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Free virtualization: It’s free for a reason

Free virtualization hypervisors can be tempting, but they often lack features, such as live migration and high availability, that really unlock the technology’s power.

As IT departments strive to do more with less, many turn to free virtualization tools. As your infrastructure grows, however, these tools can cause more trouble than they’re worth.

By using free virtualization, you may be sacrificing performance.

In financial terms, the push to do more with less often leads to a misguided emphasis on capital expenses (CapEx) over operating expenses (OpEx). CapEx is easy to determine, because it is right there on the price tag. OpEx is much more difficult to ascertain, but it can have a far more significant effect over time, because OpEx costs are usually several times greater than CapEx costs. 

Hypervisors are a great example. VMware, Microsoft and Citrix Systems dominate the market, and each vendor offers a free virtualization hypervisor. If you can get these for free, why would you want to pay?

Well, first of all, the free virtualization hypervisors are missing some key features. Two of these three vendors allow for the live migration of virtual machines (VMs) in their free editions, and only one will allow you to automate that functionality. Just one provides high availability, through the automatic restart of VMs. And none will accommodate the live migration of storage.

Live migration and high availability are core features for virtualization in any organization. These features unlock the potential of virtualization, moving it from a tactical tool to a crucial part of business strategy. By using free virtualization hypervisors, you may be sacrificing performance and availability while increasing maintenance overhead. Suddenly, a few thousand dollars for an enterprise hypervisor license does not seem so bad.

Do free virtualization hypervisors have a place in some IT infrastructures? Yes. They can yield immediate value in specific, tactical use cases. But selecting a free tool that lacks significant features and will not scale can actually make it more difficult to transition to other strategic tools that your organization will need as it grows.

The hypervisor is a core component of the modern data center, and the selection process warrants some legwork and due diligence. Map out every feature and the effects it will have on your organization, both today and in the future. If you are only looking at the price tag, you may end up getting bit by a free dog.

Dig Deeper on Virtualization costs, licensing and support issues

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