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Comparing VMware ESX, VMware Server, Microsoft Virtual Server, Xen and XenEnterprise: Management

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In this series

  - Choosing the right server virtualization solution part one, introduction
  - Choosing the right server virtualization solution part two, technical specifications
  - Choosing the right server virtualization solution part three, management
  - Choosing the right server virtualization solution part four, additional features

Part two of this tip looked at technical specifications and support Now let's turn our attention to management and high availability.

Management

Does each option offer Web-based server management? A remote VM console? Scripting support? Let's find out.

Web-based server management
Let's look at whether or not it is possible to manage the VMM via a Web browser for each option.


Web-based server management

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes

VMware Server

Yes

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Yes

Xen 3.0

Yes (with third party tools)

XenEnterprise

Yes

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3, VMware Server, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 and XenEnterprise all provide a Web-based server management interface. Even though third-party tools exist that provide this functionality to Xen 3.0, Xen 3.0 loses a point for not bundling them.

Winner(s): VMware ESX Server 2.5.3, VMware Server, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, XenEnterprise

Loser(s): Xen 3.0

Remote VM console
Is it is possible to remotely view the VM in a console connection?


Remote VM console

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes

VMware Server

Yes

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Yes

Xen 3.0

Yes

XenEnterprise

Yes

Even though all the solutions have some sort of remote VM console, XenEnterprise wins because it ships with the only remote console software that is compatible with OS X.

Winner(s): XenEnterprise

Loser(s): --

Scripting and API support
It's time to check whether or not the VMM is scriptable and/or exposes an API.


Scripting and API support

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes

VMware Server

Yes

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Yes

Xen 3.0

Yes

XenEnterprise

Yes

All of the VMMs have some sort of scripting and API support. It is hard to call a winner in this category, because scripting and API support is really just a means to an end. VMware offers an extensible API for its products, and anyone can program for Xen by virtue of it being open source. In the end, they do not lose points because they do offer a COM interface, but Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 is left playing catch up to the competition.

Winner(s): VMware ESX Server 2.5.3, VMware Server, Xen 3.0, XenEnterprise

Loser(s): --

Template support
Does each VMM support the creation of VMs through pre-configured templates?


Template support

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

At an additional cost through the use of VirtualCenter

VMware Server

Sort of – through the use of Golden Masters

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Sort of
- through the use of Golden Masters, V2V, or a custom scripted
solution with the Microsoft Virtual Server Migration Tool (VSMT)

Xen 3.0

Yes

XenEnterprise

Yes

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3, in conjunction with VirtualCenter, hands down, offers the most seamless template deployment at this time. However, VirtualCenter is not cheap. Although not as fully featured as VirtualCenter templates, Xen 3.0 and XenEnterprise can take advantage of the Xen-tools' templating capabilities. XenEnterprise even comes with its own type of template called XGT. At the moment though, Windows is not supported by Xen-tools or the XGT format. Because there is not a free, polished product, there is no winner.

Winner(s): --

Loser(s): --

High availability

How well does each solution support high availability?

NIC teaming

This part examines whether or not it is possible to provide redundant network infrastructure by teaming several physical NICs and presenting a single logical NIC.


NIC teaming

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes

VMware Server

Yes (through host OS)

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Yes (through host OS)

Xen 3.0

Yes (through control OS)

XenEnterprise

Yes (through control OS)

All the VMM solutions support NIC teaming / bonding.

Winner(s): All

Loser(s): --

VM clustering
This part looks at whether or not the VMM allows for clustering inside VMs, such as Microsoft Clustering.


VM clustering

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes (across physical hosts)

VMware Server

Yes (on a single physical host)

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Yes (on a single physical host)

Xen 3.0

Only guest Linux clustering for now

XenEnterprise

Only guest Linux clustering for now

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, Xen and VMware Server tie for the loss because they have deficiencies in this area. Although nothing prevents VMware from enabling VMware Server with the same support of VM clustering that ESX has, it will not, because that is one of the features that sets ESX apart from its free counterpart. Xen stands the best chance of catching up to ESX's VM clustering support, but for now, ESX wins.

Winner(s): VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Loser(s): VMware Server, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, Xen 3.0, XenEnterprise

Network storage connectivity (SAN)
Let's check whether or not the VM images can be stored on a network attached storage device such as a SAN.


Network storage connectivity (SAN)

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes

VMware Server

Yes (through host OS)

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Yes (through host OS)

Xen 3.0

Yes (through control OS)

XenEnterprise

Yes (through control OS)

All the VMM solutions support network storage connectivity.

Winner(s): All

Loser(s): --

Host VM migration capability
Does the VMM supports transitioning a running VM to another physical host without downtime?


Hot VM migration capability

VMware ESX Server 2.5.3

Yes

VMware Server

No

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

No

Xen 3.0

Yes

XenEnterprise

Yes

This used to be one of the big reasons to use ESX, but Xen now includes free support for the same feature called live relocation. Since live relocation is free Xen would win in a walk if live relocation supported Windows VMs, but it does not. Until then there is no winner since all solutions are lacking, either because of price or because of feature absence.

Winner(s): --

Loser(s): VMware Server, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Now we've looked at management features and high availability. Part four will conclude with a look at additional features and a wrapup of our comparison.


This was first published in May 2006

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