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Essay 5.1

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NT1210: Introduction to Networking_V1.0 | Virtual Computing | Comparing Microsoft and VMware solutions | | Jacob D. Smith | 10/21/2015 |


With so many features called by differing names in each virtualization platform, comparing Microsoft and VMware virtualization solutions can sometimes seem a bit like comparing apples and oranges. But, I’ll try to boil things down to a real-world perspective based on my experience implementing both solutions in the field throughout my career. In this article, I’ll provide a summarized comparison of the feature sets provided by each of these latest releases using the currently available public information from both Microsoft and VMware as of this article’s publication date for additional reference.
How to compare?
Rather than simply comparing feature-by-feature using just simple check-marks in each category, I’ll try to provide as much detail as possible for you to intelligently compare each area. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, sometimes the “devil is in the details”.
For each comparison area, I’ll rate the related capabilities with the following color coded rankings: * Supported – Fully supported without any additional products or licenses * Limited Support – Significant limitations when using related feature, or limitations in comparison to the competing solution represented * Not Supported – Not supported at all or without the addition of other product licensing costs
In this Essay, I’ve organized the comparison into the following sections: * Licensing * Virtualization Scalability * VM Portability, High Availability and Disaster Recovery * Storage * Networking * Guest Operating Systems
Of course, not all of the features and capabilities presented in the summary below may be important to you. As you review the comparison summary of each section, just make a note of the particular features that you're likely to use in your environment. When you're done, tally up the ratings in each column to determine which platform achieves a better score in meeting the needs of your organization.
Licensing: At-A-Glance | Microsoft
Windows Server 2012 R2
+ System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter Editions | VMware vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus + vCenter Server 5.5 | Notes | # of Physical CPUs per License | 2 | 1 | With Microsoft, each Datacenter Edition license provides licensing for up to 2 physical CPUs per Host. Additional licenses can be “stacked” if more than 2 physical CPUs are present.

With VMware, a vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus license must be purchased for each physical CPU. This difference in CPU licensing is one of the factors that can contribute to increased licensing costs. In addition, a minimum of one license of vCenter Server 5.5 is required for vSphere deployments. | # of Managed OSE’s per License | Unlimited | Unlimited | Both solutions provide the ability to manage an unlimited number of Operating System Environments per licensed Host. | # of Windows Server VM Licenses per Host | Unlimited | 0 | With VMware, Windows Server VM licenses must still be purchased separately. In environments virtualizing Windows Server workloads, this can contribute to a higher overall cost when virtualizing with VMware.

VMware does include licenses for an unlimited # of VMs running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server per Host. | Includes Anti-virus / Anti-malware protection | Yes - System Center Endpoint Protection agents included for both Host and VMs with System Center 2012 R2 | Yes - Includes vShield Endpoint Protection which deploys as EPSEC thin agent in each VM + separate virtual appliance. | | Includes full SQL Database Server licenses for management databases | Yes – Includes all needed database server licensing to manage up to 1,000 hosts and 25,000 VMs per management server. | No – Must purchase additional database server licenses to scale beyond managing 100 hosts and 3,000 VMs with vCenter Server Appliance. | VMware licensing includes an internal vPostgres database that supports managing up to 100 hosts and 3,000 VMs via vCenter Server Appliance. See VMware vSphere 5.5 Configuration Maximums for details. | Includes licensing for Enterprise Operations Monitoring and Management of hosts, guest VMs and application workloads running within VMs. | Yes – Included in System Center 2012 R2 | No – Operations Monitoring and Management requires separate license for vCenter Operations Manager or upgrade to vSphere with Operations Management | | Includes licensing for Private Cloud Management capabilities – pooled resources, self-service, delegation, automation, elasticity, chargeback/showback | Yes – Included in System Center 2012 R2 | No – Private Cloud Management capabilities require additional cost of VMware vCloud Suite. | | Includes management tools for provisioning and managing VDI solutions for virtualized Windows desktops. | Yes – Included in the RDS role of Windows Server 2012. | No – VDI management requires additional cost of VMware Horizon View. | | Includes web-based management console | Yes – Included in System Center 2012 App Controller using web browsers supporting Silverlight 5, and free Windows Azure Pack for multi-tenant self-service VM management using web browsers supporting HTML5/JavaScript. | Yes – Included in vSphere Web Client using IE 8,9,10, Firefox and Chrome. | |
Virtualization Scalability: At-a-Glance | Microsoft
Windows Server 2012 R2
+ System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter Editions | VMware vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus + vCenter Server 5.5 | Notes | Maximum # of Logical Processors per Host | 320 | 320 | With vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus, VMware has “caught up” to Microsoft in terms of Maximum # of Logical Processors supported per Host. | Maximum Physical RAM per Host | 4TB | 4TB | With vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus, VMware has “caught up” to Microsoft in terms of Maximum Physical RAM supported per Host. | Maximum Active VMs per Host | 1,024 | 512 | | Maximum Virtual CPUs per VM | 64 | 64 | When using VMware FT, only 1 Virtual CPU per VM can be used. | Hot-Adjust Virtual CPU Resources to VM | Yes - Hyper-V provides the ability to increase and decrease Virtual Machine limits for processor resources on running VMs. | Yes - Can Hot-Add virtual CPUs for running VMs on selected Guest Operating Systems and adjust Limits/Shares for CPU resources. | VMware Hot-Add CPU feature requires supported Guest Operating System. Check VMware Compatibility Guide for details. VMware Hot-Add CPU feature not supported when using VMware FT | Maximum Virtual RAM per VM | 1TB | 1TB | When using VMware FT, only 64GB of Virtual RAM per VM can be used. | Hot-Add Virtual RAM to VM | Yes ( Dynamic Memory ) | Yes | Requires supported Guest Operating System. | Dynamic Memory Management | Yes ( Dynamic Memory ) | Yes ( Memory Ballooning ) Note that memory overcommit is not supported for VMs that are configured as an MSCS VM Guest Cluster. | VMware vSphere 5.5 also supports another memory technique: Transparent Page Sharing (TPS). While TPS was useful in the past on legacy server hardware platforms and operating systems, it is no longer effective in many environments due to modern servers and operating systems supporting Large Memory Pages (LMP) for improved memory performance. | Guest NUMA Support | Yes | Yes | NUMA = Non-Uniform Memory Access. Guest NUMA support is particularly important for scalability when virtualizing large multi-vCPU VMs on Hosts with a large number of physical processors. | Maximum # of physical Hosts per Cluster | 64 | 32 | | Maximum # of VMs per Cluster | 8,000 | 4,000 | | Virtual Machine Snapshots | Yes - Up to 50 snapshots per VM are supported. | Yes - Up to 32 snapshots per VM chain are supported, but VMware only recommends 2-to-3. In addition, VM Snapshots are not supported for VMs using an iSCSI initiator. | | Integrated Application Load Balancing for Scaling-Out Application Tiers | Yes - via System Center 2012 R2 VMM | No – Requires additional purchase of vCloud Network and Security (vCNS) or vCloud Suite. | | Bare metal deployment of new Hypervisor hosts and clusters | Yes - via System Center 2012 R2 VMM | Yes - VMware Auto Deploy and Host Profiles supports bare metal deployment of new hosts into an existing cluster, but does not support bare metal deployment of new clusters. | | Bare metal deployment of new Storage hosts and clusters | Yes - via System Center 2012 R2 VMM | No | | Manage GPU Virtualization for Advanced VDI Graphics | Yes - Server GPUs can be virtualized and pooled across VDI VMs via RemoteFX and native VDI management features in RDS role. | Yes - via vDGA and vSGA features, but requires separate purchase of VMware Horizon View to manage VDI desktop pools. | | Virtualization of USB devices | Yes - Client USB devices can be passed to VMs via Remote Desktop connections. Direct redirection of USB storage from Host possible with Windows-to-Go certified devices. Direct redirection of other USB devices possible with third-party solutions. | Yes - via USB Pass-through support. | | Virtualization of Serial Ports | Yes - Virtual Machine Serial Ports can be connected to Named Pipes on a host. Named Pipes can then be connected to Physical Serial Ports on a host using free PipeToCom tool. Live Migration of VMs using virtualized serial ports can be provided via 3rd party software, such as Serial over Ethernet and Network Serial Port, or 3rd party hardware, such as Digi PortServer TS and Lantronix UDS1100 | Yes - Virtual Machine Serial Ports can be connected to Named Pipes, Files or Physical Serial Ports on a host. vMotion of VMs using virtualized serial ports can be supported when using 3rd party virtual serial port concentrators, such as Avocent ACS v6000. | Note that the ability to perform Virtual Machine Live Migration (or vMotion) for VM's with virtualized serial ports requires a third-party option on both solutions compared. | Minimum Disk Footprint while still providing management of multiple virtualization hosts and guest VM's | ~800KB - Micro-kernelized hypervisor ( Ring -1 ) ~5GB - Drivers + Management ( Parent Partition - Ring 0 + 3 ) Microsoft Hyper-V uses a modern micro-kernelized hypervisor architecture, which minimizes the components needed within the hypervisor running in Ring -1, while still providing strong scalability, performance, VM security, Virtual Disk security and broad device driver compatibility. | ~155MB - Monolithic hypervisor w/ Drivers( Ring -1 + 0 ) ~4GB - Management ( vCenter Server Appliance - Ring 3 ) VMware vSphere uses a larger classic monolithic hypervisor approach, which incorporates additional code, such as device drivers, into the hypervisor. This approach can make device driver compatibility an issue in some cases, but offers increased compatibility with legacy server hardware that does not support Intel-VT / AMD-V hardware-assisted virtualization. | Microsoft and VMware each use different approaches for hypervisor architecture. Each approach offers different advantages as noted in the columns to the left. See When it comes to hypervisors, does size really matter? for a more detailed real-world comparison. Frequently, patch management comes up when discussing disk footprints. See Orchestrating Patch Management for more details on this area. | Boot from Flash | Yes - Supported via Windows-to-Go devices. | Yes | | Boot from SAN | Yes - can leverage included iSCSI Target Server or 3rd party iSCSI / FC storage arrays using software or hardware boot providers. | Yes - can leverage 3rd party iSCSI / FC storage arrays using software or hardware boot providers. | |
VM Portability, High Availability and Disaster Recovery: At-a-Glance | Microsoft
Windows Server 2012 R2
+ System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter Editions | VMware vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus + vCenter Server 5.5 | Notes | Live Migration of running VMs | Yes – Unlimited concurrent Live VM Migrations. Provides flexibility to cap at a maximum limit that is appropriate for your datacenter architecture. Particularly useful when using RDMA-enabled NICs. | Yes – but limited to 4 concurrent vMotions per host when using 1GbE network adapters and 8 concurrent vMotions per host when using 10GbE network adapters. | | Live Migration of running VMs without shared storage between hosts | Yes – Supported via Shared Nothing Live Migration | Yes – Supported via Enhanced vMotion. | | Live Migration using compression of VM memory state | Yes – Supported via Compressed Live Migration, providing up to a 2X increase in Live Migration speeds. | No | | Live Migration over RDMA-enabled network adapters | Yes – Supported via SMB-Direct Live Migration, providing up to a 10X increase in Live Migration speeds and low CPU utilization. | No | | Live Migration of VMs Clustered with Windows Server Failover Clustering (MSCS Guest Cluster) | Yes – by configuring relaxed monitoring of MSCS VM Guest Clusters. | No – based on documented vSphere MSCS Setup Limitations | | Highly Available VMs | Yes – Highly available VMs can be configured on a Hyper-V Host cluster. If the application running inside the VM is cluster aware, a VM Guest Cluster can also be configured via MSCS for faster application failover times. | Yes – Supported by VMware HA, but with the limitations listed above when using MSCS VM Guest Clusters. | | Failover Prioritization of Highly Available VMs | Yes – Supported by clustered priority settings on each highly available VM. | Yes | | Affinity Rules for Highly Available VMs | Yes – Supported by preferred cluster resource owners and anti-affinity VM placement rules. | Yes | | Cluster-Aware Updating for Orchestrated Patch Management of Hosts. | Yes – Supported via included Cluster-Aware Updating (CAU) role service. | Yes – Supported by vSphere 5.5 Update Manager, but if using vCenter Server Appliance, need separate 64-bit Windows OS license for Update Management server. If supporting more than 5 hosts and 50 VMs, also need a separate SQL database server. | | Guest OS Application Monitoring for Highly Available VMs | Yes | Yes – Provided by vSphere App HA, but limited to only the following applications: Apache Tomcat, IIS, SQL Server, Apache HTTP Server, SharePoint, SpringSource tc Runtime. | | VM Guest Clustering via Shared Virtual Hard Disk files | Yes – Provided via native Shared VHDX support for VM Guest Clusters | Yes – But only Single-Host VM Guest Clustering supported via Shared VMDK files. For VM Guest Clusters that extend across multiple hosts, must use RDM instead. | | Maximum # of Nodes per VM Guest Cluster | 64 | 5 - as documented in VMware Guidelines for Supported MSCS Configurations | | Intelligent Placement of new VM workloads | Yes – Provided via Intelligent Placement in System Center 2012 R2 | Yes – Provided via vSphere DRS, but without ability to intelligently place fault tolerant VMs using VMware FT. | | Automated Load Balancing of VM Workloads across Hosts | Yes – Provided via Dynamic Optimization in System Center 2012 R2 | Yes - Provided via vSphere DRS, but without ability to load-balance VM Guest Clusters using MSCS. | | Power Optimization of Hosts when load-balancing VMs | Yes – Provided via Power Optimization in System Center 2012 R2 | Yes – Provided via Distributed Power Management (DPM)within a vSphere DRS cluster, with the same limitations listed above for Automated Load Balancing. | | Fault Tolerant VMs | No - The vast majority of application availability needs can be supported via Highly Available VMs and VM Guest Clustering on a more cost-effective and more-flexible basis than software-based fault tolerance solutions. If required for specific business applications, hardware-based fault tolerance server solutions can be leveraged where needed. | Yes – Supported via VMware FT, but there are a large number of limitations when using VMware FT, including no support for the following when using VMware FT: VM Snapshots, Storage vMotion, VM Backups via vSphere Data Protection, Virtual SAN, Multi-vCPU VMs, More than 64GB of vRAM per VM. | Software-based fault tolerance solutions, such as VMware FT, generally have significant limitations. If applications require more comprehensive fault tolerance than provided via Highly Available VMs and VM Guest Clustering, hardware-based fault tolerance server solutions offer an alternative choice without the limits imposed by software-based fault tolerance solutions. | Backup VMs and Applications | Yes - Provided via included System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager with support for Disk-to-Disk, Tape and Cloud backups. | Yes - Only supports Disk-to-Disk backup of VMs via vSphere Data Protection. Application-level backup integration requires separately purchased vSphere Data Protection Advanced. | | Site-to-Site Asynchronous VM Replication | Yes – Provided via Hyper-V Replica with 30-second, 5-minute or 15-minute replication intervals. Minimum RPO = 30-seconds. Hyper-V Replica also supports extended replication across three sites for added protection. | Yes – Provided via vSphere Replication with minimum replication interval of 15-minutes. Minimum RPO = 15-minutes. | In VMware solution, Orchestrated Failover of Site-to-Site replication can be provided via separately licensed VMware SRM. In Microsoft solution, Orchestrated Failover of Site-to-Site replication can be provided via included PowerShell at no additional cost. Alternatively, a GUI interface for orchestrating failover can be provided via the separately licensed Windows Azure HRM service. |
Storage: At-a-Glance | Microsoft
Windows Server 2012 R2
+ System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter Editions | VMware vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus + vCenter Server 5.5 | Notes | Maximum # Virtual SCSI Hard Disks per VM | 256 ( Virtual SCSI ) | 60 ( PVSCSI )
120 ( Virtual SATA ) | | Maximum Size per Virtual Hard Disk | 64TB | 62TB | vSphere 5.5 support for 62TB VMDK files is limited to when using VMFS5 and NFS datastores only.

In vSphere 5.5, VMFS3 datastores are still limited to 2TB VMDK files.

In vSphere 5.5, Hot-Expand, VMware FT , Virtual Flash Read Cache and Virtual SAN are not supported with 62TB VMDK files. | Native 4K Disk Support | Yes - Hyper-V provides support for both 512e and 4K large sector-size disks to help ensure compatibility with emerging innovations in storage hardware. | No | | Boot VM from Virtual SCSI disks | Yes ( Generation 2 VMs ) | Yes | | Hot-Add Virtual SCSI VM Storage for running VMs | Yes | Yes | | Hot-Expand Virtual SCSI Hard Disks for running VMs | Yes | Yes – but not supported with new 62TB VMDK files. | | Hot-Shrink Virtual SCSI Hard Disks for running VMs | Yes | No | | Storage Quality of Service | Yes ( Storage QoS ) | Yes ( Storage IO Control ) | In VMware vSphere 5.5, Storage IO Control is not supported for RDM disks.

In Windows Server 2012 R2, Storage QoS is not supported for Pass-through disks. | Virtual Fibre Channel to VMs | Yes ( 4 Virtual FC NPIV ports per VM ) | Yes ( 4 Virtual FC NPIV ports per VM ) - but not supported when using VM Guest Clusters with MSCS. | vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus also includes a software initiator for FCoE support for VMs.

While not included inbox in Windows Server 2012 R2, a no-cost ISV solution is available here to provide FCoE support for Hyper-V VMs. | Live Migrate Virtual Storage for running VMs | Yes - Unlimited concurrent Live Storage migrations. Provides flexibility to cap at a maximum limit that is appropriate for your datacenter architecture. | Yes – but only up to 2 concurrent Storage vMotion operations per host / only up to 8 concurrent Storage vMotion operations per datastore. Storage vMotion is also not supported for MSCS VM Guest Clusters. | | Flash-based Read Cache | Yes - Using SSDs in Tiered Storage Spaces, limited up to 160 physical disks and 480 TB total capacity. | Yes – but only up to 400GB of cache per virtual disk / 2TB cumulative cache per host for all virtual disks. | See this article for additional challenges and considerations when implementing Flash-based Read Caching on VMware. | Flash-based Write-back Cache | Yes - Using SSDs in Storage Spaces for Write-back Cache. | No | | SAN-like Storage Virtualization using commodity hard disks. | Yes – Included in Windows Server 2012 R2 Storage Spaces. | No | VMware provides Virtual SAN which is included as an experimental feature in vSphere 5.5. You can test and experiment with Virtual SAN, but VMware does not expect it to be used in a production environment. | Automated Tiered Storage between SSD and HDD using commodity hard disks. | Yes – Included in Windows Server 2012 R2 Storage Spaces. | No | VMware provides Virtual SAN which is included as an experimental feature in vSphere 5.5. You can test and experiment with Virtual SAN, but VMware does not expect it to be used in a production environment. | Can consume storage via iSCSI, NFS, Fibre Channel and SMB 3.0. | Yes | Yes – Except no support for SMB 3.0 | | Can present storage via iSCSI, NFS and SMB 3.0. | Yes – Available via included iSCSI Target Server, NFS Server and Scale-out SMB 3.0 Server support. All roles can be clustered for High Availability. | No | VMware provides vSphere Storage Appliance as a separately licensed product to deliver the ability to present NFS storage. | Storage Multipathing | Yes – via MPIO and SMB Multichannel | Yes – via VAMP | | SAN Offload Capability | Yes – via ODX | Yes – via VAAI | | Thin Provisioning and Trim Storage | Yes – Available via Storage Spaces Thin Provisioning and NTFS Trim Notifications. | Yes – but trim operations must be manually processed by running esxcli vmfs unmap command to reclaim disk space. | | Storage Encryption | Yes – via BitLocker | No | | Deduplication of storage used by running VMs | Yes – Available via included Data Deduplication role service. | No | | Provision VM Storage based on Storage Classifications | Yes – via Storage Classifications in System Center 2012 R2 | Yes – via Storage Policies, formerly called Storage Profiles, in vCenter Server 5.5 | | Dynamically balance and re-balance storage load based on demands | Yes – Storage IO load balancing and re-balancing is automatically handled on-demand by both SMB 3.0 Scale Out File Server and Automated Storage Tiers in Storage Spaces. | Yes – Performed via Storage DRS, but limited in load-balancing frequency. The default DRS load-balance interval only runs at 8-hour intervals and can be adjusted to run load-balancing only as often as every 1-hour. | Microsoft and VMware use different approaches for storage load balancing. Microsoft's approach is to provide granular, on-the-fly load balancing at an IO-level across SSD and HDD for better granularity. VMware's approach is to provide storage load balancing at a VM-level and use Storage vMotion to live migrate running VM's between storage locations periodically in an attempt to distribute storage loads for running VMs. | Integrated Provisioning and Management of Shared Storage | Yes - System Center 2012 R2 VMM includes storage provisioning and management of SAN Zoning, LUNS and Clustered Storage Servers. | No - Provisioning and management of Shared Storage is available through some 3rd party storage vendors who offer plug-ins to vCenter Server 5.5. | |
Networking: At-a-Glance | Microsoft
Windows Server 2012 R2
+ System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter Editions | VMware vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus + vCenter Server 5.5 | Notes | Distributed Switches across Hosts | Yes – Supported by Logical Switches in System Center 2012 R2 | Yes | | Extensible Virtual Switches | Yes - Several partners offer extensions today, such as Cisco, NEC, Inmon and 5nine. Windows Server 2012 R2 offers new support for co-existence of Network Virtualization and Switch Extensions. | Replaceable, not extensible - VMware virtual switch is replaceable, not incrementally extensible with multiple 3rd party solutions concurrently | | NIC Teaming | Yes – Up to 32 NICs per NIC Team. Windows Server 2012 R2 provides new Dynamic Load Balancing mode using flowlets to provide efficient load balancing even between a small number of hosts. | Yes – Up to 32 NICs per Link Aggregation Group | | Private VLANs (PVLAN) | Yes | Yes | | ARP Spoofing Protection | Yes | No – Requires additional purchase of vCloud Network and Security (vCNS) or vCloud Suite. | | DHCP Snooping Protection | Yes | No – Requires additional purchase of vCloud Network and Security (vCNS) or vCloud Suite. | | Router Advertisement Guard Protection | Yes | No – Requires additional purchase of vCloud Network and Security (vCNS) or vCloud Suite. | | Virtual Port ACLs | Yes - Windows Server 2012 R2 adds support for Extended ACLs that include Protocol, Src/Dst Ports, State, Timeout & Isolation ID | Yes - via new Traffic Filtering and Marking policies in vSphere 5.5 distributed switches | | Trunk Mode to VMs | Yes | Yes | | Port Monitoring | Yes | Yes | | Port Mirroring | Yes | Yes | | Dynamic Virtual Machine Queue | Yes | Yes | | IPsec Task Offload | Yes | No | | Single Root IO Virtualization (SR-IOV) | Yes | Yes – SR-IOV is supported by vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus, but without support for vMotion, Highly Available VMs or VMware FT when using SR-IOV. | | Virtual Receive Side Scaling ( Virtual RSS ) | Yes | Yes ( VMXNet3 ) | | Network Quality of Service | Yes | Yes | | Network Virtualization / Software-Defined Networking (SDN) | Yes – Provided via Hyper-V Network Virtualization based on NVGRE protocol and in-box Site-to-Site NVGRE Gateway. | No – Requires additional purchase of VMware NSX | | Integrated Network Management of both Virtual and Physical Network components | Yes – System Center 2012 R2 VMM supports integrated management of virtual networks, Top-of-Rack (ToR) switches and integrated IP Address Management | | |

As you can see, both Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 / System Center 2012 R2 and VMware vSphere 5.5 offer lots of enterprise-grade virtualization features. Hopefully this comparison was useful to you in more granularly evaluating each platform for your environment.


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