VMware is typically considered the biggest name in server virtualization, with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology a close second. But these are not the only two server virtualization games in town — they just tend to shout the loudest marketing messages.
There are of course other less shouty server virtualization technology vendors, and these include Citrix, IBM, Red Hat and several others.
So if you want to compare virtualization technology from this broader range of vendors — rather than limiting yourself to VMware and Microsoft — where can you go for comprehensive information on which to base a comparison?
Comparing Hypervisors and Virtualization Companies via WhatMatrix
One place that's worth a visit is a new site called WhatMatrix, which provides free comparison matrices for many different hypervisors and their supporting ecosystems. (In fact, the site also include comparison matrices for other things like cloud storage gateways, backups for virtual environments and even SDS and HCI, but we'll stick to virtualization in this article.)
The complete list of virtualization vendors covered comprises VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, IBM, Red Hat, Virtual Bridges and Oracle. More may be added in the future.
You can compare any three systems in one go, simply by choosing the vendor, product and edition — for example, Citrix XenServer Commercial Edition, VMware vSphere 6.0 Enterprise, and Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2 Standard.
From there you'll get a product matrix with comparisons of almost one hundred different features grouped into categories such as Updates and Backup, Deployment, VM Mobility, HA/DR, Storage and Networking.
Each square in the matrix is color coded — to show whether the feature is supported, has limited support or offers no support — with a very brief explanation and a link to more detailed information.
There's also a very crude "Matrix Score" for each product under comparison, with products scoring +2 for every feature with full support and +1 for limited support. It's crude because these point values are arbitrary and a product may score points for features that you are not interested in, but of course you are not obliged to take any notice of them.
For the record, without any add-ons, Citrix XenServer Commercial Edition scores 85, vSphere 6.0 Enterprise scores 125, and Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2 Standard scores a whopping 134.
There is also the option of including add-ons from third parties (or from the vendor itself) to add functionality and change the overall Matrix Score of the products under review.
Where Does WhatMatrix Get Its Information From?
The obvious question to ask is where the information comes from. The answer is that the content of the matrices comes from a community of volunteers, according to Marek Bell, who is involved with the project. "What we are trying to do is crowdsourced consulting, with lots of contributors. We have certified experts, some hobbyists and vendors — who are involved to ensure that the information is correct," he says.
The service is free, but Dr. Bell says that the community is investigating ways to make it sustainable — perhaps through vendor sponsorship via advertising.
As a free service it's hard to grumble at the minor defects of the site: it's hard to navigate and it's not immediately obvious what various things (like the color coding) actually mean.
But those criticisms aside, the site is a truly remarkable resource: it contains a huge amount of information about many different server virtualization products that has been painstakingly assembled.
All in all, well worth checking out.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.