FRAMINGHAM, 30 AUGUST 2010 - Even within enterprise data centers, where automation, high-level management and high availability often trump cost as buying criteria, free is a hard price to refuse, even for technology as complex and interconnected as virtual servers.
In the server rooms, wiring closets and semi-isolated cube farms of IT at small- and mid-sized companies, free is even harder to refuse. Add in simple, and for some customers, the balance tips.
"When I first looked at virtualization all I knew was VMware (VMW). For what I wanted I got a quote that was just too high," according to Christian Boivin, vice president of JLR Recherche Immobilière (JLR Real Estate Data Builders), a Montreal-based company that collects, packages and resells data on land sales in Canada and the U.S.
"I would have had to buy a SAN, buy the licenses, the servers," Boivin says. Instead of using VMware or taking a DIY approach with an open-source hypervisor like XenServer, Boivin hired VM6 Software, which sells software that configures existing Windows servers and storage into virtual infrastructures based on Microsoft's (MSFT) Hyper-V, a free add-on to Windows Server 2008.
Boivin consolidated 12 physical servers into two pairs of mirrored virtual-machine hosts, two of which are located off-site as disaster-recovery vehicles, to house three terabytes of current data that includes 250GB databases of active, high-demand data served to appraisers, banks and real-estate brokers in Canada and the U.S.
What Free Leaves Out
It's important to note that Hyper-V's version of 'free' leaves out the management consoles, OS licenses and other add-ons required to run a virtual infrastructure that drive Microsoft costs much closer to VMware's: Yet Microsoft is still a much cheaper alternative, according to Gary Chen, server virtualization analyst at IDC.
Also key to the buying decision: Microsoft has expanded Hyper-V's abilities, but it still suffers in comparison to VMware's superior automation and management functions, Chen says. (And VMware will no doubt roll out even more capabilities at its VMworld conference next week.)
Hyper-V is less able to do things like set priorities on which VMs should be restarted first after a crash. And, until a rush of support from independent software vendors recently, there were many fewer management and storage applications available for Hyper-V.
Most of the customers Hyper-V has drawn have been those most comfortable with Microsoft products, or those whose requirements were fairly low, Chen says.
"It's gotten to be good enough for people who are looking for something that's good enough," Chen says. "It definitely did not grow as fast as people expected; it's been pretty flat for the last couple of quarters, in fact."
Hyper-V Sneaks Into Branch Offices
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