Ease of use, simple management picked as top hypervisor vendor features

Choosing the right hypervisor often comes down to what fits your IT budget. But some hypervisor features might be worth a splurge.

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a hypervisor vendor. While budget is often at top of mind for enterprises, some simply stick with a vendor that is already running in their data center. This month's SearchVMware advisory board asks, "If budget issues weren't part of the equation, which hypervisor features would drive your decision?"

VMware has the most feature-rich hypervisor, but it's expensive. Is it worth the price or are there comparable features in another offering? Microsoft's Hyper-V is a less-expensive option, but has fewer features. And what about KVM or Citrix?

This month, we asked the Search VMware Advisory Board which hypervisor features would make or break their decision when making a purchasing decision. Which features are most important and how much are they worth?

Brian Kirsch

When shopping for a hypervisor, several things come to mind in terms of what you can't live without in modern-day data centers. Live migrations are an absolute must for any modern hypervisor. In fact, I'm not sure you can call a hypervisor is complete product without it. Other hypervisor features that are high on my list include storage migrations and the ability to hot-add resources, but none of these are my deciding factors.

My key shopping factor is the complexity and management of a hypervisor. As you compare VMware to Hyper-V and KVM, one thing is very apparent with all of them: They all require additional pieces to truly bring out the complete functions and features of the hypervisor.

When you look at what you can do with each hypervisor, you also need to look at everything needed to make it whole. This can be anything from additional monitoring and logging tools to central server pieces that enable fundamental functions. Unfortunately, these additional pieces are typically not free or easy to get up and running. As I look at the best hypervisor features, the key for me is how complex it will be to get all the functions as advertised, as well as the daily care and feeding involved with the environment.

While complexity and management are typically not as shiny as live migrations or hot-add of resources, they're important because we deal with them every day. Now this isn't to say that the folks making the hypervisors haven't thought of this, but some additional effort in this area would not hurt. After all, it's no longer a contest of whose virtual machine is bigger; it's about how they perform. I would definitely pay more money to the hypervisor vendor with better management capabilities and a less-complex offering.

Alastair Cooke

The main thing I look for in a hypervisor is its ease of use. I don't mean how pretty the console is, or whether there are wizards that guide a novice. I care about how quickly and efficiently I can complete a task.

This means having a range of automation tools for frequent tasks -- both scripting and more sophisticated workflow tools. For less-frequent tasks, I prefer that the settings are in logical places in the user interface with guidelines I can understand -- not cryptic messages that I need to repeatedly [look up] to identify.

It's important to have clear dependencies for manual tasks as well. I prefer to know ahead of time when I need to download a new version of a utility or a driver update package. Having clearly documented dependencies is crucial when the hypervisor doesn't have internet access, but it's also important in situations with stringent change management.

Ease of use isn't a hypervisor feature you will see on a specification sheet, but it's very obvious -- and important -- when you work with the hypervisor in production.

Rob Bastiaansen

I started using hypervisors around the same time that customers started using them in production environments. At that time, VMware delivered the most complete hypervisor. Now there are many other competitors in the market, both open source and proprietary. I don't think one or two main features can put a hypervisor vendor solely above its competition.

If I was starting over today and had to choose a hypervisor vendor, I would look at the entire package -- not what a company offers, but also where they are going in the future. VMware is still on top of the list today because it offers a broad package of products, such as NSX, vSAN and vRealize, that customers can use to do almost whatever they want to in the data center.

This might sound like a marketing pitch for VMware but that's not the case, it's just my opinion. Are there areas that VMware could improve? Absolutely. VMware should put more effort in providing a more consistent offering with centralized management. That way, someone who uses a wide range of its products can use similar tools instead of a variety of options. At this point, it's still unknown how VMware will fare in the cloud arena.

To compare hypervisors, I would focus on the management capabilities, and VMware scores highly with vCenter and related products such as Log Insight from the vRealize Suite.

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