VMware vSphere vs. Microsoft Hyper-V: Which is cheaper?

They’re time-honored questions: Is Hyper-V cheaper than vSphere? Does vSphere still have more advanced features? The answers may surprise you.

Conventional wisdom says that Microsoft’s Hyper-V is cheaper than VMware’s vSphere across the board, although vSphere...

boasts more advanced features. But, depending on the size of the shop and the type of workload being virtualized, neither of these statements may be true.

More on Hyper-V vs. VMware

Hyper-V vs. VMware guide

VMware to Hyper-V converts share lessons learned

Switching from VMware to Hyper-V

Comparing free offerings
While both vendors offer free, standalone hypervisors for download, they both have their limitations. The VMware vSphere hypervisor is free for single-host workload consolidation, which does not include live migration or any other advanced features.

Hyper-V Server (now available in a 2012 edition), consists of a stripped-down codebase that contains only the Windows Hypervisor, Windows Server driver model, and virtualization components. The standalone hypervisor contains all of the same features of the Windows OS-based Hyper-V, including Live Migration, but has limited use scenarios in Windows environments, according to Microsoft’s website.  Suggested uses are for Linux, VDI and test / dev.

Starting small: Low-end list pricing and factoring in the OS
VMware’s entry-level vSphere starter kits cost less than the Windows licenses typically used to stand up a Hyper-V environment. For example, VMware’s vSphere Essentials Plus Kit, which covers three hosts with two processors each and includes High Availability (HA), vMotion and the VMware Data Recovery backup utility. It is designed with 20 VMs in mind, but users can run as many VMs as vRAM allows -- up to a 192 GB limit. It’s priced at $5,619 including one year of production support.

Meanwhile, IT shops have the option to purchase three types of Windows 2008 R2 operating system (OS) licenses from Microsoft. Standard edition, priced under the Open License Program (OLP) at $711 per server, comes with one VM entitlement, and three servers licensed at the Standard level would allow for only three VMs. The Enterprise OS comes with four VMs, so three hosts licensed with Enterprise edition would yield 12 VMs.

Based on OLP list prices, a customer could purchase more Enterprise OS licenses to get to 20 VMs, but this would make little sense cost-wise (It would require five licenses, two of them redundant, which start at $2310 each.) and would limit the user to 20 VMs.

The most likely scenario is that a customer would purchase Windows Datacenter edition, which allows for unlimited VMs. OLP list pricing starts at $2,357 per processor ($3,535 with Software Assurance). At six total processors in the cluster, the licenses would add up to $14,142 for the Datacenter edition without Software Assurance and $21,210 with SA. But it’s a safe bet that many of the businesses that would purchase VMware acceleration kits are also Microsoft shops.

Adding 20 VMs’ worth of Windows Standard OS licenses to the VMware Essentials Plus Acceleration Kit raises the total cost to $19,839, while the Hyper-V cost remains the same with Microsoft’s Datacenter licenses; “unlimited VMs” means users don’t have to license any VMs running on top of the OS.

Table 1

There’s arguably more bang for the buck with Hyper-V at the low end: unlimited VMs vs. resources limited by vRAM, and the ability to scale out vs. the VMware kit, which is only available for three hosts.

While VMware offers advanced features (e.g., Hyper-V doesn’t have like Fault Tolerance and Storage vMotion in the upper echelons of its price model), the Essentials Plus license does not include such features.

These low-end virtualization comparisons also assume that cost-conscious shops would use a free tool -- such as Hyper-V Manager, Failover Cluster Manager or one of several free third-party Hyper-V GUIs -- on the market to manage VMs on a small number of hosts.

Scaling up: List prices for more hosts, guests and VM management
IT pros used to be able to get standalone version of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 to manage significant numbers of virtualized hosts for a list price of $529. With System Center 2012, customers that want to get SCVMM 2012 for more than two operating system environments (OSEs) per host have to buy the System Center suite at the Datacenter level for a list price of $3,607, which covers two processors. 

On the VMware side, companies still have the option to buy one instance of vCenter standalone for $4,995 plus Support and Subscription (SnS) entitlements, and skip the rest of the management bells and whistles.

In an environment with 15 dual-socket hosts and 150 VMs, VMware’s Standard edition licenses at $995 per processor would cost $29,850. Add in vCenter at $4,995, plus one year of production support for both, and the total cost is $45,784. Factor in 150 Windows Standard licenses and the total price of the environment jumps to $152,434.

At numbers above 99 servers, however, it’s more economical to buy Windows Datacenter licenses for VMs, too, experts say. Thirty processors of Windows Datacenter would be $70,710 without SA; added to $45,784, the total would be $116,494.*

On the Microsoft side, 30 processors’ worth of Windows Datacenter licenses works out to $70,710 without SA. Thirty processors’ worth of the System Center suite would cost $54,105, and the total cost of Microsoft’s OS and virtualization-management licenses would be $124,815 -- a good distance from what would have been the previous list price of $71,239 with standalone SCVMM 2008. With SA, the total list price would be $160,155.

Table 2

For a 500-VM, 34-host environment with dual-socket hosts (which assumes a very attainable 15:1 consolidation ratio for both hypervisors), vSphere Standard licenses would cost $95,868 with one year of production support for both vSphere and vCenter; vSphere Enterprise would cost $250,636 assuming the same parameters; and Enterprise Plus would come in at $303,336.

Given that larger environments are more likely to have mixed OSes, assume that half those VMs are licensed with Windows. The Windows Standard licensing cost raises the total price to $273,618 for Standard, $428,386 for Enterprise and $481,086 with Enterprise Plus. Windows Datacenter would bring the totals to $176,006, $330,774 and $383,474, respectively.*

Windows Datacenter licenses with SA would total $160,276, yielding unlimited VMs along with unlimited support for memory and CPU resources. By contrast, VMware’s Standard license would carry a vRAM allotment of 2.1 TB, or 4.35 GB per VM if divided evenly; Enterprise licensees would be entitled to a vRAM pool of 4.3 TB, or an average of 8.7 GB per VM; Enterprise Plus licenses would carry a vRAM pool of 6.5 TB, for an average of about 13 GB per VM.

Add in the Microsoft System Center cost, however, and price comparisons are a mixed bag. For 68 processors of System Center Datacenter, the price would be $122,638, which, added to the host OS license cost, would total $282,914 without SA. With SA, the total list price would be $363,018.

There is also an Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) option, which bundles in both Windows OS and System Center licenses for a list price of $5,056 per processor; under this licensing scheme the total cost would be $343,808.

Table 3

VMware vs. Microsoft: Pricing wars

Microsoft, VMware offer deep discounts to gain virtualization market share

VMware vs. Microsoft: Cloud management is the new battlefield

Are Hyper-V savings worth the cost of a VMware rip and replace?

Here, Microsoft points out that customers get the equivalent of VMware’s full management suite, including things like vCloud Director and vCenter Operations, for less than the cost of VMware’s high-end virtualization licenses. VMware, in turn, points out in a blog post that Microsoft’s hypervisor capabilities in Windows 2008 R2 SP1 most closely match that of its Standard license level, which would make that a fairer price comparison.

VM density and TCO
VM density per host, while still a factor for evaluation between the two virtualization platforms, doesn’t make quite as big a difference as it did in releases of Hyper-V before Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) in 2010, which introduced the Dynamic Memory feature.

There are differences between Dynamic Memory and VMware’s Memory Overcommit, but for the average enterprise IT shop that runs Hyper-V, Dynamic Memory has meant a boost in consolidation ratios over previous versions. Mileage varies by workload, but some users report between 35:1 and 50:1 consolidation ratios on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 hosts with 96 GB of RAM.

For those who want to push their environments to the highest levels of efficiency or run high-performance mission-critical workloads, however, vSphere 5 is still the best bet because of its greater scalability and memory overcommit.

When Windows Server 2012 ships later this year, the comparisons will change, again. Already out as a release candidate, it features scalability and feature updates that could make it a contender to virtualize more mission-critical apps at higher densities than with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

*Information added after publication

In part two of this four part series on VMware and Microsoft, we will reveal how the list prices compare to the real world deals that some companies have negotiated. In many cases, it is a fraction of the list cost.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Dig Deeper on Virtualization vendor comparisons

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Join the conversation

65 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Which hypervisor is the best value for your data center?
Cancel
In my enviroment Microsoft Hyper V will save me a ton of money.
Cancel
vmware has got tons of advanced features
Cancel
Hyper-V!!!
Cancel
I prefer Citrix XenServer
Cancel
VMware has been good to my company.
Cancel
vSphere for production enviroment, hyper-v is only for test enviroment…
Cancel
KVM
Cancel
Hyper-V is much cheaper and user friendly though with some limitations as compare with VMWare
Cancel
VMware
Cancel
No question here. We are 90% Red Hat Enterprise Linux with very few Windows Servers.
Cancel
xenserver
Cancel
For an school environment it was best to go with Virtualbox. This is a pretty different setting than most ‘datacenters’ though. We only use a couple of tower servers in the telecom room.
Cancel
There are no real savings with Microsoft! At the end, you always pay their tax!
Cancel
Experience and reading says that VMware is more compatible with all OS where as Hyper-V provides best result in Windows Guest OS rather then any other non Microsoft product.. VMware provides the best Housing for any Virtual Guest OS.
Cancel
Cheaper
Cancel
vmware is better
Cancel
This is an unnecessarily complicated analysis both the VMware side and the Hyper-V will have the exact same Windows OS licensing costs. Therefore only the cost of the managment software should be compared. It is difficult to come up with a senario where Hyper-V is not the lower cost.
Cancel
Management tools are compared here: http://tinyurl.com/c6dq5b5

--Beth Pariseau
Cancel
I didn't say managment wasn't compared only that the OS figures needlessly complicated the discussion. ie when a constant is on both sides of an equation it can be elliminated.
Cancel
vSphere has better features and has a better community to help with issues.
Cancel
While MS is making great strides the reality is that virtualization is not their core business. They could decide tomorrow to drop developement and they would not be hurting. VMware is more motivated - if they drop virtualization tomorrow it would be because they are going out of business.
Cancel
I doubt MS will drop virtualization and if MS dries up VMW profits by a large amount they could go out of business. VMW can't continue to charge customers like they do. Already seeing lots of Hyper-V going in and WS 2012 will only accelerate it's adoption.
Cancel
I have only one comment on this peice, which I think is great: Microsoft has been explicit that it is basing its pricing for Hyper-V and System Center(NOT Server or SQL etc) on go head to head with "major competitors". The technology and features aren't a match(yet) but the strategy around price is pretty clear
Cancel
How is this even a question? Is techtarget this out of touch? Not even close. everyone knows VMware is the most expensive hypervisor in the market and it got so much worse with the vtaxes in esx5. Been using Hyper-V since R2 and it just works. that was the right decision as WS2012 hyper-v 3 is years ahead of VMware with Ethernet based live migration, replica, encrypted clusters and crazy perf for starters. I was at teched last week and saw the keynote where they demod almost a million IOPs in a vm. awesome. bye-bye vmware
Cancel
MS all the way
Cancel
Better from far
Cancel
XenServer of course
Cancel
Price is one thing, reliability and function are another - VMware wins
Cancel
this article appears to be completely ignoring the VMware memory tax. ??? there's no way VMware is the best value. hyperv by a mile
Cancel
VMWare hands-down. Hyper-V is still 2-3 years away from VMware's offerings
Cancel
vSphere is far out the best
Cancel
Hyper-V 3 by far
Cancel
"Factor in 150 Windows Standard licenses and the total price of the environment jumps to $152,434.". Wrong. You would not buy 150 standard licenses. 30 Datcenter licenses at $2,200 each = $66,000 making your total closer to $100,000 for 15 x dual Proc hosts.
Cancel
Less expensive is not normally the best solution in the world of IT. You want the combination of features that meet and exceed requirements at the best price.
Cancel
The New Version of hyper V provides "Everything" we need. Game over Vmware and endless expenses.
Cancel
Well, its like most of all Microsoft products. First Version barely works, service packs makes it better and in R2 og V3 release its one of the best if not best. So lets keep it simple. Hyper V........
Cancel
@Post 364008 -- You raise a good point, and another of several licensing scenarios that are possible here. Of course, it's all moot since no one pays list price anyway, as I cover in part 2 of this series... http://searchservervirtualization.techtarget.com/news/2240158344/Microsoft-VMware-offer-deep-discounts-to-gain-virtualization-market-share
Cancel
Try Xen or XenServer for much better bang for your buck
Cancel
Hyper-v is unstable, full of bugs and requires 30% more h/w. vSphere is not perfect but i sleep better an the overall TCO is much lower.
Cancel
Hyper V is the best
Cancel
For mission critical environments, you should consider vSphere because of its scalability and reliability (among other things).
For labs, you should consider vSphere because of its higher consolidation ratio (yes, still better than Hyper-V).

This way you eliminate a bunch of patches and useless reboots.
Cancel
ALL time Best Product is Vmware-hypervisor
Cancel
Cheap things no good. Good things no cheap :)
Cancel
VMWare just offers a more solid foundation with more features and reliability over any MS OS.
Cancel
Till now its VMware and only VMware
Cancel
vmware was at one point, not anymore. they should spend more time catching up with MS and less time screwing customers with licensing hikes
Cancel
VMware ESXi rocks
Cancel
These articles seem to be bias. The authors present data and tweak it to make MS look more appealing when VMWare has been doing this much longer with more features. I am sure MS is developing good platforms but my experiance has been they have been and still are try to catch up.
Cancel
Manageability and operability with VMWARE is way ahead of of its compitition.
Cancel
Maybe y view changes when Hyper-V 2012 V1.1 comes available.
Cancel
Micrsoft offers a better partnership. Windows Server 2012 is the game changer and puts Microsoft ahead with a better solution, price, and opportunities for partners. Couple that with Systems Center 2012 and the combination is unmatched.
Cancel
Please post a MS link where support what you are saying about: Suggested Live Migration uses are for Linux, VDI and test / dev.

"including Live Migration, but has limited use scenarios in Windows environments, according to Microsoft’s website. Suggested uses are for Linux, VDI and test / dev."
Cancel
VMware rocks
Cancel
For me and my previous role in a large global enterprise, it was VMWare but only because Hyper-V was not stable enough nor documented enough to warrant deployment into mission-critical estate.

Have reviewed XenServer as an alternative to VMWare and found it far more cost-effective for small scale IT labs or small estates.

Having read this report, I would consider Hyper-V but MS licensing has and always will be a killer for upscaling virtualisation projects.

Now reviewing technical specs on new Hyper-V and will be compiling VMw v's Hyper-V v's XenServer.....
Cancel
like vmware
Cancel
technically vsphere is one of the best hypervizer compare to other's..
Cancel
Although Hyper-V has improved...
Cancel
learning alot with this information
Cancel
VMware is much more matured product
Cancel
vSphere is much more stable
Cancel
Reliability and versatility must be a factor for us which puts VMware well beyond Hyper-V from the testing we've done. With or without those factors, however, VMware was still a better deal for us 6 hosts and ~200 VMs. We also needed site failover capabilities like SRM which Hyper-V simply can't compare to.
Cancel
If you look at a cost per workload that takes into account the entire TCO you will find that vmware is the best Value for money.
Cancel
Ive been using VMware now for around 7 years. Ive found it to be very stable and quite an enhancement to system administration. Ive worked with Hyper V, it still suffers from being Windows.
Cancel
VMware provides reliability, consistency, and compatibility with various frameworks in the IT industry. Nowadays, Organization's Data Centers grow larger. Therefore, starting with VMware is the smartest move and IT decision maker can make.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchVMware

SearchWindowsServer

SearchCloudComputing

SearchVirtualDesktop

SearchDataCenter

Close