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Virtualization vendor comparisons

There has been a lot of mud slinging and FUD raising among virtualization vendors lately as the quest to rule the virtualization space continues.

One vendor will release information about its product, comparing performance, pricing or features to another vendor, with the other vendor firing back with its own response shortly thereafter. With all this going on, who are you to believe if you are in the market to adopt a virtualization solution in your own environment?

Comparisons by vendors themselves are always biased; after all, they want you to buy their product and not a competitor’s. Performance comparisons between vendors — even by third parties — don’t always tell the big picture and can be difficult to interpret.

So what should you do when comparing virtualization vendors? For starters, don’t believe everything you read and hear, and do your own comparison instead. If you are going to make a big investment in virtualization, it only makes sense to try all the products first in your own environment before making a choice. By doing this you can see firsthand how each one works, specific features that you may or may not need, ease of use and administration and much more.

Next find out what other customers think about the products you are interested in. By talking to existing customers you can get a neutral, unbiased opinion. Make sure you talk to customers that have a comparable data center to yours. Whenever I buy a product online I always read the customer reviews to get real opinions and experiences. If a product has many favorable reviews, I pay closest attention to the more non-favorable reviews to see why someone didn’t like the product. You may find things out that the vendor may not want to tell you, which will help influence your decision.

Study pricing carefully and make sure you are comparing apples to apples. An example is comparing the free, base Hyper-V to the full ESX Enterprise license. The Enterprise license comes with many features and functionality that Hyper-V does not have, so a better comparison would be to the free version of ESXi or the Foundation edition. VMware has several editions, each with their own features; make sure you choose the one that is right for you when making pricing comparisons.

Be aware that VMware has many bundles available at reduced costs, which you should consider when comparing prices. You should also take into account any management and automation products you may also need as part of your virtual environment, like VMware’s vCenter Server or Microsoft’s System Center.

Finally, remember that you usually get what you pay for. More expensive products are usually priced that way for a reason. Just make sure you get fair price comparisons when choosing the right product that fits within your budget.

I’m not saying don’t read all the reviews and comparisons that exist. Just take them with a grain of salt and don’t solely base your decisions on them. Every customer’s needs are different. For some customers XenServer may make more sense than VMware. For others who mostly use Microsoft products, Hyper-V may be a better fit. By making your own comparisons and doing your own research, you can help ensure that you choose the product that will work best in your own environment.

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I agree with the primary point you were trying to make here---customers need to do their own comparisons and not rely simply on the claims of a single vendor's tests. I do competitive testing at Citrix with XenServer, sometimes vs. a competitor and sometimes not. When I post results in a Citrix white paper, I always make the point that the customer shouldn't just take our word for it. They should, nay must, do their own testing. At the same time I don't agree with your assertion, "Comparisons by vendors themselves are always biased". Are they occasionally biased? Yes, sometimes they are. That happens especially when we seek to validate a specific feature or capability which we believe to be of competitive significance. And when we do, we'll point that out. In other cases, it's just not possible to do an exact apples:apples comparison. And finally, there are those vendors who’s EULAs limit or prevent altogether the ability to create a level playing field, resulting in the perception of bias. I disagree; however, with your assertion that bias "always" exists or is even intentional. We go to great lengths to avoid bias in our testing at Citrix. We know that customers would see right through it anyway, so why bother? And, if the appearance of bias exists and is pointed out to us by a customer, we'll do our best to explain our test rationale and if necessary, admit to any mistakes made along the way. We all learn from comparison testing. As a vendor, we learn how to make better products. Customers, ideally, learn what's right for them. Bernie Hannon Director, Certification & Testing Citrix Systems Xen Products Division