Setting the Record Straight One Post at a Time
Setting the Record Straight One Post at a Time ... That's the tagline of the Virtual Reality VMWare blog, but I don't think Eric Horschman did a good job in his blogpost where he compared VMWare's ESXi 3.5 and a Hyper-V enabled installation of Windows Server 2008 Server Core. His conclusions were:
- Server Core is not "the Windows you know"
- ESXi is faster and easier to deploy
Let's add a bit of nuance:
The Windows you know
Eric Horschman concludes Server Core is for experts only, since it lacks the Graphical User Interface and therefor is not "the Windows you know".
Graphical User Interface
Readers of this blog know Server Core has some Graphical User Interface to do familiar tasks, so the argument isn't a 100% argument. In the video the timezone and language settings weren't set or changed. These settings actually offer graphical elements.
Furthermore Microsoft has introduced scripting questions in almost every exam it issued since the NT4 era. Since it's a bad idea to let non-Microsoft certified admins touch your Windows servers, you'll probably won't let non-Microsoft certified admins virtualize these server, now would you? These admins have at least a basic understanding of scripting in Windows. Most of the command line tools used to configure Server Core are commands introduced ages ago. Experienced Microsoft admins script a lot and are familiar with the netdom.exe, shutdown.exe and netsh.exe commands. They also know you can rename a computer and join it to a domain with only one reboot. (instead of two)
It's hard to find or make all-round admins. Admins tend to focus on one platform and try to excel on it, to make it worth their while. All-round admins with knowledge, experience and certification in Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat and VMWare products are hard to find or make. Virtualizing Windows Servers on VMWare products requires more knowledge of products, that most of the time look and feel nothing like Microsoft products. (especially under the hood)
Of course VMWare has done a good job making ESXi 3.5 a product that is configurable using an easy wizard. You have to give them credit for making deployment as easy as that.
Microsoft doesn't have a nice wizard for Server Core, but is introducing one in Hyper-V Server, which is just around the corner. Guy Teverovski's CoreConfigurator is a good help too, although it has its rough edges and is officially unavailable due to Guy's former employer. (available unofficially here)
The problem with wizards however is how to change settings that aren't covered by the wizard? (partition sizes for example)
Easier and faster to deploy ESXi
The video shows ESXi goes from bare-metal to fully installed in one-third the time, half the mouse clicks, hundreds fewer keystrokes and just one reboot compared to Hyper-V's seven reboots. These seven reboots are:
- Installation (2 reboots)
- Change Hostname
- Join Active Directory domain
- Install Hyper-V RTM package
- Install Hyper-V role (2 reboots)
Comparing a full-blown Operating System and an optimized Hypervisor seems this easy, but it's comparing apples and oranges. Comparing ESXi and Hyper-V Server (as suggested in the comments on the VMWare blog) will remain comparing apples and oranges.
VMWare's ESXi 3.5 is a stand-alone hypervisor, optimized to virtualize high available workloads and work together with VMWare's Virtual Infrastructure.
A Server Core installation of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V enabled roughly offers the same functionality, but also offers the benefits of a full Operating System. Drivers are mostly the same for Server Core installations and Full installations of Windows Server 2008, making Hyper-V run on far more hardware configurations. Other features offered are drive encryption (Bitlocker), SNMP, multiple remote management methods and integrated backup using shadow copies.
Microsoft Hyper-V Server is an optimized version of a Server Core installation of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition. It offers the same benefits as a Server Core installation, but lacks high availability and is limited to 4 processor sockets, 32GB of RAM and 196 virtual machines.
Some features VMWare's products offer (notably Live Migration and Memory Overcommit) aren't available in Microsoft products yet.
In a table it looks like this:
|Product ||Foot print ||Full OS installed ||High Availability ||Easy to deploy ||Free |
|VMWare ESXi 3.5 ||32 MB ||No ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
|Windows Server 2008 Server Core with Hyper-V Role enabled ||2 GB ||Yes ||Yes ||No ||No |
|Hyper-V Server ||1 GB ||Yes ||No ||Yes ||Yes |
It looks like Microsoft will have two offerings to appeal to VMWare's ESXi audience. For people looking to deploy virtualization in a cost-effective and wizard driven way without fancy virtualization features, there's Hyper-V Server. For business interested in high available, but safe virtualization there's Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008.
Letting a Windows Server 2008 Server Core installation compete with a VMWare ESXi installation... The two products are very different and comparing them merely displays a thorough misunderstanding of this fact.
Microsoft seems to be looking closely at every move by VMWare, and making up for misconceptions made in the past. Diversification of Hyper-V enabled products seems inevitable, targeted at possible VMWare ESXi audiences.
On a personal note
It's actually faster and easier to deploy Hyper-V than Eric wants you to believe: Using version 1.1 of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) together with slipstreaming the Hyper-V updates and using one reboot to change the computername and join domain can elimate 3 of the 7 reboots and at least 15 minutes of time.
- Hyper-V can be installed by default using a custom unattend.xml, eliminating the two restart to install the Hyper-V role and the time it takes to install the role. The role would be installed by default. John Howard explains this in great detail in these two blogposts:
- Hyper-V can already be updated by default, eliminating the need to download the Windows Update and restart.
These changes have already been applied in the Hyper-V server media, which makes it more hypervisor-optimized, compared to a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 RTM.
Your opinion matters!
What's your opinion? Should I even comment on this kind of VMWare propaganda? Do you feel like Eric Horschman did a good job, being a Marketing Director? Do you feel I'm wrong in my nuances? Am I helping setting the record straight or do you feel I'm only a FUD-slinging Microsoft addict? Am I too late to the party? Do you think I'm obsessing on the technical details too much? Do you want to see a download link to my custom hypervisor-optimized Windows Server 2008 media? Do you want to see more posts like these? Leave a comment!
Changing Server Core's Look and Feel, Part 1
About Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008
How To install Hyper-V RTM on Server Core
Hyper-V with Server Core - Too Dry and Crunchy for our Taste
VMware: Hyper-V on Server Core vs ESXi
Evaluating Hyper-V with Server Core - VMware ESXi 3.5
ESXi vs Hyper-V installation propaganda
Hyper-V with Server Core - too hard for VMware to use?
What’s the difference between free ESXi and licensed ESXi?
Eric Horschman - LinkedIn
Server Core -- Too Dry and Crunchy ?
Hyper-V vs ESXi
VMWare ESXi vs. Microsoft Hyper-V
ESXi is currently easier to install then Hyper-v.
Hyper-V - The Windows You Know and Love
Deploying Windows Server 2008 with "slipstreamed" Hyper-V RTM. Part 1.
Deploying Windows Server 2008 with "slipstreamed" Hyper-V RTM. Part 2.
TechNet Forums: Did anyone compare Hyper-V with ESXi?
TechNet Forums: A brief architecture overview of VMware ESX, XEN and MS Viridian
TechNet Forums: What are the similarities between VMWARE and HYPER-V.