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Why VMware vSphere is the Best Virtualization Platform

Posted: Mar 3, 2017

Why VMware vSphere is the Best Virtualization Platform

Virtualization is having a virtual machine that stores information and can be accessed through an authorized server. But many IT professionals reading this, probably already knew that. However, as a novice to virtualization, that is about as much as I can tell you.

Luckily, I got a chance to speak with three instructors at New Horizons who are experts on three different platforms. They gave me an overview of virtualization and discussed which platform they believe is best.  

Ryan Birk, a self-proclaimed virtualization snob, took the time to sit down and talk to me about VMware’s vSphere and why it is the best of the best when it comes to virtualization. Below are some highlights from our discussion: 

How do most customers utilize virtualization?

Customer utilization is all over the place. Anybody can use it and many people are looking into it because it offers so much. One place where you see it a lot is in disaster recovery. VMware has tools that allow you to take an environment and, if for some reason something goes down in site A, it can automatically run out of site B. You can click a button and literally fail over to another site. You get flexibility; you can move a virtual machine from one environment to an altogether different environment and it works. There’s nothing else you have to do.

I’m what I call a virtualization snob; I don’t like to deal with physical computers anymore, so virtual servers and those features make management easier and its way more flexible. And I think that’s why people appreciate it so much.

What are some of the bigger industry trends surrounding virtualization in 2017?

Cloud. Cloud everything. VMware has a tool called vCloud Air, so with that it allows you to attach to other clouds so you can run your work load inside of Amazon; you can run it inside of VMware cloud that’s somewhere else, or you could have another site that’s dedicated to running a vCloud. For instance, if something goes wrong you can fail over and do that kind of stuff so that’s the best thing they have going for them on the Cloud front right now.

But because of the popularity with Cloud capabilities, people have started looking for more hybrid clouds: clouds that have some servers within a [their] private company, some within public clouds. These hybrid clouds would be along the lines of OpenStack. This product allows you to run kind of a heterogeneous cloud, various clouds at the same time. What’s cool about OpenStack is that you can run it with VMware, you can run it with Hyper-V, you can run it with [Citrix] Xen; it’s kind of a front end for all of that stuff. 

Has VMware recently updated vSphere? If so what are some of the new capabilities for 2017?

In terms of what they’re doing in 2017, vSphere 6.5 just came out a couple of months ago so it’s brand new. 2017 is going to be what I call a ‘boring year’. Version 6.5 just got released so they’re going to ride that train for a while and then I would assume in 2018 they’ll more than likely have version 7 come out.

But in 2017, 6.5 will be the only update happening to vSphere. At New Horizons, we’ve actually started teaching class this [past] week. Which is great, it’s got a lot of awesome things going on. One of the cool things that everyone really loves is the HTML 5 based web client. It’s one of the most popular topics in classes. If you’re not familiar with the terms, they have that [HTML 5] and then there’s also one that’s based on Adobe Flash. So now vSphere 6.5 has this HTML 5 client which is smoother, users love it – I mean there’s no comparison. It’s so much better. So people will talk about this new HTML 5 client as a new kind of ‘Hey look!’ which is a major reason people want to upgrade to version 6.5.

Can you describe VMware vSphere and its typical role in IT networks?

vSphere is what they call a hypervisor so you have basically all your stuff running on top of, basically multiple servers and multiple computers running on top of the server. It’s a bare metal hypervisor so terms like Type 1 and Type 2, which are more Microsoft terms than anything. So it runs directly on the hardware. ESXi is a Type 1 hypervisor, Type 2 runs on top of it. So Type 2 would be things like VMware Workstation, VMware Server, and all that kind of stuff. The enterprise tools we teach are considered Type 1.

What sets vSphere apart from other, similar virtualization systems?

Well VMware, in terms of where it is at, has a huge market share. They have probably 85% of virtualization market share. So that and longevity, those two make vSphere have a better standing in comparison. VMware’s also announced some interesting things where you can actually run ESXi inside Amazon Web Services. They’re pushing that but they’re basically allowing you to run your workloads either in VMware environments or you can push it out into Amazon. It’ll be pretty interesting to see where they go with that so they’re going to utilize some of the Amazon Cloud unlike the other platforms.

How easy is it to implement into an existing IT environment and can it coexist alongside other virtualization platforms?

Oh yeah, absolutely! You have to kind of understand where it’s at, VMware is running underneath everything so most of the time your other systems are going to run on top of it. It’s not like VMware is doing anything crazy, it’s all running underneath so you can move your stuff around but they give you a lot of flexibility. As far as coexisting, you can use it with Hyper-V. VMware has a tool called VMware Converter that allows you to convert Hyper-V VMs and run them. Hyper-V would still be able to communicate with a virtual machine running on VMware. They wouldn’t be able to be managed by a ESXi VMware, though; it would need to be converted.

How does vSphere compare with other virtualization platforms in the industry, such as Citrix’s Xen or Microsoft’s Hyper-V?

In comparison to Citrix Xen and Hyper-V, VMware has just been around. I think vSphere is a little more ‘polished’. Management tools are a little bit easier. So it’s easier to manage versus the other tools. vSphere has some really cool tools that you can hot add CPUs and hot add memory to machines while they’re powered on, which is really cool so I think that’s one of the big benefits that VMware gives you versus other platforms.

In terms of their products, VMware has been around for a long time; they were the first company that was doing any kind of real virtualization. Lots of people have adopted it. Competition is always good but Microsoft came out with Hyper-V in 2008 whereas VMware came out in 2002. They had 3 years in the market, a lot of people adopted it and they ran with it. I used to teach Hyper-V classes too, so the products are very similar with what they do. But in terms of overall tools and scalability, vSphere is the way to go.

 At the end of our discussion, I came out with much more knowledge on virtualization and what vSphere is doing to set themselves apart from competition. As age brings wisdom and from what Ryan has stated, VMware proves that they are one of the best for their many years in the field. This discussion was insightful but has definitely peaked my curiosity about other virtualization options out there.

Stay tuned for second part of this series, when we will compare Citrix to vSphere and Hyper-V.

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Ryan BirkRyan Birk is a technology educator and IT professional who has been working with various virtualization platforms since 2002 and has been a VMware Certified Professional since 2008. As a VMware Certified Instructor, he draws on real life experiences from working as a Virtualization Consultant with a wide variety of organizations. He takes great pride in running a vSphere home lab and colleagues often call him a “vNerd” which Ryan never denies.

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