Some IT pros say that even the most compelling virtualization cost savings on licenses won’t pay for the pain of ripping and replacing the VMware technology that has become the heart of many data centers.
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The premise behind comparing prices is, after all, that users would make a switch from VMware to Microsoft if they find lower prices compelling enough. But some users say that just isn’t the case.
“The licensing would be least of my worries” if his company were to switch from VMware to Hyper-V, said Maish Saidel-Keesing, a virtualization administrator for an Israeli technology company. “The operational costs of switching everything are indescribable.”
For example, with a dual infrastructure for High Availability, “I can't rip and replace. I need to migrate,” Saidel-Keesing said. “Migration of each and every VM [means] time and money.”
Then there’s training to use a new hypervisor and terminology, not to mention new monitoring and replication tools. Also, scripts wouldn’t work anymore. The disaster recovery site would have to be changed over. The automation would need to be replaced, and integration into a service catalog and ticketing system would have to be redone. The backup and restore would need to be re-thought, and the old system would need to be kept around in case information from an older file is needed, because VMs can’t be restored from vSphere to Hyper-V, or vice versa.
“To change is to essentially build everything from the ground up, and still have to worry about how to provide support for all the history,” Saidel-Keesing concluded. “I think VMware knows that is in their favor, and Microsoft knows that will be its biggest challenge.”
In fact, few -- if any -- IT shops make such a move in haste.
“Do we ever hear of a customer saying we’re going to just rip out one hypervisor product and put another one in? No. It just doesn’t happen,” said Chris Wolf, research vice president at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn. “If anything, you’re making the strategic commitment to go from one to the other over time, and initially, you shouldn’t be expecting to save a whole heck of a lot of money.”
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Still, there is evidence that VMware virtualization users will move to other platforms as Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V emerges.
“I’m expecting to see 60% to 65% of my federal customers immediately move to… a heterogeneous hypervisor tiering [environment and] start phasing out their VMware environment in 2013…if VMware doesn’t get more competitive from a price perspective,” said a channel partner who requested anonymity.
Though switching hypervisors can be a challenge, some VMware-to-Hyper-V converts say that the costs saved make it a worthwhile move.
There is also at least one potential wild card when it comes to the thorny question of swapping out hypervisors. Startup HotLink Corp. has jumped into this fray with its SuperVISOR tool, which allows for the management of multiple hypervisors through VMware vCenter without an additional management console.
SuperVISOR, while still an emerging tool, has begun to turn heads among enterprise users.
One blue-chip HotLink reference customer is security-software giant McAfee Inc. which runs about 70% VMware vSphere, 25% Microsoft Hyper-V and 5% Citrix XenServer. The amount of Hyper-V workloads in the environment is growing, however, given McAfee parent company Intel Corp.’s relationship with Microsoft.