Data Centers

Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 vs. VMware's vSphere: A cost comparison

Read Scott Lowe's cost comparison between Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 and VMware's vSphere and then download the Excel spreadsheet version of his chart.
Update: The always astute TechRepublic community noticed a couple of errors in this cost comparison guide since it was first published last week. Those errors have been corrected. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

My previous column covered the technical differences between Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 and VMware's vSphere hypervisor. There are some significant technical differences between Hyper-V R2 and vSphere, but at the end of the day, both products get the job done. In this column, I provide a cost comparison between the various editions of Hyper-V R2 and vSphere.

Caveats

Without actual, real-world workloads and operating systems, I decided to take a simplistic approach to this comparison by keeping things relatively streamlined. For example, you'll notice that: in both the VMware and Microsoft cases, the total workload is 150 virtual machines; every virtual machine is running Windows Server 2008 Standard; and every host is identically configured with dual processors.

My goal was to develop a reasonable, consistent baseline and then just work the numbers to see how things would fall out. Further, all of the pricing you see is list; no volume discounts are applied because that information varies too much between vertical and between licensing programs.

These calculations do not include hardware costs; this is a software-only affair. This comparison does not attempt to include maintenance costs, either, as these vary by support level. The Microsoft pricing does include some software maintenance, but only because it's included in the list price. Note that only the Data Center (DC) edition of Windows is compared against the various editions of vSphere. To use any other Windows version in an enterprise virtualization platform would simply not make sense and would drive pricing through the roof due to Microsoft's general DC-only virtualization policies.

In addition, when it comes to server virtualization, my organization (Westminster College) is a VMware vSphere/ESX shop, but I am also keeping my eye on Hyper-V. I stayed as unbiased as possible in this cost comparison.

Cost comparison

Table A shows you this comparison, along with two costing options. Below the table, I provide more detail. Table A

Click the image to enlarge.
License model. The method by which the product is licensed. This is either per host or per processor. List price. This is the published list price for each component based on the license model. For example, for vSphere, the list price is per processor, as indicated in the row above. VMs/host. How many virtual machines will run on each physical host? Originally, I gave an advantage to vSphere due to the product's memory overcommitment capabilities, among other things. I feel that VMware's features give it a significant capacity edge over Hyper-V. However, I decided to keep the comparison as streamlined and consistent as possible. In order to do so, I needed to keep the capacity information consistent. You will note that pricing Option 2 shows what could happen when you take into account vSphere's increased VM density. Total VMs. How many total virtual machines will be hosted by the infrastructure? Req'd hosts. Based on the inputs from the VMs/host and Total VMs rows, how many hosts are needed to support this environment? Host processors. How many processors are installed in each physical host? Since some products are licensed on a per-processor/per-socket basis, this is important. VM OS. What operating system will run inside each virtual machine in the environment? For the sake of comparison, I indicate that every VM will run Windows Server Standard. In the real world, this is highly unlikely, but it does provide a good baseline software cost comparison. Management. What management tool or tools will be used to manage the virtual infrastructure? For vSphere, vCenter is your choice. For Microsoft, there are various options, but at the density levels in the table, using Microsoft's Server Management Suite Data Center, which is pretty expensive and licensed per processor. There are other management options for Hyper-V, so don't take what you see here as the final word. Consider the issue of management software carefully and buy only what you need. Note that this suite includes only CALs for individual management tools, such as Operations Manager; you still need to separately license the Operations Manager server. The same holds true if you decide to use Configuration Manager and/or Data Protection Manager. Those CALs are also included in the suite, but the server license is a separate deal. Management license model. As is the case with the hypervisor, the management software is licensed either per host or per processor. Management list price. What is the list price for the management software based on the license model? Windows Server. How much does Windows Server Standard cost? Hypervisor Costs. What is the total cost of the hypervisor software based on the inputs? Windows Server Costs. At first glance, how much do the individual Windows Server Standard virtual instances cost? There is a $0 amount in the Hyper-V column because Windows Data Center includes unlimited virtual instances of Windows Server, any edition. If you were to run this infrastructure on Hyper-V on Windows Server Enterprise, you'd pay a whole lot for those virtual instances since only four are included with an Enterprise license. Management Costs. How much does the management software cost? From everything I've read, the Microsoft management product is licensed per physical host, thus making the management costs go through the roof. Total. What is the total cost of the solution? Option 1

This is an extremely important and cost saving option... and it's legal. Several years ago, Microsoft made the following statement regarding the unlimited virtualized instances allowance in the Windows Server Data Center license:

"Licensing does not depend on which virtualization technology is used. With all processors in a server licensed for Windows Server 2003 R2, Datacenter Edition, you can run one instance of the software in a physical operating system environment and an unlimited number of instances in virtual operating system environments. With VMWare GSX Server or SWsoft Virtuozzo, this means you can run one physical instance plus unlimited virtual instances. With VMWare ESX Server, it means you can run unlimited virtual instances because there is no need for a physical instance."

This means that you can run any hypervisor you want and, as long as you also buy a Windows Server DC license to apply to that physical host, you can run as many Windows Server instances as you like on that server. This basically means that you're buying software you'll never use -- Windows Server DC -- but if you do that math, you can see that having the ability to run as many copies of Windows as you like on a virtual host can quickly add up to a lot of savings. For a dual processor server, a DC license would cost about $6,000. It would take only two virtual enterprise instances or six virtual standard instances to hit the breakeven point. Since this example assumes 10 VMs per host, there are a lot of savings.

Option 2

This option shows the possible effect of vSphere's increased VM density.

Final notes

Again, the values I placed in the table are only for comparison. I'd expect to see higher densities on VMware hosts, which quickly brings down the cost. As you eliminate VMware hosts due to density increases, you get just about $7,000 back per server ($3,495 x 2 processors), and you also save on the associated Windows DC license ($6,000 - $2,999 x 2 processors). For example, suppose you increase the density to 15 VMs per server under vSphere Enterprise Plus. In this case, your total cost would drop from $199,815 to $134,875, which isn't too far off the Hyper-V cost. If you need fewer features,  you can license vSphere Standard or Advanced and actually save money on the VMware solution.

If you want to play around with the numbers in this cost comparison, the table is available as a downloadable Excel spreadsheet.

Want to keep up with Scott Lowe's posts on TechRepublic?

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

29 comments
scootilla
scootilla

I think it is worth noting that a variety of factors can bring down the cost of the VMware solutions. VMware is attractively priced through the Essentials Kit and Acceleration Kits. Additionally, there is a fairly large price difference in the market place depending on the VAR you work with. VARs that specialize in VMware are also going to help you optimize your configuration and drive the most value out of your solution. -Jim www.kloudsinc.com

kenw
kenw

I'm not sure what the target environment for this comparison is, but for small businesses, I'd say it's Out To Lunch. Any small business buying a copy of Windows Server 2008 gets the hypervisor for FREE (that includes the full host OS), and you don't need SCVMM or any extra for-cost software to manage it: the built-in tools are fine. Further, as soon as you want to create a hardware fault-tolerant solution for both VMs and data, that allows quick migration of VMs between servers, VMware requires a NAS, and fault-tolerant NAS devices aren't cheap. There is now third-party software (VM6 VMex) that provides full active-active fault-tolerant two-server solution with no extra NAS at all. IMHO, VMware simply can't compete in the SMB market. They probably don't start making economic sense until the IT investment is over $1,000,000. /kenw K&M Systems Integration

rick.leonard
rick.leonard

You cannot purchase a vSphere license without at least 1 year Gold Service and Support, which makes the minimum /proc list cost: Standard - $1068 Advanced - $2717 Enterprise - $3479 Enterprise+ - $4229 Users might want to update the spreadsheet with these costs, to more accurately reflect the actual spend for vSphere, since you can't actually buy Standard for $795 (for example).

roidude
roidude

Scott, This is a nice article, but not sure what the point is unless it's to refute similar documents Microsoft has posted on its Web site. In terms of relevance to making an enterprise virtualization platform decision, an analysis comparing hypervisor costs is not, I believe, very useful.

bstimac
bstimac

Bah... Citrix Xen Server. That is All.

dwdino
dwdino

ROFL Double that number at least.

john.van.dyke
john.van.dyke

Why is it a necessity to spend the $3,000 on Enterprise Edition of 2008 and enable the Hyper-V role when this scenario can be accomplished with the 'core' version of Hyper-V 2008 R2 for free? It includes high availability features with the failovercluster-core role. I also fail to see the necessity of MOM and SMS when you can manage the hosts with a Windows Vista/7 machine for minimal cost. From my understanding vCenter is a requirement for management where SMS/MOM are not. It seems that we're not comparing apples to apples but merely trying to justify the costs of VSX. Please correct me if I am wrong

Lukas Kucera
Lukas Kucera

Two notes about management on Hyper-V solution: 1.) Server Management Suite License will cover you not only with CALs for Hyper-V management but also for SC OM (as is implied in table), SC Configuration Manager and for SC Data Protection Manager. This means that for cost of additional $579 you get complete solution for management of configuration (patch management, server deployment) of your server and for another $579 you will get comprehensive backup system as well. 2.) Already paid $579 for SC OM Server will gives you also right to monitor and report all VMs including all application installed on that VMs. This should be mentioned as it can be seen as great benefit for Microsoft based solution.

hzi
hzi

Hi Scott, where did you get the information on "windows server costs". As far as I understand, it's possible to "attach" a MS Windows DC license to hosts running VMware ESX. So the result ist, that for both VMware and Microsoft the costs in this line are the same. The source of this information is: http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/virtualization.aspx So the costs for VMware ist lower (roughly 20k $ for 10 servers with 2 CPUs) than the numbers you provided. Regards Holger Zirnstein

jillswint
jillswint

Great Matrix. It would be interesting to see numbers on the support costs as well, but I know it is difficult to compare apples & baseballs.

degrootp
degrootp

If vCenter costs $4,995 per host, wouldn't the management costs for 10 hosts be $49,950, not $4,995? That pretty well erases VMware's cost advantage in the lower-end scenarios.

tgreenfield
tgreenfield

I run VMware Enterprise in a Cluster of 4 servers using High Availability HA etc on HP GL380 G6 X5550 Nehalem processors. Even under load they are idling with 35 VM loads. I'd guess that I'd have load them up with 80-80 VM loads before they would start to raise a sweat. However I'v also had a reasonably long conversation with some engineers running Hyper-V and they say that even on the equivalent hardware the BEST they can get is 6 VM loads running. These guys have all the assistance that Microsoft can give them as they work directly with Microsoft here. I think you really need to factor the number of licenses you need across the hardware to run equivalent loads. There is NO way that you can begin with the assumption that Hyper-V can run 10 VM's per host. I know that VMware will easily. I think you would be better modelling 15 VM's per ESX host versus 4 VM's per Hyper-V host, add up the equivalent server licenses etc and factor the total hardware costs, just as a start. Once that is done, look at your ongoing operational costs.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

For other scenarios, download the spreadsheet and give it a shot, for example, at 30 VMs/host. For consistency, I used 10 and 15 across both products. It was a random figure for a sample scenario.

Lukas Kucera
Lukas Kucera

Memory overcommitment is a crime ;-) And we assume that it will be at next version of hyper-v too... :-)

Lukas Kucera
Lukas Kucera

Edition choice If you will use anything than Datacenter Edition of Windows Server, you needs to deal with licenses for VMs OS too, so at line ?Windows Server? under cost you will have same number as for vSphere ($149,850). So you save $89,970 on Hypervisor but you spend $149,850 on license, and that will ruin your day. Management You are right, you don?t need Server Management Suite and SC OM, but you effectively cannot manage 150 VMs without them. In comparison to this you also don?t really needs vCenter, each vSphere server have web management. But then this story will be absolutely out of reality. Note: Don't mess SMS (now Configuration Manager) with SMS ?Server Management Suite, license you needs for using System Center Virtual Machine Manager software that is with SC OM (MOM) needs to have comparably same functionality as vCenter have. Finally I see this table really helpful, only argument that is not so correct from my point of view is that ?Option 2? variant. As the assumption of using more VMs per host on VMware is based is hardly to be defended?

GregWalker
GregWalker

vCenter Server costs $4,995 and can manage an unlimited number of hosts. vCenter Server Foundation can manage up to 3 hosts; it's sold as part of the vSphere Essentials packages f or as little as $995, which also includes the host licenses. In short, VMware is *very* attractive from a pricing standpoint for low-end (SMB) scenarios.

tgreenfield
tgreenfield

No, you pay the one vCenter license, then each host license. You only have enough host licenses for the VM load you intend to use - again real world, not a theoretical baseline figure. And to run the additional VM's under Hyper-V requires at least 3x the hardware, often with this cost greater that the cost differences you are talking about. You need to start from a working base to look at costs. You can't make the assumptions then do an effective cost modelling. As an example you would need to state how many VM's you need and the environment that you need to run them in eg with HA and managed through vCenter or not etc. You also need to be able to have some idea of where you are heading and what you are going to grow into as well. The main thing would be to start with say 15 VM's. A single ESX host under VMware would support this, but to run the same number under Hyper-V would take 4 hosts. What are you actual costs now? 4 lots of hardare, and then the required licensing to do a proper comparison. Just remember the numbers I am quoted are reflected from real world experience, not something plucked out of the air or dreamt up by a marketing blurb. So to do this I would now be using 4 x hardware - In my case, I know that each server I have has 2x X5550 processors & 40G RAM at about AUD$18000 (about US$16500) each. For the 15 Vms under VMware 1 host, so simplistically $18000 + VMware licensing, under Hyper-V this would be $72000 + Microsoft licensing (forget this free stuff there is no such thing as a free lunch). Just looking at this simplistically, it also means 4 x power and 4 x cooling, so reall world, I would say much more expensive. However, VERY simple approach only. It took me 6 months to determine the best solution just in upgrading an existing VMware installation, so the story is not always as simplistic as looking at a spreadsheet, and staring with some untested assumptions.

GregWalker
GregWalker

Scott, For option 2, you really need to account for the cost of the hardware for 5 more hosts on the Hyper-V side of the ledger. At $10K per host, or $50K total in this scenario, that makes VMware far cheaper. And if you take into account FC attachment costs, which are around $4K/host (HBA's, FC ports, cables) then there's another $20K cheaper on the VMware side. Then there's the operational costs, which include the support and maintenance for the software and hardware for 5 fewer hosts, to say nothing of the power and cooling costs, or lower space & power charges from a co-location provider. Look at the total picture, and VMware gives a whole lot more features & benefits for *way* less money. I, too, am keeping my eye on Hyper-V, but for now, this ROI decision is easy. Of course, that all depends upon buying into the fact that VMware can run 50% more VMs for an equivalent Hyper-V infrastructure. As experienced VMware admins, we both know this to be quite true, (and may even be considered conservative), though of course many people out there would need this to be proven more thoroughly. But there is good research that shows just turning on VMware's automatic load balancing feature (Distributed Resource Scheduler) increases VM density by 20-30% without even using memory overcommit. Keep up the good work.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

Per instance... the /host line indicates that it's licensed per installed instance but can manage more than one ESX host.

dwdino
dwdino

It is not a one to one comparison. Because of the advanced features of VMware, you can by less hardware and license less instances. So, where you might have to by 20 servers and licensing for Hyper-V for a given workload, VMware can usually do it with 12.

john.van.dyke
john.van.dyke

My guess is if you are using Datacenter Edition you probably have volume licensing for Server 2008. I can't give you exact numbers but 150 is ~$70,000 not $150,000 which is a net savings of $20,000 (assuming EE is $90,000) which makes it a very sunny day. That said, Datacenter edition becomes cost effective at around 192 units so maybe this comparison should have been done with 200 units of Windows Server. In that instance it would cost another $50,000 to use VMWare using the $995 per copy of Server 2008.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

Greg, You make an excellent point. Someday, if I get the courage to try to do a full, 100% apples to apples comparison, I might take on a more complex (but still try to keep it simple) calculator that considers all aspects of the environment. Your point is certainly valid and will add up to big savings. Scott

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

This is an interesting comparison of the two but it is lost in misinterpretation of the data as illustrated by the many posts. I agree with some of the posts that we would like to see a real world comparison (with real data) of how much it would cost. Maybe you could request some data from some CIO's and see what the REAL costs would be. Try to keep the scenarios the same...otherwise with this blog, what is the bottom line? Who is ahead? lots of questions?

GregWalker
GregWalker

Scott, You generally need 1 instance of vCenter Server for each Data Center location, especially if you intend to use Site Recovery Manager (SRM), for example. Perhaps it would reduce confusion if you listed it as "/datacenter". Best regards, Greg Walker

pdegroot
pdegroot

Ah, grazia. I had the same question. Nice work then. It's been clear that, after giving away most of the virtual infrastructure to choke off VMware's air supply, MS planned to monetize virtualization through the management tools back door. This throws a wrench into that. It's a significant cost differentiator.

john.van.dyke
john.van.dyke

The benefit of running DC occurs at a smaller number of hosts. Basically I don't see a scenario where VMWare is more cost effective using 10 servers with 15 hosts on each. Not sure I see any scenario.

Lukas Kucera
Lukas Kucera

You also get discount on DC editions :-) so the ratio (price of Server Standard editon vs. Datacenter edition) will remain the same. (my experience). So using your price of standard server: 466$ I may assume that price of datacenter license will be as low as $1,400? So the cost of DC solution will be 42,000 compared to ~70,000 is still 28,000 bucks for me :-)

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

Microsoft makes no bones about owning this market space. If they find that they are not price competative, they will change that, and very quickly. Hyperv is in its infancy and will not doubt get ramped up very quickly. Here is what one needs to look at. How many dollars does VMWARE spend on R&D? MS doesn't have in excess of $5billion R&D money that they can call up at any time to eliminate the competition. All that said, word is out that server virtulization for the most part has hit a wall. Those large organization that need this have done so. For the SMB market, it is just not cost effective to do this. Oh yeah that comment came from the folks that are in the know.

Editor's Picks