Analytics Alerts - Virtualization Leaders Get Put to the Test


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We tested server virtualization gear from five top vendors to see how they handle strenuous workloads on a mix of old and new equipment, typical of what’s found in the wild. The results? Management’s still a challenge, but any of these products could make your organization nimbler and more energy-efficient. And with virtualization upstarts challenging market stalwarts, you might want to look beyond the familiar names.

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Analytics Alerts - Virtualization Leaders Get Put to the Test

  1. 1. May 11, 2009 InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Vir tualization Leaders Get Put To The Test C o n t e n t s We tested server virtualization gear from five top 2 Where Hype Meets Hypervisors vendors to see how they handle strenuous workloads 5 XenServer Means Business on a mix of old and new equipment, typical of what’s 8 Hyper-V Is (Sort Of) Free found in the wild. The results? Management’s still a 11 Parallels And Virtual Iron challenge, but any of these products could make your Look Beyond ‘Big 3’ 15 VMware: An Agile 800-Pound organization nimbler and more energy-efficient. And Gorilla with virtualization upstarts challenging market stalwarts, 18 Still Haven’t Gone Virtual? You’ve Got Company you might want to look beyond the familiar names.
  2. 2. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Where The Hype Meets The Hypervisors By Joe Hernick VIRTUALIZATION HAS GONE MAINSTREAM: Business users pull prepackaged corporate VMs over the WAN; college kids rely on VMware Fusion or Parallels to run Windows on their Macbooks. IT shops recognize the potential operational benefits in large-scale virtualization; CFOs are hoping to get a double win from capital savings and reduced server-farm power bills. But what realities lurk behind the hype? The question of whether virtual machines are here to stay has been answered; now the ques- tions on IT managers’ tongues are: “What should we virtualize? And which virtualization prod- uct makes sense for us?” Questions of market presence, performance, compatibility, and cost get tossed into the mix as well. If you were talking enterprise server virtualization in 2007, you were talking VMware ESX. What a difference a year makes—VMware is still the market leader for server virtualization, but the company’s data center dominance is no longer a given. Citrix has aggressively repackaged its sales pitch and business model, metamorphosing from a terminal services and application delivery provider into a full-service virtualization vendor in an incredibly short time. Microsoft introduced Hyper-V as an integral part of the Windows Server 2008 product line, shaking up pricing models and generating deep thought as purchasing managers assess the ROI on large- scale VM proposals. Smaller players such as VirtualIron and Parallels further stir the pot, offering full-fledged hypervisor systems that compete with the big three virtualization vendors in niche markets, offering unique products addressing the needs of smaller businesses and non-Windows envi- ronments. Do the full feature set and mature ecosystem of VMware justify the price tag? Does Hyper-V address the physical-to-virtual consolidation goals of most system admins? Does the open source flag-waving of Citrix, VirtualIron, and others create a robust hosting environment through “natural selection” and the support of thousands of Xen community members and developers? Copyright 2009 United Business Media LLC. Important Note: This PDF is provided solely as a reader service. It is not intended for reproduction or public distribution. For article reprints, e-prints and permissions please contact: Wright’s Reprints, 1-877-652-5295 / 2 May 11, 2009
  3. 3. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s There’s only one way to answer these questions—a head-to-head Rolling Review using the same testing methods, and relying on the same business and technical requirements. PHYSICAL TO VIRTUAL We’ll be starting from the ground up in our test scenarios. We will build four VM hosts, two identical higher-end servers reflecting new purchases, and two less-powerful servers represent- ing repurposed equipment freed up as part of our VM server consolidation exercise. All hosts will run a bare-metal hypervisor, with guest VMs and data sets stored on an iSCSI SAN. The reviews will evaluate each vendor’s ease of setup, configuration, and data and network connectivity. Each vendor’s physical-to-virtual conversion tools will be used to migrate real- Impact Assessment: Server Virtualization Benefit Risk IT Server consolidation yields fewer phys- Beware of VM sprawl. Your IT management tools organization ical boxes to manage. Virtualization can may not be up to the task for virtual environments greatly improve operational flexibility, and poor planning can lead to production bottle- freeing IT admins from legacy hardware necks and infrastructure choke points. requirements while simplifying server builds, backups, and restores. Business Faster prototyping of business applica- VMs operate in shared resource pool pools. If organization tions and more responsive in-house IT the virtualization environment isn’t carefully man- support are primary organizational ad- aged by the IT organization, errant behavior from vantages. Departments can get serv- resource-intensive VMs on the same host can ers more easily, and virtual servers can can affect availability and performance. be repurposed as needed. Business Fewer physical servers means lower Large-scale virtualized infrastructure deploy- competitiveness equipment costs, reduced energy con- ments can get very expensive. Licensing fees, sumption, and less stress on HVAC, redundant host servers and infrastructure com- possibly saving on maintenance. Virtu- ponents, and staff training can add up to reduce alization pundits praise the “greening” or eliminate a company’s VM business case. of the data center thanks to physical-to- virtual conversions. Bottom Line Everyone’s doing it; eventually, you will, too. The big question will be what gets virtualized and when your shop implements server virtualization. The merits of virtualizing servers are clear; higher utilization of hardware resources, lower long-term capital expense on infrastructure, and operational flexibility. In- dividual organizations will need to assess their scope of virtualization adoption and implementation strategies. The cost of implementation, requisite skill sets, and core functionality can vary widely based on need, desired outcome, and VM vendor platform(s) chosen. 3 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  4. 4. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s world servers running Windows Server 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows XP, and Debian Linux into the virtual world. We will clone instances of the resulting VMs to generate up to 10 guest servers per host at maximum load. File servers, LDAP directory services, a centralized accounting application, an Apache server, a legacy facilities management system, and a Postgres database will be run on respective guest VMs. Our goal is to reflect a typical physical-to-virtual exercise, where large numbers of low-utilization servers are chosen as candidates for virtualization. This reflects our experience in the real world as well as the feed- back we get from readers and analysts. We will balance guest VMs across host servers according to vendor recommendations, imple- menting live-migration capabilities to move VMs from host to host as load and business rule sets dictate. We’ll rate the comparative utility of VMotion vs. XenMotioning vs. Hyper-V’s pause-and-move solution. We also will be implementing ill-advised migration rules and triggers to see how our test sys- tems respond under duress with poor guidelines in place. Simulated user and application loads ROLLING REVIEW: SERVER VIRTUALIZATION PLATFORMS THE INVITATION: We looked at server virtualization packages versatile enough to work in a variety of set- tings, capable of scaling as necessary. These products had to be forgiving enough to accommodate IT de- partments’ first virtualization efforts, and robust enough to handle bad parameter sets. THE TEST BED: We built four VM hosts: two identical higher-end servers, reflecting new purchases; and two less-powerful servers that represented repurposed equipment freed up as part of a server consolidation exercise. All hosts ran a bare metal hypervisor, with guest VMs and data sets stored on an iSCSI SAN. Our tests reflected the host mix likely to be found in the wild, from quad-core HP Opterons with 16 GB of RAM to dual-core Dell Xeons running 4 GB. We evaluated ease of setup, configuration, and data and network connectivity. We used each vendor’s P2V conversion tools to virtualize servers running Windows Server 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, XP, and Debian Linux. We cloned instances of the resulting VMs to generate up to 10 guest servers per host at maximum load. We assessed acceptable loads for different hardware within a single ven- dor platform and compared like tests across different hosting environments. THE PREMISE: InformationWeek’s Rolling Reviews present a comprehensive look at a hot technology category, beginning with analysis and wrapping up with a synopsis of our findings. Our extended testing span enables InformationWeek to accommodate today’s accelerated revisions cycle and focus our attention on in- dividual products, while maintaining a consistent test bed. Find out more at 4 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  5. 5. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s will be automatically generated against each virtualization platform. We will assess acceptable loads for differing hardware resources within a single vendor platform and ultimately compare like tests across different hosting environments. Finally, we’ll evaluate bundled management tools for ease of use and functionality, assuming that users are experienced IT administrators new to the world of virtualization. WHO’S ON FIRST? Our Rolling Reviews will begin with a test drive of Citrix XenServer, followed by Microsoft’s Hyper-V. After we look at a couple of smaller VM hosting solutions, we’ll tackle the market leader—VMware. We conclude with a comprehensive wrapup detailing the features, perform- ance, and price differences among our participants. We’ll install the hosting solutions on a variety of hardware platforms. We’ll test hypervisors on servers running chipsets optimized for virtualization from AMD and Intel. Reflecting the mix of hosts likely to be found in the wild, our test beds will range from Hewlett-Packard quad-core Opterons with 16 GB of RAM down to dual-core Dell Xeons running 4 GB. Our test environment will connect via built-in NICs as well as 10 Gigabit Ethernet NICs and switching gear from SMC, Dell EqualLogic iSCSI storage solutions, and a Dell PS5000XV stor- age array with a 15K storage-attached SCSI drive. Our SAN will consist of SAS arrays to host our VM guests, and a massive-capacity (up to 45 TB) PS5500E array for our sample data sets. We anticipate mixed results; our experience shows that different virtual management platforms have different strengths, and there may not be a dominant, one-size-fits-all winner at the end of this competition. Stay tuned to see which host makes the most sense for your needs. Citrix XenServer Means Business By Joe Hernick CITRIX’S XENSERVER 5.0 ENTERPRISE PROVIDED an impressive start to our server virtu- alization management Rolling Review. This latest version of XenServer offers solid technology, simplified management, and a couple of neat twists that keep the game interesting. After we completed this review, Citrix made many of XenServer Enterprise’s critical functions, including clustering and live migration—available in the free XenServer. 5 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  6. 6. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Citrix’s decision to boost the free capabilities in XenServer is a good answer to Microsoft’s “free” Hyper-V offering; while its Essentials for XenServer Enterprise Edition is the next step up Citrix’s product chain. Larger enterprises will discover that XenServer Enterprise 5.0 does a number of things well. It makes virtualization simple and straightforward, bundling XenServer Enterprise as a soup-to- nuts set of products in one box. XenServer utilizes the Xen 3.2 hypervisor, a native 64-bit virtualization platform written in a svelte 50,000 lines of code with support for Intel VT and AMD-V chipset virtualization assist, and a number of performance enhancements that target Microsoft operating systems. Initial installation and setup of Xen uses simple, menu-driven fields for the entry of environ- ment parameters such as host name, license keys, IP addressing information, and permitting SSH access. We also used the basic interface to connect our first two hosts to our SAN. All con- figuration and management functionality can be accessed from the command-line interface or via system menus, but most admins will fire up the XenCenter GUI management tool as soon as the first host is created. Linux CLI-shy Windows admins will feel right at home in XenCenter. XenCenter let us create resource pools and assign XenServer hosts to those pools. And here’s what we liked most: Citrix has implemented a Clustered Management Layer. That means no more dedicated, single-point-of-failure management server; any host in a resource pool can be promoted to the role of XenCenter host. Copies of system information, performance data, and logs are distributed across member servers. This greatly increases the utility of the high-avail- ability feature set. XenCenter offers quick access to a console view, storage assignments, network, performance, logs, and general information. Admins can create custom data fields and tags for individual vir- tual machines; tagging is a drop-down item under the General tab. This is useful as your VM count rises, giving admins flexibility in searching, sorting, or modifying VMs based on site- driven custom terms. Using resource pools or virtual machine host tools, local storage and network settings can be deployed to all running VMs. Physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration caused a hiccup on our 64-bit Windows 2003 app server because of, well, user error. After reading the manual, we realized that having a large scratch vol- 6 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  7. 7. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s ume (an empty volume) is a good plan, and auto-mount must be enabled for the P2V conver- sion to complete. Auto-mount enabeles the Xen virtual hard drive-formatted virtual disk to be recognized by the operating system so the converter can write the disk image and finish the job. The wizard-driven P2V tool, XenConvert, provides solid error logging. The P2V conversion runs with no need to reboot; XenConvert creates a point-in-time snapshot of a running pro- duction server. EVERYONE INTO THE POOL XenServer Enterprise and Platinum allow admins to create load-balanced resource pools of Xen hosts. Shared storage repositories allow for live migration—XenMotioning in Citrix-speak, ver- sus VMware’s VMotioning—where running VMs can shift from host to host as production needs or operating requirements change. XenCenter balances virtual machines across all available hosts based on processor and memory resources, and it assigns newly created VMs as needed. VMs may use a single host’s local stor- age, but a “local” VM would need to be powered down and manually relocated to switch hosts. XenServer will run on older hardware lacking virtualization support (e.g., pre-Intel VT or AMD-V chipsets), but you won’t be able to run Windows VM guests, nor can you join the host to a Windows-aware resource pool. XenServer’s storage integration and management reveal a touch of elegance: Recognizing that customers have paid good money for advanced storage features, XenServer capitalizes on hard- ware-assisted snapshots, cloning, and replication options from a variety of vendors. Storage Delivery Services works with NetApp and EqualLogic arrays, integrating with vendor APIs to perform cloning and to take snapshots of virtual disks using the arrays’ native feature sets. This reduces CPU loads on hosts and decreases the time that’s required for disk-intensive maintenance. HIGH AVAILABILITY One of the most significant enhancements in this revision is the bundled automated high-avail- ability feature, with which XenCenter can dynamically reallocate running VMs in the event of a host failure. Once high availability has been configured for a pool of XenServers, the group can absorb host failures with minimal downtime for running VMs. Setup is straightforward. If a high-availability-enabled host goes down because of hardware failure, power outage, or other error, XenCenter will assess current resource availability across the remaining host server pool and restart orphaned VMs. 7 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  8. 8. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Citrix also integrates XenCenter and high availability. While the management console resides on a primary Xen host, the latest version utilizes a distributed architecture so that any host in a resource pool can grab the management baton and keep running. We really appreciated the distributed nature of the management console. High availability wasn’t instantaneous in tests, but the minimal outage window and ease of use will make it a winner for many installations. And there shouldn’t be much quibbling over the price. The Express version of XenServer is free, although it’s limited to single host server management via XenCenter and doesn’t provide resource pools or migration capa- bilities. The $780 XenServer Standard allows multiserver management. [ Our Take > XenServer provides ease of XenServer Enterprise, which we tested, offers live migration, host setup, a maturing management resource, and storage at $2,600. XenServer Platinum adds dynamic interface, and a decent set of workload provisioning of physical and virtual servers and requires tools for budget-strapped times. an Enterprise license, plus licensing for Citrix Provisioning Server, > Larger corporate buyers may for an additional $2,000. Citrix’s Subscription Advantage support opt for VMware’s broader base of third-party support, but XenServ- plan costs extra. er's pricing will appeal to many. > We like XenServer’s distributed management tools and high- availability options. Microsoft’s Hyper-V Is (Sort Of) Free By Joe Hernick WINDOWS-ONLY SHOPS LOOKING TO DO A LITTLE virtualization on the cheap need look no further than Microsoft’s Hyper-V and the freebie Hyper-V Server 2008 standalone host. However, our tests showed that customers with even mildly complex virtualization require- ments should run Hyper-V on top of Enterprise or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2008 and manage guest virtual machines by adding System Center Virtual Machine Manager— which brings on licensing costs. As for non-Windows environments, Microsoft’s claim that Hyper-V is capable of mixed operat- 8 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  9. 9. Rolling Reivew: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s ing system virtualization is technically accurate, but the latest version of Novell’s SUSE Enterprise is the only flavor of Linux supported across the Hyper-V range. This leaves Red Hat, Debian, and other Linux variants to run on other hosts, such as Xen, KVM, and VMware. Linux-heavy organizations that aren’t using SUSE Enterprise should bypass Hyper-V in favor of VMware ESX, Citrix XenServer 5.0, or another alternative. The elephant in the room is Hyper-V’s lack of live migration support; VMware and Citrix allow a running virtual machine to shift from host to host with no production outage. But despite early promises to the contrary, Hyper-V doesn’t allow live migration. WELL-BEHAVED GUESTS If these issues don’t apply to you, Hyper-V has a couple of selling points beyond the price tag. Windows guest virtual machine performance was more than satisfactory on both our trimmed- down Hyper-V Server 2008 test setup and our “fat OS” installation of Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 Enterprise. Microsoft also offers a sensible license model that simplifies management for midsize and larger companies using Windows Server 2008 Datacenter. Datacenter removes Windows guest VM licensing compliance headaches by permitting one physical server (the VM host) and unlimited guest OS instances under the same umbrella license. Citrix and VMware, in contrast, can’t offer blanket licensing for Microsoft guests. Windows Server 2008 Enterprise versions allow for a host server plus four VM licenses. At the other end of the spectrum, a Server 2008 Standard Edition license includes the host plus one guest; additional guests must each get their own license codes. And although Hyper-V Server is free, organizations are responsible for individual licenses for all hosted Windows vir- tual machines. We had no setup or installation issues adding Hyper-V services to our new or existing Windows Server 2008 hosts. Hyper-V Server 2008 ran well on our virtualization-aware chipsets from Intel and AMD, although each server in our test environment required a base installation of Windows Server 2008 and attendant updates prior to revving up Hyper-V. Hyper-V proved to be a worthy host on our test setup, a four-host Windows 2008 cluster accessing a shared EqualLogic iSCSI SAN. We had to install Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SC-VMM) 2008 to match the management tool functionality in other host platforms in this Rolling Review. With Hyper-V essentially free, the $869 SC-VMM unlimited license or $505 five-host license are relative bargains for Microsoft customers. 9 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  10. 10. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Tapping SC-VMM’s “intelligent placement,” Hyper-V does a capable job of allocating new virtu- al machines to physical servers, comparable to XenCenter’s virtual machine placement. SC-VMM’s physical-to-virtual conversions virtualized existing Windows servers without a hitch in our tests. Physical-to-virtual conversions of XP, Windows 2003, and newer Microsoft operat- ing systems utilize Volume Shadow Copy Service. Like XenConvert or VMware Converter, SC- VMM physical-to-virtual migrations can grab a snapshot of a running production machine. One of the interesting things we discovered during tests is this: You can’t overcommit physical memory resources for guests in a standalone Hyper-V environment. Hyper-V instead tallies allocated memory for all local guests, whether they’re running or not, erring on the side of caution. In contrast, VMware gives administrators the option of overprovisioning system resources on single hosts, on the assumption that all host virtual machines in a system won’t need to run maximum resources simultaneously. Although we don’t advocate overextending your hardware, this is a useful capability for reallocating resources in emergencies. For example, if your virtual server environment has four host servers, and one dies, overcommitting enables your setup to temporarily run four hosts’ worth of virtual machines on three hosts. NOT-SO-LIVE MIGRATION VMware has VMotion and Citrix has XenMotion, both of which provide for live migration of virtual machines. Microsoft, on the other hand, has Quick Migration, which isn’t live and is slower than VMotion or XenMotion. Despite early feature-set promises, Hyper-V doesn’t support true live migration of a vir- tual machine from one physical host to another on any version of Win- [ Our Take > Hyper-V is best for virtualization dows Server 2008. Instead, the Microsoft Quick Migration feature allows novices in small shops or a centrally stored VM to be suspended or shut down, then restarted on a Windows-only environments new host. > It’s hard to argue with free, but overall, Hyper-V feels like a The consensus is that Microsoft opted for Quick Migration to get Hyper- “me-too” product, released so Microsoft would have a modern V to market as soon as possible while satisfying basic functionality needs virtualization offering on the and enabling clustering and high-availability options for Win2008 market Enterprise and Datacenter customers as a bundled perk. > Rival products cost more, but you don’t have to spend extra to Whatever the corporate strategy, no live migration means little or no get broad Linux support and live migration service or maintenance on Hyper-V hosts during business hours—some Hyper-V admins will need to put in time during off-hours to handle 10 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  11. 11. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s these chores. This will make Hyper-V a nonstarter for many shops, leading them toward Xen or VMware. Quick Migration times can range from seconds to minutes for restoration of all services in a complex environment—you must take a server VM offline to move it to a second machine with Hyper-V. If you have ungainly apps or complex environments, they’ll take awhile to get rolling. We expect some version of live migration in future releases of Hyper-V, so prospective hypervi- sor customers and vendors should keep an eye out. But for the time being, the bottom line is Windows’ low cost and familiarity versus competitors’ industrial strength and convenience. Hyper-V’s high availability is less of a pain point than its hobbled VM migration functionality. As with the latest version of XenServer Enterprise, Windows Server 2008 running Hyper-V bundles high-availability functionality for clustered hosts. And since clustering is now bundled with 2008 Enterprise and Datacenter, cost isn’t an issue.When we conducted our “yank out the power” test, Hyper-V came through with flying colors, restarting guests on other cluster hosts with minimal disruption. It isn’t an instantaneous failover, but the minimal outage window is more than acceptable, given the product’s zero cost. Parallels, Virtual Iron Make Their Cases By Joe Hernick IT’S EASY TO FOCUS ON VIRTUALIZATION’S “BIG THREE”—VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix Xen—because of their combined dominant market share and pervasive marketing. But there are other players entering the fray that are worthy of recognition. So for this segment of our Rolling Review, we brought a couple of less-well-known virtualization plat- forms, Virtual Iron Extended Enterprise Edition 4.5 and Parallels Server for Mac 3.0, into our test lab. These two smaller players show there’s more than one way to run virtualization hosts: Virtual Iron ably jumps through some of the same hoops as XenServer and Hyper-V, and we believe it could challenge VMware ESX in larger enterprises, if the company wanted to. Although Parallels Server wasn’t up to our full gamut of tests, being a slightly different beast, it does serve its niche well, running Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X Server instances on Apple hardware. 11 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  12. 12. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s In terms of performance, every server virtualization product we’ve tested so far in this Rolling Review has done more than live up to the vendors’ claims, showing rapid evolution as the mar- ket has heated up. Virtual Iron’s and Parallels Server’s application performance also pleasantly surprised us. Like the Xen-based virtualization system from Citrix, Virtual Iron has revved up its perform- ance over the last few years while dramatically easing installation and administration tasks. Parallels leverages its “fat OS” experience with Parallels Desktop to deliver solid performance from its hypervisor, despite the underlying requirement of a full-load Leopard 10.5 OS chew- ing up system resources and routing I/O. Both platforms are aimed squarely at the small- to midsize-business sector. Virtual Iron devotes most of its marketing to this segment, although we could see Virtual Iron 4.3’s Xen-based hypervisor, centralized management, and per-socket pricing model playing well in larger com- panies, too. Parallels Server isn’t as mature or feature-rich as Virtual Iron. Its limited storage options, sim- plified networking capabilities, and lack of migration tools mean Parallels Server likely will be crossed off most potential customers’ short lists, unless they’re Mac shops. VMware’s Fusion is tinkering with Mac OS guest support, but Parallels Server currently is the only solution on the market that lets you virtualize Apple Server instances with Apple’s blessing. FIND YOUR VI-CENTER We built our Virtual Iron environment in an SMB frame of mind, and encountered no snags. Installation is simple; no archive file or boot disks here—Virtual Iron relies on VI-Center, a Java-based central management and network distribution tool, to get things moving. The con- sole can be installed on any Windows Server (2003 is recommended) or Linux host. No fancy hardware is required, so this is a great way to repurpose an older server for new life. We installed VI-Center GUI on Windows 2003 and 2008 servers. After turning off Windows 2008’s security nannies and downloading the latest Java runtimes, we were ready to virtualize in about 10 minutes. The last time we ran VI-Center through the lab (in its version 3.1 days), Fibre Channel was the only way to build a storage area network. Support for iSCSI is a welcome addition in Virtual Iron 4.5. On startup, all hosts show up in the VI-Center graphical user interface as available hardware resources. The VI-Center server makes short work of configuring networks, network interface cards, local and iSCSI disk groups, SANs, and virtual NICs. 12 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  13. 13. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Windows admins who are virtual machinery rookies can walk step by step through Virtual Iron’s sidebar tutorial, all the way through building and assigning VMs to hosts. Console views worked just fine in tests, although Linux control wasn’t as smooth as Windows guests in our tests. Guest performance was more than satisfactory, however. Virtual Iron’s live virtual machine migration is dubbed LiveMigrate. LiveMigrate touts hardware independence, but according to the manual, make sure you go Intel-to-Intel or AMD-to-AMD when migrating. VI-Center does a good job of vetting the target host to ensure that memory, processor, and access permissions to the resource pool are all in place before allowing a move. It therefore can save you from bad decisions by simply not permitting a forced move to a host running at full capacity. Like VMware, Virtual Iron prices per socket, delivering more bang for the buck with quad-core over dual-core chipsets. Of course, $799 per socket is significantly less than VMware ESX pric- ing, especially since Virtual Iron is following Citrix’s model of bundled management tools. In terms of list price, going with Virtual Iron instead of VMware yields savings of 50% or more. Physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual conversions happen thanks to partner PlateSpin. The included bundle grants six conversions per socket license, which should take care of most con- solidation scenarios. Additional conversion licenses can be purchased from PlateSpin. PARALLELS’ LINE As of this writing, Parallels Server is the only game in town with production support for host- ing Mac OS X 10.5 Server guests. However, VMware’s Fusion, Sun’s xVM, and other major market forces are closing in, pushing Parallels to stay on top of its game. As an aside, we like Parallels’ desktop virtualization offering, Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac. The latest revision resolves several usability and performance issues. Unfortunately, the current ver- sion of Parallels Server, 3.0, shares a version number with the last generation of Desktop. Parallels Server brings a world of flexibility to Apple’s Xserve line. Mac developers and produc- tion shops are already utilizing Parallels for test and sandbox environments; the novelty of vir- tualizing OS X builds seems to supersede the limited feature set compared with other hypervi- sor platforms. Mac-only IT shops will probably be pleased that the product allows them to consolidate multi- 13 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  14. 14. Rolling Review:Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s ple out-of-support Wintel and Mac G4/G5 servers onto one or two new Xserves. Parallels performed well on Apple’s top-of-the-line eight-core Harpertown Xserve with 32 GB of RAM, three 15,000-rpm SAS drives and a Fibre Channel connection to a legacy Apple Xserve RAID setup with 4 TB of usable storage. In addition, we tested an older dual-core, 8-GB Xserve. Intel VT-x is required, which means older 64-bit PowerPC Xserves can’t run Parallels. Parallels was a gracious host for Windows 2003 and 2008, Debian, and OS X Server guests with no issues. Guest performance was more than adequate on the Harpertown box, while our older Xserve faced resource constraints when asked to run three Windows 2003 instances. Apple doesn’t provide iSCSI support in OS X, but a number of hardware and software vendors offer third-party products. The strangest issue we encountered involved USB support for a Windows 2003 guest—a low- use server ripe for virtualization (in this case, a building management system) that required an old-school USB dongle to function. Parallels Server does not offer USB support or robust virtu- al LAN mapping for guests VMs. Multiple virtual Parallels Servers can be managed from the Parallels Management Console. Like other virtual machine management GUIs, hosts and guests can be paused, suspended, stopped, and reconfigured. Individual VMs can be accessed via detach- able consoles. A stopped VM can be cloned. However, there’s no snapshot functionality, and performance Our Take [ PARALLELS SERVER FOR MAC 3.0 AND VIRTUAL IRON 4.5 > Small and midsize businesses look- prioritization is limited to optimization for either host or VM; ing for an easy, economical path to vir- there’s no weighting between guests. There’s also no live migra- tualization, or Mac shops hoping to dump Windows hardware, will find tion capability: VMs must be shut down and manually moved that Virtual Iron and Parallels Server, to a new host. respectively, fit the bill nicely. > Parallels Server enables Mac OS X Parallels Transporter, the bundled physical-to-virtual conver- server virtualization without breaking any of Apple’s rules. It hasn’t received sion tool, performed with no issues in our tests. the same attention to detail as Parallels Desktop, though, and it shows. Parallels charges just under $1,250 per host server regardless of > Virtual Iron could go head-to-head configuration. This price is ideally suited for maximizing an with VMware in the data center, but it’s eight-way Xeon Xserve, although it’s not necessarily cost-effec- building its base from below with an easy-to-administer product at a very tive for squeezing extra oomph out of a 2006 dual-core Xserve. aggressive price. 14 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  15. 15. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s VMware: An Agile 800-Pound Gorilla By Joe Hernick VMWARE INFRASTRUCTURE 3.5, the 800-pound gorilla in our Rolling Review of hypervi- sors, continues to lead the virtualization pack in performance, support, and scalability. In tests, the VMware Infrastructure suite—comprising the VMware ESX hypervisor, vCenter Server, and client tools—got our virtualization job done handily. But whether it’s worth the premium price may be another matter. Version 3.5 answers some calls for easier setup and management features. For example, VMware offers Guided Consolidation, an easy-to-use analysis tool for virtualizing Windows environments, along with new patch management capabilities and enterprise-class support. In addition, the VMware ecosystem offers thousands of ready-to-roll virtual appliances, and API tie-ins and vendor partnerships provide limitless management, reporting, automation, storage, and security options. VMware also has the most difficult learning curve for novice admins and the highest price tag among the participants in this Rolling Review. Does this sound like a winning combo to you? Citrix Systems promises that you’ll only need a few minutes to achieve Xen, and we had our base Virtual Iron, Parallels, and Hyper-V test platforms up in less than an hour. Our virtualiza- tion-neophyte experience wasn’t as smooth with VMware. Yes, ESX 3.5 did everything we asked of it for our small-business model test case—and more—but it took the better part of a day to get our base environment up and running. This was a “real world” test, using IT admin test subjects who have limited familiarity with virtualization and no familiarity with VMware. This is in line with many small IT shops, working under constricted budgets, with limited training options and cranky CFOs, faced with aging hardware and flat staffing models. For shops still running VMware ESX 3.0, the incremental upgrade to 3.5 makes sense for the added management features and VirtualCenter improvements. New customers looking to get their feet wet can check out the 60-day free, full-featured trial to assess and experiment with physical to virtual conversions, consolidation modeling, and plain old-fashioned comfort and ease of daily use. Then again, all vendors in this Rolling Review offer some form of free demo. During the course of our testing, the price points changed for some participants, and additional technology and improvements have been introduced. 15 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  16. 16. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s To be clear, VMware is well worth a look. The planning tools are unmatched, and the potential for patch management and green computing options can make the high price worth it for many. The product just took a bit more head-scratching and manual-reading for initial setup than the competition. We brought a Windows administrator with minimal virtualization experience into the virtual- ization test lab to help us get a newbie’s perspective on the physical-to-virtual scenario. The best quote from our VMware experience? “Whaddaya mean I need an Oracle database? Oh— SQL will work? Great. So here we go, setting up a SQL 2005 server to manage our VMware environment. This is what I need to use to get a global view, right?” Right. Setting up a single ESX 3.5 host managed by the standard VM Infrastructure Client tool was fairly painless. Unless you want to access iSCSI storage, that is. Or tinker with the many robust networking or configuration options. Whereas other vendors in this Rolling Review address storage area networking during basic setup, the default ESX install assumes local storage. Configuring iSCSI, setting VMKernal inter- faces, selecting network interface cards for data access, picking a SAN target, and setting up data stores took many, many steps. Setup was made possible using VMware Infrastructure Client’s built-in help, but it was laborious compared with most competitors’ iSCSI out of the gate. We built four ESX hosts on virtualization-enabled HP multicore Advanced Micro Devices servers. Everything was connected to our Dell EqualLogic 5000-series SAS and iSCSI arrays. As we’ve said before, having many platters across 48-TB drives is great for I/O and fantastic for virtualization clusters. Sixteen 15,000-rpm drives in the SAS array also made quick work of storage tasks; for our money and for most small shops, we’d consider the higher capacity of the Serial ATA. After a hiccup attempting to install Virtual Center and its requisite MS SQL 2005 on a 64-bit Windows 2003 box, we easily set up a spare Windows XP workstation as our man- agement host. Data and SAN connections were physically divided to two Cisco Gigabit Ethernet switches, and everything was first run on a closed network for base testing, then opened up to a 400-user public network to get some real-world experience. 16 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  17. 17. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s We configured individual hosts with both Infrastructure Client utility and Virtual Center. Within VirtualCenter, we created a test cluster with our four physical hosts and played around with manually shuffling virtual machines from host to host with VMotion. Even though we’ve been doing this for a bit, we still smile when we watch a running, CPU-loaded Windows 2003 VM hop from host to host in a matter of seconds without dropping a beat (or a ping). We used the VirtualCenter to create a resource pool so that we could conceptually view and manage our four servers as an aggregate pool of CPU and memory resources. We have no complaints with performance; we were very impressed with 32-bit Linux and 32- and 64-bit Windows performance in our small-business tests. We readily built clusters of shared resources relying on the SAN for centralized storage. After the painless installation of VMware client tools, cloning, snapshots, and VMotion flexibility all met or exceeded our ease of use and performance expectations when compared with real-world physical servers; you’re doing yourself a disservice if your shop rejects virtualization out of hand. Our EqualLogic SAN goes one step farther, offloading snapshot tasks to the storage array—this is the first chance we’ve had to test this out. Offloading snapshots to the SAN hardware saves CPU resources in the host cluster. This is another example of a benefit from VMware’s place as front-runner: New features from third-party vendors in the virtualization arena come out for the VMware ecosystem first, then broaden support to include other vendors. To dig further into our small-business simulation, we virtualized [ Our Take > VMware’s a la carte menu of real-world Windows servers using Virtual Center’s Guided offerings may be good for larger Consolidation tool. While the provided recommendations were fair- enterprises, but could confuse smaller shops or new customers. ly straightforward, the real benefit of VMware’s Active Directory integration would shine in a larger data center environment, where > VMware’s long track record means there’s a huge supported the tool continually probes and monitors physical Windows servers OS list, lots of VMware-trained ex- as candidates for conversion. perts, broad third-party support, and thousands of canned virtual Once converted, the automated rule sets assigned VMs to hosts appliances ready to go. without issue. A big, shiny consolidation button sits on the Virtual > Competitors bundle manage- Center 2.5 interface, offering suggestions and impact analysis for ment tools or offer the whole deal gratis. virtualizing physical boxes in your shop. As we added VMs or pur- posefully “mismanaged” our test farm, Virtual Center soundly adapt- 17 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  18. 18. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s ed to changing loads and existing rule sets and VMotioned us out of harm’s way. Everything worked as planned. On a final note, automated patch management left us with smiles all around. After a somewhat byzantine process of configuring VirtualCenter to add the Update Manager component and client plug-in, we set up automated patching for ESX hosts and Windows VMs using Update Manager. We followed VMware’s recommendation and set up a three-hour interval to check for updates. After selecting security patches for application, we picked an idle host for updates. We also readily applied Windows security patches to specific VMs and had comfort knowing we could easily roll back to pre-patch snapshots. This isn’t a magic bullet for all data center patch requirements, but it is a nice plus from VMware and is a clear example of how virtualization can reduce administrative burdens. VMware ESX 3.5 starts at a base price of $1,540 for two processors, Distributed Resource Scheduler starts at $2,414, and the VMotion/Storage VMotion combo starts at $4,024. VCenter Server Foundation starts at $2,040 for three physical hosts and ranges up to $6,044 and beyond to manage hundreds of hosts. Various bundles and a la carte options also are offered. Virtual Market Shifts Into Higher Gear By Joe Hernick VIRTUALIZATION HAS EMERGED from the obscurity of the test lab and development workstation to mainstream production and beyond. The benefits are real, and some companies already are testing the next tier of virtualization performance. If you’re like many IT shops— particularly IT shops in smaller companies—you probably feel behind the times when it comes to adopting data center virtualization. The real news is, you’re not. A recent InformationWeek survey of 348 business technology pros showed that roughly 47% of organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees had not yet virtu- alized. Roughly 23% of these facilities were planning deployments. Furthermore, interviews with IT managers from smaller shops show anecdotally that small and midsize businesses are just starting on the physical-to-virtual conversion path. 18 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  19. 19. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Like their larger-business counterparts, smaller IT shops are wary of placing multiple critical systems on one host, and with good reason. Consolidating a number of legacy servers onto a single Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESXi host may make short-term financial sense, but it also introduces single-system points of failure for all guests residing on that host. Concerns about deployment, management, capacity planning, and production outages haven’t been left behind with the 20th century. Good planning can mitigate concerns about putting all eggs in one virtualized basket. An appropriately sized, robust, centralized storage system; three or more host servers; and a bit of redundant networking often yield a more resilient environment than many smaller shops have. When existing servers and gear can be repurposed to VM host platforms, the cost/benefit num- bers look even better. Add an inexpensive—or free—hypervisor, live migration, and basic man- agement tools, and the business case begins to write itself. Tasks that are arduous in the physi- cal world become routine in virtualized space; capacity planning, patch management, high availability, and disaster recovery are much simpler to master once servers make the physical- to-virtual move. Armed with the belief that virtualization technology is both ready for prime time and appropri- ately complex for nonexpert deployment, we tested major and minor players in the hypervisor arena. For this Rolling Review, we set up our test bed as if we were a small IT shop looking to consolidate workflow and migrate from older physical servers to the virtual world. We assumed Real-World Analyst Assessment Server virtualization t Srv er-V ls n e . Iro war alle UNACCEPTABLE IDEAL Hyp Xen Par VM Virt Shortlist , Editor’s Choice +, Best Value $ $ + Ease of installation Day-in/day-out management Enterprise functionality Windows VM performance “Bundled” price Bottom Line: VMware, Citrix, Virtual Iron, and Hyper-V met or exceeded our expectations for running an SMB server shop. Parallels Server doesn’t measure up to the others in features or performance, but it’s the only Apple-sanctioned Mac server virtualization management platform. 19 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  20. 20. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s that administrators would be familiar with Windows server management and generally comfort- able with basic Linux administration. We also brought in IT admins with limited virtualization experience to get a fresh perspective on the platforms tested. We were pleasantly surprised every step of the way. In tests, virtual machine performance occa- HOW WE TESTED A GAUNTLET OF OLD AND NEW GEAR S traight hypervisor performance doesn’t reflect the en- management. Three virtual LANs separated network traffic: tire cluster management-performance experience. one subnet for VM management and two subnets for VM This Rolling Review was, first and foremost, a qualita- testing. tive assessment, so we built our test bed to gauge All servers were rolled into four-host VM clusters for the each product’s setup, physical-to-virtual conversions, and day- four mainstream hypervisors, yielding a virtual pool of re- to-day manageability. sources encompassing 16 2.6-GHz cores, 40 GB of RAM, and 5 We ran all five platforms on a variety of server hardware, TB of storage on the storage area network. It’s easy to see why then put all of the virtualization suites except Parallels old-school mainframe wonks smile whenever 20-something through a final series of tests on identical hardware. The test IT admins get excited about virtualization. cluster included four quad-core Hewlett-Packard DL385-G2 We tested Parallels Server on four- and eight-core Apple servers, two configured with 12 GB of RAM and two config- Xserves running 8 GB and 32 GB, respectively, with the hyper- ured with 8 GB of RAM.Within each, host hypervisors were in- visor installed atop Mac OS X Server 10.5.5 on hardware-RAID stalled on a pair of hardware-RAID mirrored 72-GB 10,000- mirrored 80-GB SAS drives. Apple doesn’t officially support rpm SAS drives. VMware, Citrix, and Virtual Iron installations iSCSI connections, only Fibre Channel SANs. We tested Paral- were bare metal, and Microsoft Hyper-V was installed on top lels with a legacy Fibre Channel storage device and local stor- of Windows 2008. age. To guarantee support from Apple and Parallels, we rec- All hosts were connected via Cisco’s 3750G for iSCSI SAN ommend sticking to the Fibre Channel SANs on Apple’s short access to Dell EqualLogic PS5000-series SAS and SATA stor- vendor list for any Parallels Server installation. age devices. We base-tested connectivity with legacy Fibre We chose a Windows 2003 host running on older, nonvirtu- Channel storage arrays to verify functionality, while a 16-drive alization-optimized hardware as our physical-to-virtual SAS array and 48-drive SATA array allowed us to test compat- guinea pig. During the course of this Rolling Review, we vir- ibility and performance reflecting commodity solutions. The tualized many varieties of Windows and Linux with decent re- Dell system was very easy to set up, configure, and maintain sults. For the wrap-up, we stuck with simple 32-bit Windows throughout testing. Small and midsize businesses would do server conversions on the assumption that most SMBs initially well to investigate entry-level, expandable iSCSI SANs from consolidate older legacy servers to get aging hardware of- Dell or other vendors. We formatted the 48 TB of raw storage fline. The host ran file services serving up local storage, IIS for as one 32.3-TB RAID-50 pool, from which we sliced out 5-TB basic static pages, and DNS. Each vendor’s (or vendor’s part- resource pools for each virtual machine cluster. ner’s) physical-to-virtual converter worked without issue, cap- Each host had one dedicated gigabit network interface turing the Windows 2003 host as a VM. card for iSCSI traffic, and the 3750G was dedicated to storage We installed each vendor’s virtualization tools to optimize only; no other communications traversed the physically iso- drivers for video and system performance, then took snap- lated switch. All Ethernet data connections for the VM clus- shots of the completed base images.Then we cloned the heck ters ran over a second 3750G, with one gigabit NIC per host out of our images to populate our clusters with Windows and for network communications and one gigabit NIC for VM Debian VMs, and ran with the ball. —J oe H ernick 20 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  21. 21. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s sionally exceeded the premigration results of older physical servers. With planning, we could consolidate dozens of low-utilization VMs across our four older boxes. And once the cluster of virtualization hosts and centralized storage was up and running, we found the day-to-day care and feeding of virtualized servers was much less of a hassle than the drudgery of riding herd on traditional physical servers. EVERYONE’S A WINNER VMware, Citrix, Virtual Iron, and Microsoft met or exceeded our expectations for running an SMB server shop. Any of these could ably handle VM chores in a smaller organization. The biggest differences among them are in pricing and third-party support. VMware, Citrix, and Virtual Iron will handle Windows and Linux consolidation efforts and accommodate future plans. Each provides physical-to-virtual conversion, broad OS support, centralized management, and solid performance. VMware, Citrix, and Virtual Iron offer the abili- ty to live migrate running virtual machines between hosts in the same cluster—a key ability. Our fifth Rolling Review entry, Parallels Server for Mac 3.0, couldn’t match the other four prod- ucts we tested in terms of performance or features. But Parallels is the only game in town for virtualizing Mac servers (at least officially), and did an adequate job in our tests. So how do these platforms stack up? Here’s our final tally: If we were running a small or medium-sized IT shop with a modest staff, hoping for six-to- one or eight-to-one server consolidation, we’d strongly consider Citrix Xen. Recent changes in Citrix’s pricing models make it even more appealing. XenServer Enterprise, at $2,600 per serv- er when we tested it, seemed like a good deal. Since then, however, most of XenServer Enter- prise’s critical functions—clustering with decentralized management and live migration—have been made available in the free XenServer. This means Citrix is now pushing lots of functionality out the door for free in XenServer, while offering Essentials for XenServer Enterprise Edition as the next step up the product chain. Essentials offers storage management, historical reporting, and high availability, along with other features, for $2,750 per server, or $11,000 for our four-host cluster. Microsoft’s Hyper-V is tough to beat on price or Windows performance; most enterprises will receive Hyper-V as part of their annual Windows server support subscription, bundled with Windows 2008. Windows network administrators will be most comfortable and will need to travel the least distance to get a Hyper-V farm up and running. However, Linux-heavy shops 21 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  22. 22. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s will need an additional virtualization option to get off the ground, and Red Hat, Debian, and other Linux variants beyond the supported SUSE will need to get their virtualization else- where. Live migration was the deal breaker for us: Microsoft offers Quick Migration, and that’s not live migration. Microsoft recently announced that live migration will make its way into Hyper- V Server 2008 Release 2, but today’s system requires admins to take VMs offline when migrat- ing to a new host. R2 is slated for release sometime next year. We managed our Hyper-V cluster with Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, $869 for an unlimited server license. We’ll grant Hyper-V its “free” claim because most customers considering it already will have licenses on hand. GLOBAL WARMING SAVE MONE Y, SAVE THE PL ANET W ant to fight global warming? Try virtualization. alization can keep 506 tons of carbon dioxide out of the at- The biggest marketing trumpet for virtualiza- mosphere. I have a hard time visualizing 506 tons of CO2, so tion has been monetary savings—physical-to- Oriel provides equivalents: planting 2,228 trees, offsetting the virtual conversions reduce capital expense by annual emissions of 113 cars, or, because they’re Australian consolidating many servers onto fewer hosts. Additional po- and it’s humorous (and true), offsetting the annual emissions tential savings can come from reduced management costs, of 219 cows. less downtime, and lighter staffing. Whatever your view on the IT benefits of virtualization or As energy prices have fluctuated widely during the past whether you want to argue with the specifics of the assump- year, CFOs are punching new holes to tighten corporate belts tions in these estimates, it’s tough to argue with the basic ever further, looking for savings wherever they can. Power premise: Virtualization yields fewer physical servers in your and heating and cooling costs are surfacing as areas of op- data center. No matter what virtualization host platform you portunity. choose, fewer boxes equals less electricity consumed. Less That’s all good for a company’s bottom line. But in addition electricity consumed equals fewer emissions. to freeing up floor and rack space, large-scale server virtualiza- VMware has taking green savings one step further. Distrib- tion can result in significant reductions in electrical and cool- uted Power Management (DPM) is a new feature of its Distrib- ing needs. And since most of our power comes from burning uted Resource Scheduler (DRS) module of ESX (and soon to fossil fuels, it’s safe to say that each server is responsible for be part of vSphere.) Relying on VMotion and DRS, VMware tons of carbon dioxide annually. General assessments are 4 to clusters can selectively shut down physical hosts as load re- 12 tons of CO2 per server per year. quirements decrease, further consolidating running virtual Are swimming polar bears starting to haunt you yet? machines to a subset of hosts. As loads ratchet up again, of- The stats associated with virtualization vary widely, de- fline hosts power back up via wake-on-LAN, and VMs redis- pending on who’s making the pitch. For example, Oriel Tech- tribute as more capacity is required. VMware projects an ad- nologies, an Australian VMware channel partner, proposes ditional 20% power and cooling savings thanks to DPM. that paring 45 servers down to five host servers through virtu- —Joe Hernick 22 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  23. 23. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s Virtual Iron Extended Enterprise Edition 4.5 is just what is advertised: a full-featured enter- prise virtualization platform. Although it could easily play in larger enterprises, the company sees opportunity at the smaller end of the market, where VMware often prices itself out of con- sideration. Virtual Iron’s pricing model is per socket, so a 16-core cluster would set us back $799 per each of our eight sockets, a total of $6,392. Quad-core installations would yield better bang for the buck—$3,196 if we happened to be running 16 cores across four four-way hosts. VI-Center, Virtual Iron’s Java-based central management and network distribution tool, pro- vides a centralized install that had our cluster up and running in less than an hour. Virtual Iron partners with PlateSpin for physical-to-virtual technology; pricing includes six con- versions per socket license. Not to be outdone, VMware came to the Rolling Review loaded for bear—or bare metal, as it were. VMware has the largest ecosystem of vendors and support, and VMware Infrastructure Enterprise 3.5 is fully equipped, with resource management, power management, VMotion/ Storage VMotion, high availability, Update Manager, and VirtualCenter for $6,958 per two processors. Our 16-core cluster had eight processors, for a steep total of $55,664. VMware’s pending vSphere repackaging may shake up the SMB competition later this spring. Then again, it may not: The entry level of vSphere, where the most dramatic savings play out at $795 per processor, lacks VMotion and other features. Again, this is a deal breaker. Stepping up to the just-announced vSphere Enterprise level will deliver VMotion to the SMB audience … for $2,875 per processor. Parallels Server for Mac 3.0 trails the other products we tested in functionality, reporting, and day-to-day management. Nevertheless, Apple-only shops should give it a look because it’s the only Mac OS X 10.5 Server support vetted by Apple. In our tests, Parallels did get Windows 2003, OS X, and Linux hosts running side by side on Apple hardware. And Mac-cen- tric organizations can get optimized Xserve hardware and finally dump those pesky legacy Windows hosts. But at $1,250 per physical host, we’d only recommend it on four- or eight- way Macs. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Server 4.0 is coming soon, bringing live-motion capabil- ity, snapshots, and robust centralized management. If we had built out four Xserves with Parallels, we’d be looking at a cool $5,000, but we don’t know of any Mac shops looking to 23 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited
  24. 24. Rolling Review: Server Virtualization InformationWeekanalytics.c om A n a l y t i c s A l e r t s spend that kind of money on virtualization software. After all, $5,000 will buy some nice com- modity hardware to run a small, free Citrix Xen cluster. TAKE A TEST DRIVE VMware, Citrix, and Virtual Iron all have full-featured demos available to try before you buy. If time allows, it may be worth the effort to build test clusters for your two top hosting candi- dates. Live migration is a critical element of VM cluster management; however, you’ll be able to save a lot of money if your organization can tolerate brief production outages to shuffle a VM from host to host. Likewise, assess your appetite for high-availability capabilities; high availability comes at an additional licensing premium. Finally, a warning: The VM tools in this Rolling Review made it ludicrously easy to create a vir- tual server. Too easy. Ensure that your virtual environment maintains the same rigor and change-control discipline as the physical side of your shop. Wanton creation of guests and fluc- tuating resource demands can lead to “VMotion sickness.” Don’t let your virtual world get away from you. 24 May 11, 2009 © 2009 InformationWeek, Reproduction Prohibited