December 26, 2018
Hyper-V vs VMware: Which One to Choose?
Virtualization has long since become a significant part of modern-day businesses. Popularity of virtualization technology is attributable to the long list of benefits it provides, including flexibility, cost-efficiency, on-demand scalability, reliability, and portability. Essentially, hardware virtualization is made possible with the use of virtualization platforms, which help manage workloads in a virtual environment. Currently, there are two major players who dominate the virtualization market – Hyper-V vs VMware. This blogpost highlights the main Hyper-V vs VMware differences and helps you determine which platform is best for you.
What Is Hyper-V?
Hyper-V is a type-1, native hypervisor designed by Microsoft, which allows creating and managing multiple virtualized versions of a computer, called virtual machines (VMs). Hyper-V provides a virtualization platform on which you can build IT infrastructure of any level of complexity. Each VM, in this case, is running in its own isolated space, without interfering with the processes in other VMs.
What Is VMware?
VMware vSphere is a server virtualization platform created by VMware. Essentially, vSphere encompasses a set of virtualization products, which include the ESXi hypervisor, vSphere Client, VMware Workstation, vCenter, and others. All of these products combined constitute the VMware infrastructure, which enables centralized management of the created virtual environment.
Comparing Hyper-V vs VMware
Hyper-V and VMware have a set of unique features which differentiate them from one another. Moreover, each virtualization platform entails a number of advantages and disadvantages to consider when deciding between the two. The following excerpt will outline the main components that both platforms offer as well as the differences and similarities between Hyper-V and VMware.
Hyper-V vs. VMware vSphere
Microsoft Hyper-V exists in two modes. The two variants are fairly similar in structure and perform the same functions:
- As the Hyper-V role, which is an in-built Windows Server feature that can be enabled by a server administrator.
- As a stand-alone Microsoft product (also known as Hyper-V Server), with limited functionality and Hyper-V management components.
The architecture of Hyper-V is based upon micro-kernelized hypervisors, meaning that a host server (also called the parent partition) provides direct access to hardware and computing resources (virtualization stack). Hyper-V allows you to isolate VMs into logical units (partitions), including operating systems (OSes) and applications. Partitions are divided into the parent and the child partitions. Each Hyper-V environment can have only one parent partition, which should run a supported version of Windows Server. The parent partition can create multiple child partitions for hosting guest OSes. Child partitions can’t directly access hardware resources but they can present a virtual view of the resources in the form of virtual devices. The communication between the parent and the child partitions is conducted via the VMBus, which lets you manage the requests directed to virtual devices. The parent partition also includes a Virtualization Service Provider (VSP), which enables the connection to the VMBus for managing device access requests from child partitions.
Hyper-V can host two types of OSes in child partitions: enlightened and un-enlightened. The main difference is that the enlightened child partition has Hyper-V integration components and a Virtualization Service Client (VSC), which lets you avoid device emulation and enable direct communication with the virtualization layer. At the same time, the unenlightened child partition does not have the same components and simply emulates software.
VMware vSphere is a virtualization platform consisting of multiple components which need to be installed and set up. Essentially, vSphere is a suite of virtualization products, which, when combined, allow you to build a computing platform. At the core of VMware vSphere lies VMware ESXi, which is a type-1, native hypervisor used to directly manage host servers and run multiple guest VMs. VMware ESXi enables direct access to the physical machine’s computing resources, which are shared by the VMs running in the system.
The earlier version of VMware ESXi - VMware ESX – ran on a Linux kernel, which acted as the primary VM. Later, ESXi hypervisor was introduced to minimize the overhead imposed by VMware ESX. VMware ESXi requires a minimum amount of hardware resources and enables a small footprint of 70 MB. High performance of ESXi is ensured by VMkernel, which forms the basis of the virtualization process. VMkernel runs directly on hosts and provides connection between VMs and the physical hardware.
In order to manage the VMware virtualization platform, other components of vSphere, such as VMware vSphere Client or VMware vCenter Server, are provided. They function as the management tools used for running ESXi hosts.
VMware vCenter Server vs. System Centre Virtual Machine Manager
It is also rather important to mention the management tools, which are essential for operating in any virtual environment, in the Hyper-V vs VMware comparison. VMware and Hyper-V are managed by VMware vCenter and Microsoft System Centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), respectively.
VMware vCenter Server is the centralized data management application which is used to manage VMware vSphere environments and build virtualized cloud infrastructures. VMware vCenter Server is basically a virtual machine manager, which is installed on the primary server for monitoring the VMs running in the virtual platform. The tool allows you to view and control all ESXi hosts and host clusters from a single console, thus reducing the burden of management.
SCVMM is a management tool designed by Microsoft for operating multiple VMs existing in the same environment. SCVMM is available in two versions: as an in-built feature of the Windows OS or as a stand-alone product. SCVMM allows you to create, control, and delete VMs. The tool manages the processes occurring in the VMs by providing access to necessary hardware resources, such as memory, drivers, storage and others.
vSphere VMFS vs. Microsoft ReFS
With virtualization, the software is abstracted from the hardware and all the VM data is stored in a virtual disk file. In this case, a virtual disk file functions as the hard disk of a VM and is regarded as a complete VM. Both platforms use virtual hard disks for storing information. The data inside the vSphere environment is stored in the VMDK (virtual machine disk) format, while Hyper-V applies the VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) format.
Virtual disk files existing in the virtual environment are generally stored and organized via the file system. Both Microsoft and VMware have introduced their native file systems for managing the data on a storage device.
VMware VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) is the clustered file system used for storage virtualization of the data contained in a virtualized environment. Multiple VMs can simultaneously access and use a single VMFS volume as a virtualized storage, which helps to reduce management overhead and improve resource utilization. With VMFS, you can manage VMware ESXi hosts across the cluster, meaning that you can add, migrate, or remove multiple hosts. VMFS has the on-disk locking feature which ensures that the data can be accessed only by one user or process at a time so as to avoid data corruption.
The equivalent to this solution in the Hyper-V environment is ReFS (Resilient File System), which was introduced as a built-in feature of Windows Server 2012. ReFS is based on its earlier file system – NTFS – and was designed to eliminate the issues existing in NTFS and address modern data storage requirements. ReFS permits users access to VM files directly from a host server. ReFS can detect and promptly fix data corruptions. This can be done online, thus causing no volume downtime. Moreover, through the new features of Block Cloning and Sparse VDL (Valid Data Length), the operations running in VMs can be considerably accelerated. However, when it comes to clustering, Hyper-V doesn’t provide the same level of flexibility. Even though Hyper-V includes Cluster Shared Volume (CSV), the use of this functionality is much more complex than the one in VMware VMFS.
Guest Operating System Services
VMware Tools vs. Microsoft Integration Services
To ensure efficient performance within the virtual environment, both VMware and Hyper-V provide a set of system services and tools which can be easily installed.
With VMware vSphere, you can install VMware Tools, which is a set of utilities and drivers used for seamless integration between the host and the guest ESXi servers, and efficient management of the VM data. VMware Tools include: VMware Tools Services, VMware Device Drivers, VMware User Process, and VMware Tools Control Panel. VMware Tools Control Panel provides a graphical overview of VMware tools and permits users to configure them. VMware Tools Services enables communication between the host and the guest OSes. With VMware User Process, you can copy/paste text and drag/drop files between the host and guest OSes. VMware Device Drivers provides a set of drivers for installation, which can enhance mouse operations, networking performance, and the quality of sound and graphics. Installing VMware Tools offers multiple benefits: enhanced graphics performance, high-level synchronization between the host and guest file systems, and shared access to files and folders within the virtual environment.
Hyper-V provides the opportunity to install Microsoft Integration Services, which helps in performing various tasks and solving reoccurring issues. The main application of Hyper-V Integration Services, also known as SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), is in data migration as it enables data integration and workflow optimization. Its component – the SSIS Import/Export Wizard – allows users to create packages that move data from one point to another, without affecting its integrity. Moreover, you can easily edit and manage the created packages in the Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) with the help of its user-friendly interface. Another exclusive Hyper-V feature is the Server Integration Services Database Package (SSISDB) Upgrade Wizard. This feature enables the upgrading of a catalog database, which stores and monitors all database packages in the system. Upgrading the catalogue database is necessary for avoiding any issues which might occur if the version in use is older than that of SQL Server.
Snapshots vs. Checkpoints
Snapshot technology allows you to capture a point-in-time copy of a VM and all the data that it contains. If the VM fails or a disaster strikes the production site, the VM can be recovered to the original state with the help of the saved snapshot. Snapshots in VMware and Hyper-V not only work differently, but also have different names. VMware uses the term ‘snapshots,’ whereas in Hyper-V they are called ‘checkpoints.’
Administrators working in Hyper-V or VMware environment should be aware of how snapshot technology works so as to improve memory space management.
The main differences between snapshots and checkpoints are presented in the table below:
|VMware Snapshots||Hyper-V Checkpoints|
|Stored as a set of files in the same directory as other files that comprise a virtual machine||Stored on the host server, but you can later export checkpoints to another location|
|32 snapshots per VM||64 snapshots per VM|
|Changed blocks are identified on the file system level||Changed blocks are identified in each file of the file system|
|Running snapshots in production is not available||Running snapshots in production is available|
Note that snapshots can’t be used instead of backups because they aren’t suitable for long-term storage and can be lost if the VM’s virtual disk is damaged.
Changed Block Tracking vs. Resilient Change Tracking
The feature of change tracking lets you identify block-level changes that have occurred in the system. Changed Block Tracking (CBT) was first introduced by VMware vSphere 4.0. It is based on incremental backup technology, meaning that the initial backup of the VM is full, whereas in all consequent backups only the new data is backed up. CBT speeds up the backup process considerably and provides maximum efficiency.
Hyper-V has introduced its own change tracking technology – Resilient Change Tracking (RCT) – with Windows Server 2016, which functions in the same way as CBT. Note that if you had been running a VM on Windows Server 2012 R2 or earlier versions, and later moved it to the host server with Windows Server 2016, you should upgrade the VM to the latest version before backing it up. This can be done in the Hyper-V Manager.
Oversubscription vs. Dynamic Memory
Both VMware and Hyper-V apply a variety of memory-management techniques. Some of the techniques used by VMware to achieve a high level of RAM optimization are presented below:
- Memory compression is used as a more efficient and less expensive alternative of disk swapping. When there is little space left on RAM, virtual pages are compressed and made small enough so as to fit them in memory. Moreover, compressed files can be accessed faster and will not interrupt the workflow. Memory compression is enabled by default.
- Guest Ballooning is installed as part of VMware Tools. This technique enables a VM of your choice to extract the unused memory from other VMs and distribute it to the ones that lack RAM resources.
- Transparent Page Sharing. Essentially, this is a deduplication technique used for memory management. When the CPU isn’t used by any program, this technique allows you to track the VM memory pages that are identical and then share them among other VMs. This way, space being filled by redundant memory pages gets freed up.
- VMware Oversubscription/Overcommit. This technique allows you to assign more RAM resources than available on the physical host to the VMs running on that host. The system actively monitors the VMs and the amount of memory that they are currently using. With the Idle Memory Tax feature, the hypervisor can estimate the amount of idle memory and active memory used by each VM. VM memory that is not in active use will then be ‘taxed’ and reassigned to other VMs which need it more.
As you can see, VMware provides a wide variety of memory management techniques. However, Hyper-V provides only one tool, called Dynamic Memory, which functions in the same way as the VMware Oversubscription feature. Dynamic Memory allows you to set up a specific amount of memory, memory priority, and other memory optimization settings on the basis of which Hyper-V then defines how much memory should be allocated to a particular VM. Dynamic memory can be configured in Hyper-V Manager, where you can specify the following values: Startup RAM, Minimum RAM, Maximum RAM, Memory Buffer, and Memory Weight.
The administrator has more freedom when operating with Dynamic Memory in Hyper-V than with VMware memory management techniques. Even though the oversubscription technique isn’t as advanced as its counterpart in VMware, the administrator can optimize the VM memory management process and adjust it to their specific needs.
vMotion vs. Live Migration
Workload migration has long become a necessity when operating in a virtual environment. Both VMware and Hyper-V have introduced their own tools which enable the migration of production workloads across the infrastructure. Thus, VMware vMotion and Hyper-V Live Migration should be considered as separate entities.
VMware vMotion is a part of VMware vSphere which enables the seamless migration of workloads between servers in almost real time. Moreover, the workload migration doesn’t interfere with the processes within the virtual environment, and all applications can still be accessed. Thus, zero downtime is achieved and VM productivity isn’t affected. Also, with the VMware vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler, you can schedule migrations to occur at a specific time, which allows you to automate workload migrations.
Hyper-V Live Migration is the migration tool designed for transferring a running VM or an application between physical hosts, without causing the system downtime. However, the implementation of Live Migration is much more complex than that of vMotion. Before performing the workload migration, you need to set up Microsoft Failover Clustering on all physical hosts that will participate in the process and adjust network settings so as to ensure the seamless data transfer.
Supported Operating Systems
Guest OSes supported by VMware and Hyper-V can vary. Thus, VMware supports the Windows, Linux, Unix, Macintosh, and other operating systems. You can read the full list of the supported OSes in the guest operating system installation guide.
As for Hyper-V, the number of supported guest OSes is limited. According to the information found on the official site, Hyper-V supports not only Windows, but also Linux, FreeBSD, SUSE, and other OSes.
VMware supports multiple OS versions available in the market, whereas Hyper-V places more emphasis on the support of Microsoft OS, which is the most widely used OS in the world.
Scalability of the virtual infrastructure should always be considered by organizations when choosing a hypervisor. Due to the fact that the organization’s workload can either increase or decrease with time, it is important to be prepared for any scenario and identify the opportunities for scalability provided by hypervisors.
The table below outlines the Hyper-V vs VMware scalability differences.
|System||Resource||Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016||VMware vSphere 6.7|
|Physical RAM||24 TB||16 TB|
|Virtual CPUs per Host||2048||4096|
|VMs per Host||1024||1024|
|VM||Virtual CPUs per VM||240 for generation 2 VMs |
64 for generation 1 VMs
320 available to the host OS
|Memory per VM||12 TB for generation 2 VMs |
1 TB for generation 1 VMs
|Maximum Virtual Disk Size||64 TB (VHDX format) |
2040 GB (VHD format)
|Number of Virtual SCSI disks||256||256|
|Cluster||Maximum number of VMs per cluster||8000||8000|
|Maximum number of nodes||64||64|
As you can see, there are some features in which Hyper-V exceeds VMware and vice versa. Therefore, when choosing between Hyper-V and VMware, consider your business needs and priorities, physical resources of your infrastructure, and the available budget.
A virtual environment can be rather fragile. Thus, it needs to be securely protected against any malicious attacks or viruses. Both Hyper-V and VMware ensure security for your virtual environment with the help of various services and tools.
VMware vSphere 6.7 applies VM Encryption which is designed for data protection at rest and in motion and prevention of unauthorized access to the system. Moreover, data protection is guaranteed even during the workload migration. In this case, the feature of Encrypted vMotion is enabled, which allows you to protect data when it is moved between physical servers and even across a hybrid cloud environment.
Due to the fact that Hyper-V functions as a Windows Server role, it can be managed via Active Directory. Hyper-V also provides a set of advanced security components, such as Guarded Fabric, Host Guardian Service, and Shielded VMs. Guarded Fabric is a data-protection technique that lets you build a safe environment for VMs. A guarded fabric includes Host Guardian Service (HGS) and several shielded VMs. HGS helps to monitor the state of shielded VMs and protect the keys used for decrypting the VMs. If HGS is not enabled, the shielded VM cannot be powered on and will remain encrypted.
The latest additions to the data protection system of Hyper-V are Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), which allows to detect to cyber-attacks and respond to threats in advance with the help of machine learning, and Windows Defender Exploit Guard (EG), which protects against ransomware attacks and reduces the attack surface of critical applications.
It is worth noting that vSphere 6.7 introduced support for a wide number of Hyper-V security components released with Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. Both Hyper-V and VMware have worked together to ensure the seamless integration for the VMs running on Windows OS in vSphere environment.
Hyper-V and VMware provide an opportunity to use a free version of their virtualization platforms. This way you can see how the product works and what kind of benefits it provides. However, the trial version of the product includes only the basic-level functionality, meaning that you won’t be able to test all of its components.
It is difficult to compare the pricing policies of Hyper-V vs VMware due to the fact that VMware ESXi is licensed per socket (physical CPU), whereas Hyper-V has been licensed per core since 2016.
Microsoft’s licensing model calculates the price based on the number of physical cores on the host. Depending on how many hosts have the software installed, you can identify the total number of cores for which licenses are required. Each license is a two-core pack. Note that the minimal number of cores which can be licensed is four, meaning that processors with one and two cores still would be assigned four cores.
VMware vSphere 6.7 is licensed on a per-processor basis. Therefore, each server CPU should be assigned at least one processor license key. Note that VMware imposes no limits on the size of RAM and the number of CPUs and VMs running on the licensed processor.
The table below shows the differences in pricing of Hyper-V vs VMware.
|Hyper-V||Windows Server Datacenter||US $6,155|
|Windows Server Standard||US $972|
|Windows Server Essentials||US $501|
|VMware||VMware vSphere Standard||US $995|
|VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus||US $3,495|
|VMware vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus (effective until February 1, 2019)||US $4,525|
|VMware vSphere Platinum||US $4,595 with 1 year VMware AppDefense Subscription|
VMware and Hyper-V VM Protection with NAKIVO Backup & Replication
It is important to consider all aspects of a hypervisor, both its strengths and weaknesses. Despite all the benefits that both of the virtualization platforms provide, they are still exposed to security risks and threats that might undermine their performance and result in the loss of critical data and applications. Therefore, to ensure that your system is securely protected, it is advisable to find and install a reliable and affordable data-protection solution. NAKIVO Backup & Replication is perfect for any organization that wants to protect its virtual environment against any security risks and threats.
Overview of the Backup and Replication Technology
NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides a variety of data-protection options, which can greatly simplify the process of backup, replication, and recovery. The product can be rapidly deployed by downloading a pre-configured VMware Virtual Appliance (VA) or by installing the product on Windows or Linux. Let’s look at the data-protection options it offers.
By running backup jobs with NAKIVO Backup & Replication, you can create a VM backup, which is a point-in-time copy of the source VM. VM backups can be stored locally, offsite, and in private/public clouds. VM backup jobs in NAKIVO Backup & Replication are snapshot-based. Thus, when a backup job is executed, the product automatically creates temporary snapshots of backed up VMs, detects the changes in the data, sends the new data to the backup repository, and then deletes the temporary snapshot.
VM backup jobs rely on VMware Changed Block Tracking (CBT) and Hyper-V Resilient Change Tracking (RCT), which allows to identify and copy only new changes (increments) that have been added to a VM since the latest backup.
Backups in NAKIVO Backup & Replication are image-based, meaning that the VMs can be saved to the fullest extent, including disks, applications, and files. Also, VM backups are application-aware, which allows to keep the application data in both Hyper-V and VMware environments transactionally consistent.
Even though creating backups is a popular data-protection option, you should also consider creating copies of your backups. This way, you will be able to recover your data even if a VM backup gets accidentally deleted or the production site is hit by a disaster.
When running backup copy jobs, the backups are copied from one backup repository to another, without affecting the source ESXi hosts or VMs. Due to this, the VM data is read only once, while backups can be copied to one or multiple locations.
With NAKIVO Backup & Replication, you can move the critical data from the production center to a cloud, thus providing an additional security level. NAKIVO Backup & Replication integrates with any public or private cloud. Moreover, the features like VM Backup Encryption and Network Acceleration ensure that data can be transferred to another location securely and fast.
VM replication lets you create an exact copy of the entire VMware or Hyper-V VM running on the host server. A VM replica is then sent to the disaster recovery (DR) site and kept in a powered-off state. Thus, VM replicas do not consume any resources but you can easily power them during a DR event. The initial VM replication is full, whereas the following replications are incremental, which ensures that the data in a VM replica is constantly updated.
Moreover, replication considerably improves a recovery point objective (RPO), which is the point in time to which your VMs will be reverted in case of a DR event. You can set up replication jobs to run every other minute, ensuring that your VM replica represents the latest version of the VM and you can fail over to it in a few clicks. Due to the fact that recovery from the disaster can be performed by simply powering on VM replicas, it allows to considerably improve a recovery time objective (RTO), which is the period of time during which your virtual infrastructure is expected to be restored.
NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides its clients with an exclusive feature of Site Recovery (SR). By creating an SR job (workflow), you are able to arrange actions and conditions into an automated algorithm to deal with a DR scenario of any complexity level. The actions and conditions which can be included in an SR job are the following: start/stop VMs; failover/failback VMs; run/stop/enable/disable jobs; wait; etc. You can create multiple SR jobs, with each of them having a specific purpose and use case. All you need is to configure an SR workflow which can be executed automatically, which would ensure 24/7 availability of your virtual environment.
Building and operating in a virtual environment would be impossible without a reliable and efficient virtualization platform, such as VMware and Hyper-V. Before deciding which platform to choose for conducting your business operations, consider the differences in VMware and Hyper-V management, architecture, licensing, scalability, and backup integration as well as what advantages each has.
Moreover, ensure that your virtualization platform can be seamlessly integrated with the data-protection solution that you use. NAKIVO Backup & Replication is a fast, reliable, and cost-effective data-protection software, which equips you with a full-fledged DR toolset designed for dealing with security risks and threats, and minimizing data loss. NAKIVO Backup & Replication can be seamlessly integrated with VMware and Hyper-V environments, thus allowing you to enjoy the benefits that both platforms provide to the fullest extent.
Download a full-featured free trial and test the product in your VMware, Hyper-V, or mixed environment today.