Yesterday I attended the ‘TechNet – Get Ready for all Microsoft virtualization products’ session in Utrecht (NL). This was a new style paid (€99,-) Technet session, max of 20-30 professionals in a classroom. The program consisted of Hyper-V, App-V, Med-V, Terminal services and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008.

We started with an introduction to Hyper-V, luckily the trainer had updated his lab to Hyper-V 2, so we could check out the new features which should compete with VMware. After explaining the architecture, networking and storage it was very obvious that this was the standard Microsoft propaganda. They were comparing Hyper-V 2 to VI 3.5, which were practically the same, but of course Microsoft’s hyper-V solution was much cheaper. Grrrrr! Again, when you do a comparison, do a fair comparison and compare Hyper-V to vSphere 4 (because the release is not far away I will allow Microsoft to use Hyper-V 2 in this comparison). Then the numbers are very different and maybe the VMware solution costs more but obviously you will get a lot more.

I also disliked the insinuation that when they compare a microkernel hypervisor to a monolithic hypervisor Microsoft  makes it look like VMware’s hypervisor is one out of the stone ages. Play fair, win the fight based on your own strong points.

When he explained the Hyper-V I/O architecture with the parent partition, VM Bus, synthetic drivers, etc, I asked him if this didn’t introduce a singe point of failure and a possible I/O bottleneck. In true MS fashion he denied both, claiming that I/O was tested and you shouldn’t install Exchange in the parent partition. Duh!

When Anne Jan asked how we could implement DRS like features in Hyper-V 2, the answer was to combine Hyper-V and Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager with Systems Center Operations Manager to accomplish this. When Anne Jan responded that with this the cost advantage Microsoft claims to have vanishes, the trainer had to agree.

So, all in all, this introduction was packed with claims like, ‘nice for a test environment‘, ‘nice for development scenarios‘ and ‘ideal for medium and small businesses‘, together with missing features and false (cost) claims I’m not running to the stores yet. True, Microsoft has made a huge step forward from version 1 but in my opinion they have a long way to go.

Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008
Next up was Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (SCVMM 2008). The vCenter for the Hyper-V environment with the possibility to manage not only Hyper-V but also Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware ESX. I’m a but puzzled as almost nobody uses Microsoft Virtual Server, certainly not in production environments, and for managing VMware ESX you still need a VMware vCenter server so why wouldn’t you use that? The trainer’s answer was that, in a mixed Hyper-V VMware ESX environment, it would be nice to have a single management interface. But be honest, a mixed Hyper-V VMware ESX environment? If you’re bright enough to use VMware ESX why in the world would you add Hyper-V? The other way around makes more sense though, when you’re using Hyper-V and want to migrate to VMware ESX, you can manage both environments during the migration period. Another reason, according to the trainer, was to integrate Microsoft monitoring in a VMware ESX environment so you could do more in-VM monitoring. In my opinion this is a very complex way to implement monitoring and there are other ways to do this with 3rd party tools.

In my opinion, the interface of SCVMM 2008 contains too much information and has some strange discrepancies. On a standalone Hyper-V host a snapshot is called a snapshot, in SCVVM 2008 a snapshot is called a checkpoint. Not very alarming but I like my interface simple, straightforward.

After a nice lunch it was time for App-V or as we all now it SoftGrid. Virtualizing applications using standard packaging techniques and a streaming server. Nothing new, nothing fancy. Application virtualization/distribution just like ThinApp, Altiris SVS, Citrix application streaming with XenApp, etc.

The day ended with Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) which, according to Microsoft, provides deployment and management of virtual Windows desktops to enable key enterprise scenarios and helps enterprises upgrade to the latest version of Windows even when some applications are not yet compatible. MED-V builds on top of Microsoft Virtual PC to run two operating systems on one device, adding virtual image delivery, policy-based provisioning and centralized management.

During the last few weeks I have heard people say that MED-V was Microsoft’s implementation of VDI and it should compete with VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. This is certainly not the case. If I had to compare it to a VMware product it would be a VMware ACE or a centrally managed VMware workstation solution. On MED-V I have to agree with the trainer who stated that this is a 1.0 version which is not ready for production use and frankly I don’t see the advantages or implementation scenarios for this product.

At the end of the day we were somewhat disappointed. The title was ‘ Get Ready for all Microsoft virtualization products’ but I honestly ask myself ‘Why should I?

Hyper-V 2 is definitely a great step forward but it can not compete with VMware’s vSphere. OK, maybe I’m a little biased as a VMware enthusiast  and there will surely be scenarios where Hyper-V is the better solution but that’s where customer have limited expectations and/or it’s a medium or small business and that’s not my/our line of business. In the Enterprise scenarios I encounter every day, I would NOT consider a Hyper-V implementation over VMware vSphere any time soon.

App-V is a nice product but nothing new, nothing fancy.

And MED-V, I was a bit disappointed about that. Maybe my expectation were too high, thinking it was a VDI solution like VMware View or XenDesktop. But I do NOT see the added value in that yet. Maybe Microsoft will add a lot more features in version 2 and it will make more sense then.

Another €99,- down the drain and a day of my life I won’t ever get back!