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Microsoft Hyper-V gaining on VMware in the virtualization market

Laura DiDio, principal, ITIC

VMware is still indisputably the server virtualization market leader, but Microsoft Hyper-V has made significant strides in the last year.

Microsoft Hyper-V is used at 53% of the respondents’ organizations, compared with 59% who have VMware and 18% who use Citrix Systems XenServer, according to an Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) independent survey of 400 global respondents. Microsoft Hyper-V usage jumped by 15 percentage points in the last 12 months, fueled by improvements in the hypervisor’s core functionality and the widespread adoption of Windows Server 2008 R2. The survey respondents -- which encompassed a relatively equal mix of companies from small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to enterprises from various industries -- also showed that XenServer deployments doubled from 9% in 2010 to 18% in the most recent survey.

Meanwhile, Oracle offerings -- which include Oracle VM as well as the former Sun Microsystems virtualization products -- saw a decline from 4% in 2010 to 2% in 2011.

Despite the gains of Hyper-V and XenServer, VMware is still the top virtualization vendor among companies with multiple platforms. Fifty-eight percent of the survey participants indicated that VMware is their primary virtualization platform, compared to 32% who said Microsoft Hyper-V and 8% who responded that Citrix XenServer was their most widely deployed hypervisor.

The survey results underscore the maturation of the server virtualization market.

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In the first wave of deployments, VMware was the dominant player with the most advanced features. The initial implementation of Hyper-V within Windows Server 2003 was rudimentary and lagged far behind VMware’s ESX Server, and Citrix Systems lacked the marketing muscle to effectively compete against VMware.

The virtualization market is vastly different today. Microsoft has made a concerted effort to match the performance and management capabilities of VMware vSphere. For example, the following Microsoft Hyper-V R2 features have significantly closed the gap with VMware:

  • Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 now supports up to 64 logical processors in the host processor pool, delivering greater virtual machine (VM) density per host and IT administrators more flexibility in assigning CPU resources to VMs.
  • Improvements in Hyper-V Live Migration enable organizations to perform live migrations across different CPU versions within the same processor family.
  • The new Microsoft Hyper-V also adds enhancements that increase VM performance and power consumption while reducing the hypervisor processing load.
  • The latest Hyper-V VMs consume approximately 20% to 30% less power on average (depending on individual configuration and workloads) thanks to the Core Parking feature implemented into Windows Server 2008 R2.

The other characteristic of a maturing virtualization market -- increased competition and a desire to avoid lock-in with a single vendor -- also accounts for the increased adoption of Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer. As a result, heterogeneous virtualization environments are on the rise, with 32% of the respondents indicating that they run multiple hypervisors.

Earlier ITIC surveys showed that Hyper-V was mainly used among SMBs and small to medium-sized enterprises with 500 users or less. These survey results indicate that Microsoft Hyper-V features, performance and reliability are good enough to merit adoption by midsize and large enterprises.


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