Everything You Wanted to Know About the Differences between VMware and Hyper-V – Part 1

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Differences between VMware and Hyper-V – Part 1

When it comes to virtual machines, one of the most frequently asked questions is, what the heck are the differences and which should I choose? A tricky call for many. So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and answer that question once and for all.

Bring On the Beasts

The biggest difference between the two is that VMware is a company and Hyper-V is a product. VMware’s product is called vSphere and is a platform designed for virtualization. Its two main parts are ESXi, which is the hypervisor, and vCenter Server which is a single pane of glass management server, a virtual machine that manages multiple hypervisors on multiple physical servers from a single point. Hyper-V is a Microsoft platform and hypervisor. With VMware, it could refer to either vSphere or ESXi.  So Hyper-V is actually an arrow a role that you install on top of Windows server, and your Windows Server is ready for virtualization.

I’ve Got the Power

As for management, with Hyper-V, you manage your virtual machines using virtual machine manager (VMM) inside your system center, which is the standard way to manage Windows Server. So by installing VMM, you gain some new options with the server center, making it super useful for Windows Server administrators as they are familiar with the environment, and they can benefit from those extra perks that the increased functionality brings and they should be able to do it no time.

But I thought It Used to Be Different…

It’s true Hyper-V used to used to be designed only for Microsoft Server. Although you could run Linux within a virtual machine, it frequently just stopped working or you were getting some strange errors, and sometimes there were upgrades broke your virtual machine, so it was only suitable for Windows Virtual Machines. But this has changed greatly over the years, and actually starting from Windows Server 2012, Linux works with Hyper-V, and, in fact, Microsoft has become the largest contributor to Linux, which is strange, and they have added a lot of drivers for Hyper-V to make it run more smoothly. This makes Microsoft a great Linux contributor over the years, and Hyper-V is the reason they have done it.

Tell Me About the Features!

Interestingly, most of the features are the same but they often have different names so it can sometimes be confusing. For instance, there is a feature in VMware that allows you to move a running virtual machine from one physical host to another, which is called the vMotion, but with Hyper-V, they have exactly the same picture but is called Live Migration. This means you can be left scratching your head when choosing between the two, as the naming conventions make it difficult to compare the features – they are called differently, but they do the same things. So if you know the Microsoft name and what it is called in VMware, you can save yourself loads of time when comparing both products.

Try Walking in My Footprint

As has already been the case in this article, most of the bigger differences were historical ones. I was trying to find some differences and the truth is it seems to be that they were bigger differences in the old days. When I compare the current version of VMware, which is vSphere 6.7, to Hyper-V 2019, the differences are really tiny. VMware ESXi, the hypervisor, is actually an operating system on its own, it’s loosely based on Linux, but it’s written from scratch and it’s quite small. This used to be a big advantage of VMware, that the hypervisor itself could fit on an SD card or a flash drive. Typically when you worked with virtualisation, you had shared storage,  you bought an enterprise storage array from Dell or HP and put your data there, and then you didn’t need RAID controllers and hard disks on your server – this meant you could save quite a bit of money. So you could buy shared storage and there you had diskless servers, and could install VMware on SD cards, which was on the servers. The diskless-server approach made a lot of sense because the disks were often the things that broke the most. It was simple, super cheap and worked perfectly. And you couldn’t do that with Hyper-V because Hyper-V needed you to install Windows Server, which was almost 40 gigabytes on its own, and then add the hyper-V role. The resulting footprints were large, and also with Hyper-V, you got frequent updates because of the codebase, so when Windows Server updated you also had to update Hyper-V.

And Have Things Changed?

Nowadays with Windows Server 2019 and Hyper-V 2019, they introduced something called Nano Server and it’s a very basic Windows Server installation. There is no GUI, and no remote desktop support. It is really tiny and less than one gigabyte. So the footprint has really has reduced, and also, VMware ESXi has become bigger because of added features. And although footprints are quite similar, there is still the difference that Windows Server cannot be installed on an SD card, but now the updates have a similar frequency, Hyper-V has nice Linux support, and now Hyper-V has become more reliable so I would say really the difference goes down to personal preference, plus support as well and also price of course.

As you can see from this first part, the development of the two platforms have taken them down different paths that have ironically caused many of their routes to converge. In the next part, I will take a look at some of the other factors that can help you understand those subtle differences in greater detail.