Fruit: Apples, Oranges
Fruitful: Current discussions on hypervisor price differences
Fruitless: Getting hypervisor vendors to agree on a fair pricing comparison
There's been some interesting hypervisor pricing comparisons circulating the Internet over the past two weeks that have caught my interest:
- VMware's Mike Dipetrillo: ESX 3.5i for Free and the Impact on Hyper-V and the SMB
- Virtualization.info - Alessandro Perilli: VMware ESXi vs Microsoft Hyper-V: which one is better for SMBs?
- EvolveTechnologies - Dave Sobel: Is VMware Cheaper than Microsoft?
After reading with interest, I set out to conduct my own pricing evaluation, thinking that it couldn't be too hard to get vendors to agree on a fair pricing comparison (insert joke here). To keep it simple, I decided to use a small branch office consisting of six Windows Server 2003 servers in the evaluation. I consider high availability a requirement in all production virtualization deployments and added virtual infrastructure management to the mix as well. To summarize, the solution requirements consisted of:
- Virtualizing six Windows Server 2003 servers on two 2-way physical hosts
- High availability failover support
- Centralized management of the virtual infrastructure
With the criteria set, I moved to evaluating vendor solutions with each vendor's bottom line list price.
The Proposed Solutions
Table 1 below compares what I see as comparable solutions from VMware, Microsoft, Virtual Iron, and Citrix.
|Vendor||Hypervisor Package||High Availability||Management||Total Price|
|Citrix (Stratus OEM)||XenServer 4.1 (included in Stratus Avance)||Stratus Avance (includes XenServer hypervisor) $2,495 per node x 2 nodes = $4,990||Included with Stratus Avance software||$4,990|
|Microsoft||Hyper-V (included with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise license) $3,999 per node x 2 nodes = $7,998||Included with the Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition license||Essential management is provided by the Hyper-V Manager MMC (included with the OS). Advanced management included in System Center Virtual Machine Manger 2008. VMM 2007 Workgroup edition is priced at $499.||$7,998 |
$8,497 (assumed price once VMM 2008 is available)
|Virtual Iron||Virtual Iron Extended Enterprise Edition - $799 per socket x 4 sockets - $3,196||Included in Virtual Iron Extended Enterprise Edition||Included in Virtual Iron Extended Enterprise Edition||$3,196|
|VMware||VI Standard High Availability Acceleration Kit for 4 processors $7,254||Included in VMware Standard High Availability Acceleration Kit||Virtual Center Foundation Server license included in acceleration kit||$7,524|
Table 1: Hypervisor price comparison (assumes Windows guest OS licensing is not required)
Citrix XenServer 4.1 does not include high availability, so the Status Avance OEM was used instead. Note that the pricing in Table 1 assumes that the branch office already has existing Windows Server 2003 licenses. If licensing is required, or if plans to upgrade branch office systems to Windows Server 2008 are in place, then the pricing comparison changes substantially. The Microsoft solution already includes licensing for 8 VMs, since Hyper-V is a part of the Windows Server 2008 OS. For the three other solutions, the cheapest way to go would be to purchase six Windows Server 2008 standard edition licenses for $995 each (total cost = $5,970 for six VMs). Downgrade rights would allow you to run Windows Server 2003 under the Windows Server 2008 license, and you would already be covered when it comes time to upgrade. Note that there's no price difference with Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition licenses.
Table 2 shows vendor solution pricing with the Windows Server 2008 license included (added cost of $5,970).
|Citrix (Stratus OEM)||$4,990 + $5,970 = $10,960|
$8,497 (with VMM 2008 once it's available)
|Virtual Iron||$3,196 + $5,970 = $9,166|
|VMware||$7,524 + $5,970 = $13,494|
Table 2: Hypervisor price comparison (assumes Windows guest OS licensing is required)
As you can see, OS licensing cost is a significant factor. With the cost of OS licensing, the Microsoft Hyper-V solution changes from the most expensive to the least expensive. Also, it should be noted that both Table 1 and Table 2 reflect vendor list pricing. Since vendor discounts vary, the resulting paid price for any of the above solutions could be thousands less. Still, the list pricing comparison should give you a good idea of where each vendor stands.
The Fruit of My Labor
I had to use a minimal configuration in order to make the vendor comparisons as close as possible. VMware eloquently stated that for an apples-to-apples comparison with Hyper-V, I should include Systems Center Operations Manger and System Center Configuration Manager in the Microsoft price. However, while Virtual Center does a few things that Virtual Machine Manager doesn't do, System Center Configuration Manger and Operations Manager can do much more than Virtual Center. So to balance the comparison, I would have to add System Center Configuration Manger and Operations Manager to the price of each solution, making the addition a wash. The same happened when backup was added to the equation. Citrix and Stratus would also argue that their solution includes local storage mirroring support, so purchasing shared network storage is not required and could represent considerable savings. VMware also noted that their price includes a year of Gold Support, and that similar support on competitive offerings could raise the price as much as 20%. Since I cannot buy a VMware product without support, I'm keeping the support cost in my comparison because it does represent the minimum price. In addition, Virtual Iron's competitors have been quick to note that Virtual Iron does not have a similar supporting vendor ecosystem, which is a decision making factor you won't find on a product data sheet.
So I'm sure vendors will still argue along the lines of apples-to-apples, but I counter that I am comparing apples-to-apples while agreeing that some may be tastier than others. You may see some of the solutions as granny smith apples and others as red delicious apples. On the outside, they're all apples, but on the inside the experience is unique to each one.
Fruitless? Fruitful? I welcome your feedback.
Posted by: Chris Wolf