Hypervisor platforms developed by Microsoft and VMware are two of the most commonly used proprietary solutions in virtualization projects. If you work in this sector, you surely know them quite well, but do you know exactly what are the differences between Hyper-V and ESXi? In this article we are going to try to analyze them taking as reference the latest version of both software so that you have clear which of these two solutions would be better adapted to the needs of your project.
Both are Type 1 hypervisors, run directly on the hardware and belong to the so-called microkernelized or monolithic. Hyper-V allows to create and manage multiple virtual machines (VM) and provides a virtualization platform on which any IT infrastructure can be built. Each VM has an isolated space, without interfering with each other. The ESXi hypervisor is included within VMware vSphere, a virtualization platform that contains a series of products needed to create a server virtualization infrastructure, such as VMware Workstation or vCenter.
A time before, there were multiple contrasts between both products. Since the launch of Windows Server 2016, the hypervisor of Microsoft closely resembles that of VMware. However, there are still differences, especially in the aspects that are detailed below:
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS OF MICROSOFT HYPER-V AND VMWARE ESXI
Below we summarize the main hardware and system requirements. It is important to ensure what processors and hardware they support, since the latest releases of the 2 products have ceased to be compatible with certain versions.
ESXi requires a compatible server platform, a host computer with at least 2 CPU cores, the NX / XD bit must be enabled for the CPU in the BIOS, a minimum of 4 GB is required of physical RAM, a Gigabit or Ethernet controller, a SCSI disk or a local LUN RAID that is not a network with unpartitioned space for the VMs and, for the ATA series it is necessary to have a disk connected through SAS controllers compatible or integrated SATA controllers compatible.
In the list of requirements of Hyper-V we find at least one host with 4 GB of RAM, a 64-bit processor with second-level address translation (SLAT) and the CPU must be compatible with the monitor mode extension of the virtual machine. The system BIOS must have enabled the virtualization technology and the prevention of data execution applied by hardware.
TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS: MICROSOFT HYPER-V VS VMWARE ESXI
The scalability of both solutions differs in certain aspects. Each of the solutions is better than the other in some field. For example, vSphere supports 768 Logical CPUs per host and Hiper-V 512. But Hyper-V supports 24TB of RAM per host and vSphere remains at 16.
The memory management is different. The VMware product has optimization techniques, so that with the same free space different actions can be performed with each product. Both feature dynamic memory management and offer the ability to add workloads with static memory.
The storage of the two platforms is done with virtual hard disks, but vSphere stores the data inside the virtual machine disk while Hyper-V uses the virtual hard disk format. The two solutions have their own native system to manage the data of the storage devices.
Regarding virtual machine configuration, VMware vSphere has more options, such as the possibility of using different controllers (NNVMe for disks and RDMA for networks) and persistent memory support.
Both Hyper-V and vSphere have a complete management toolset that can be installed on the platform: VMware Tools and Microsoft Integration Services.
Snapshot technology works differently on both platforms, even with a different nomenclature, since VMware uses the term snapshots and Hyper-V checkpoints. In the case of VMware they are transitory, 32 are performed per MV, they are stored in the MV and can not be performed while the environment is in production. In Hyper-V they are persistent, 64 are performed per MV, they are stored in the server and then they can be exported and they can be done in production.
The two solutions have their own technology to monitor the changes made in the system: VMware Changed Block Tracking (CBT) and Microsoft Resilient Change Tracking (RCT). The same happens with the technologies that allow the migration of workloads in the infrastructure. Each manufacturer has its own tools that should be analyzed separately: VMware vMotion and Hyper-V Live Migration.
As for operating system support, as expected, the Microsoft product supports Linux, although it focuses on Windows support. VMware opens more in this regard, offering compatibility with Windows, Unix, macOS and other OS.
The two hypervisors have a hyperconvergence infrastructure (HCI) integrated at the kernel level. vSphere incorporates vSAN and Hyper-V Storage Space Direct (SD2). Both allow the deployment of 2-node clusters, although it is true that vSAN requires an external ESXi virtual host and SD2 requires an external file or cloud.
The two manufacturers offer advanced features in terms of security, since it is one of the aspects that most concerns organizations today. VMware applies coding and encryption techniques to protect data at all times, even in hybrid cloud environments, and prevent unauthorized access to the system. Hyper-V can be managed through Active Directory and provides advanced components creating secure environments for VMs, armored machines, encryption... It also incorporates the advanced protection against threats and exploits of Windows Defender.
The two virtualization platforms can be managed with management tools. The difference in this case is that for Hyper-V there is free software such as PowerShell or Windows Admin Center. For vSphere it is normal to choose vCenter, which is paid, because also if we do not hire this product we will not have access to many advanced features, such as high availability, vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler, vSphere Storage DRS, vSphere Fault Tolerance, Cross-vCenter with Long Distance vMotion, VMware Host Profiles or vSphere Auto Deploy. But the truth is that many of these features are not available for the Microsoft hypervisor.
It is somewhat complicated to compare the licensing of both products, since they are based on a different concept. The licensing model for Hyper-V is per processor and for vSphere it is per socket. Two similar versions would be Windows Server 2019 Datacenter Edition (which allows running unlimited virtual machines) and vSphere 6.7 Enterprise Plus Acceleration Kit for 3 servers, with 16 cores and 2 CPUs on each server.
One of the significant differences lies in the number of virtual operating system environments and containers that each product includes. Unlike VMware, the Microsoft license comes with an unlimited number. Also, in the case of Hyper-V, a single license is used to create a cluster, but to create an ESXi cluster (vSphere) you need a vCenter license.
It should be remembered that Hyper-V comes within Windows Server 2019, and in the standard version most of the features of the hypervisor are included at no extra cost. In the case of vSphere, if we want to use all the functionalities, there is no other option than to acquire an Enterprise Plus license, whose price is higher. The two products have a free version that, in the case of Microsoft, includes all the functionalities, while VMware has limitations.
Due to the differences in some aspects and similarities in others, the suitability of one solution or another will always depend on the specific project, the specific technical requirements and the use to be made of the platform. So it would be convenient to carefully study both solutions applied to the real scenarios and also evaluate the proprietary technologies of other manufacturers, such as Citrix XenServer, Nutanix Acropolis... and other Open Source solutions, whose implementation results much cheaper, like RHEV, oVirt, XCP-ng...
If you are going to use any of these virtualization platforms to deploy and manage virtual desktops and applications, we remind you that our UDS Enterprise connection broker is compatible with all of them, allowing even to enable several to run simultaneously.