company's product with its own for virtualization management -- unfavorably, of course. "All of us ISVs are a valuable asset to [VMware's] franchise and your customer base," Semple wrote. "We welcome the competition from your CapacityIQ group. We welcome the market validation from you that capacity management is a problem not addressed in the core vCenter offering."
Still, other partners say writing to Hyper-V application programming interfaces (APIs) is still trickier and allows for shallower integration than with their VMware equivalents. "Hyper-V is definitely on our radar," said Mike Wronski, the vice president of product development at Reflex Systems, but the company is waiting "for market maturity [with Hyper-V] and for Microsoft to offer comparable integration points to VMware." VMware has used a Linux-based operating system and a standards-based API using SOAP, while Hyper-V requires Microsoft application programming interfaces that typically require Microsoft expertise to use," Wronski said. Officials from Zoho said VMware APIs in vSphere also offer more detailed information, such as realtime monitoring of live migrations.
Microsoft's argument is that since Hyper-V is a part of Windows Server, the same APIs commonly used to develop for Windows can be used by ISVs, and points out that multiple ISVs are developing "pro-pack" plug-ins for System Center. "If VMware has deeper APIs, it's because there's no other way to get to the information," said Microsoft's director of virtualization strategy, Edwin Yuen.
Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer at SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at email@example.com.