Are Microsoft really better at virtualizing their own products?

As our company is a partner of VMware, Citrix, & Microsoft. Yop, you heard it all of them at one shop. I get to visit many customers & try to help them find the best virtualization product for their enviornment. Lately, I have noticed a tendancy of many customers saying, “I will go Hyper-V as Microsoft know how to virtualize their products better than others.” It seems the Microsoft local partners have found a good stereo type to use that “the solution for every customer virtualization need is a hammer.”

I decided to do some study & find out if Microsoft really support their products in Virtualization better than others & below some of the findings that make me believe the opposite.

1- VMware & Xen support more versions of Microsoft Operating Systems on their enterprise virtualization solutions than Microsoft ever did with MS Hyper-V R2.

2- Microsoft has a restrict limitation on the number of CPUs that are supported on their earlier versions of Windows when running on Hyper-V as shown below:

▫ Windows 2003 can at max use 2 virtual CPUs
▫ Windows 2000 can at max use  1 virtual CPU
▫ Windows Vista can use at max 2 virtual CPUs
▫ Windows XP can use at max 1 virtual CPU (although Windows XP Professional with SP3 and XP Professional x64 Edition can use 2 virtual CPUs)

These limitation on the number of supported virtual CPUs specially on Windows 2000 & Windows 2003 can be a major turn off for customers who still not yet ready to upgrade to Windows 2008. Its funny to know that VMware is not affected by these processors limitation & can support the max number of CPUs the Windows OS support in a physical enviornment.

3- I have measured the performance for MS Exchange 2007 & MS SQL 2005 at several customers, & it seems like VMware has always performed better specially under heavy load.

4- It seems Microsoft has forgot Windows 7 from its virtualization plans. There are currently no Microsoft Virtualization product supported to run on Windows 7. Both MS Virtual PC 2007 & MS Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 are not supported on Windows 7. Its funny to know that most third party vendors including VMware has a virtualization product that runs on Windows 7 since the release date.

I guess the list can go on and on, which tell me nothing more than Microsoft still laggin even on virtualizing their own products at the moment. Please try to digest what you read or hear specially from the sales people before you set your mind.

At the end I must say Microsoft Virtualization products are not bad products, but they don’t always support MS products better than others.

Comments

  1. Hi Eiad,

    I am more than a little surprised that you do not know about Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP mode – which is our virtualization solution built specifically for running on Windows 7. You can read more about these here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/default.aspx

    Also, in regards to operating system support – many of our competitors claim to support versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports at all (even on raw hardware). We cannot and will not make such statements (e.g. Microsoft is not supporting Windows NT 4.0 at all, not on hardware or virtual hardware).

    Cheers,
    Ben
    (Program Manager at Microsoft)

  2. Dear Ben,

    I appreciate your comment above, but I have to disagree with it and clear up my points.

    Sure I know that Windows 7 has Windows 7 Virtual PC & Windows XP mode, but I don’t believe they are sufficient to call them a full fledged Virtualization package for Windows 7 for the below reasons:

    1- It only support Virtualization Windows XP. It does not support any other OS. Developers & many users would like to test Windows 2003 & 2008 applications on their machines which was possible with Virtual PC 2007 & MS Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 that was available on previous versions of Windows, but not windows 7. Even today its possible with VMware & other products for Windows 7, but not Microsoft Virtualization products.

    2- Windows 7 Virtual PC & Windows XP mode are not available in Windows 7 Home Premium.

    Below are my arguments for older Windows versions support.

    1- Although Microsoft does not support Windows NT 4.0 at all as an OS, they still could support running it from a virtualization point of view. I don’t see why Microsoft has to tie their OS support to their Virtualization support. Other vendors are providing their support matrix from virtualization point of view. Some companies still run Windows NT & have to move it on with them to their virtual environment, even if not officially supported as OS.

    2- Even if the previous point does not affect a large sector of customers, the restrictions on the number of vCPUs when running previous Windows Server editions(Windows 2000 & Windows 2003) on Hyper-V will.

    Please don’t take me wrong, but I am a real virtualization fan & will always point out missing items in different solutions to push my view & my customers view to all virtualization vendors.

    Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong on any of the above points, or share with me & my readers of any future plans to improve any of the above obstacles.

    Regards,
    Eiad

  3. Hi,

    I have just further got an e-mail from one of my customers mentioning a security bug that has been identified in Windows 7 Virtual Machine / Windows XP Mode about 6 months ago, but Microsoft has decided not to release a fix for it yet. You might want to check up more about this at:

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/security/?p=5742&tag=nl.e539

    Enjoy,
    Eiad

  4. Portablenuke says:

    “I will go Hyper-V as Microsoft know how to virtualize their products better than others.”

    You’re kind of missing the point. Hyper-V is a Microsoft product, and as such, the admin tools integrate much better into the existing Windows admin toolkit. What they are actually saying is, “We don’t have to change management tools we just augment our existing set.” With ESX and Xen, Perl and Linux get added into the mix.

    A Windows heavy shop has no reason to not go with Hyper-V, and Unix heavy shop has no reason to go with Hyper-V.

  5. Hi Portablenuke,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. Though Microsoft still oppose more restriction on their applications & OS running on Hyper-V than on VMware & Citrix Xen, which what I was trying to pass to my readers as well Microsoft with the hope of improvement on that.

    I believe both VMware & Citrix Xen have successfully hidden the Linux part management of the users. The user get a nice GUI interface running on windows to manage the full setup. Though it will always end up more of a matter of taste & your environment particular needs.

    Enjoy,
    Eiad

  6. Hi Eaid.

    It’s a very interesting what you’re telling in this post. However I’m wondering if you’ll be able to update it as it has 2 years old, and I’m not aware of the VMware and Xen improvements but Microsoft ones.

    Thank you!

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