more energy efficient data center and reduce the total footprint of a computing environment.Virtualization technology can improve the cost efficiency of the data center by running servers at higher utilization. Deploying virtual servers can yield a
Although IT managers have started adopting virtualization for critical infrastructure, reports such as the poll conducted by Network Instruments in 2009 and reported on by Information World suggest that many IT managers could not confirm that they got the expected savings by virtualizing their environment. In that context, it is very nice to report that all of the key virtualization software vendors provide free or low-cost solutions that can be deployed and managed by IT teams. These solutions can be deployed in production environments so that teams can get started and determine for themselves if it is appropriate for their environment to host applications on virtual servers.
Virtualization technology has evolved considerable over the past years. The market-leader, VMware has been adding features and improving the performance of their offerings, including addressing applications that use intensive I/O operations and offering robust management tools.
The free ESXi version is a low-cost solution in the market that is useful for many scenarios. While ESXi does not include vCenter (formerly virtual center, centralized management tool for managing multiple VMware physical servers) or VMotion (dynamic migration) or clustering, in most cases these issues are easily addressed with proper planning. These features are clearly in the upgrade path for teams that need them.
We interviewed Tom Moore, an IT leader who has managed virtual production environments working for a Global Fortune 100 company for over eight years. We asked him to characterize his teams use of the free VMware ESXi. His team considered this when his organization was faced with a budget crunch, he said it was a "no brainer" to switch from full ESX to ESXi instead of open source XEN that's baked into various Linux distributions.
"Also, for the minimal charge of couple hundred dollars you can add vCenter support to ESXi, which is cheap compared to the thousands of dollars per CPU to get the full VMware product now called vSphere," he said.
Moore continued, "As a standard approach, our company has switched to ESXi when high availability features like VMware clustering and VMotion are not required. Use of a load balancer in front of your VMware farm is sufficient in most cases. This was our approach at before VMware even had ESX and clustering built into the product."
Offering ESXi proves to be a good starting place for organizations looking for a solution that provides higher density and the team is ready to design the environment around the pieces the free offering doesn't offer.
Citrix XENServer states its path into the enterprise: Enterprise-class. Cloud-proven. Free. A quote from their website:
"Citrix XenServer is the only enterprise-class, cloud-proven server virtualization platform that delivers the critical features of live migration and centralized multi-server management at no cost."
Citrix XENServer's free solution supports clustering and dynamic migration. Adding more features into the free solution is a competitive edge that Citrix brings to managers considering XENSever in the data center. This alone might be a good reason to consider it for a high availability environment on a budget.
One key area to consider is the XENServer management tools. These features are still evolving to meet the level of sophistication that VMware offers. For some, it might not be worth the trade-off. However, Citrix XENServer does provide a lot of features that are attractive in the free product.
Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V
As the dominant operating system provider, Microsoft is well positioned to be a lead provider of solutions in the area of server virtualization. The company has been playing catch up in this area and is diligently working through hard issues such as pricing, licensing and product features.
Microsoft's Window Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V has gained traction with key customers and has been focused on key features like live migration as its pull for adoption in the data center.
"With Hyper-V, it's easier than ever to take advantage of the cost savings of virtualization through Windows Server 2008 R2. Optimize your server hardware investments by consolidating multiple server roles as separate virtual machines running on a single physical machine, efficiently run multiple different operating systems in parallel, on a single server, and fully leverage the power of x64 computing."
While Hyper-V is included with the cost of Windows Server 2008 R2, centralized management features and dynamic migration will cost extra through Microsoft's Virtual Machine Manager (VMM).
Hyper-V is making significant progress as a product, but it also seems that it will take Microsoft a few years to evolved Hyper-V into a real contender in the market It may start getting traction for shops predominantly using Microsoft technology today and have deep relationships to the mothership.
Last week, Microsoft announced a significant partnership and investment with HP that focuses on optimizing hardware and software solutions. Microsoft and HP are developing patterns where virtualization, SQL Sever, and Exchange server are deployed together and optimized in both hardware, software, and OS. This is a key competitive offering for enterprises.
Microsoft is a logical leader in this space and can't be considered out of the race. The partnerships and investments in the channel will likely pay off. Hyper-V is growing features and has a distinct advantage in reaching customers through the natural relationships Microsoft has in the enterprise.
Citrix XENServer is a real option and is competing on price and features. The product is backed by a leader in the desktop virtualization space, Citrix. Considering the array of features offered in the free product, it is definitely worth taking a close look at.
For full featured end-to-end server virtualization, it is hard to beat VMware. VMware solutions have the features, performance and price. Whether your needs are on the low end or high end VMware is there. If you are on the high end, it won't come cheap but VMware knows they still have a considerable lead in the market for features customers want.
Considering the price to get started, it may be worth it to try each of them out with your team to see which fits best with your environment.
What do you think, is free a good price for server virtualization?
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