One of the key drivers for implementing a private cloud in your data center is to reduce costs. Nothing controversial about that.
But here's a tricky question: Which hypervisor should you use to build your private cloud?
If you pick VMware you may not be able to cut costs as effectively as if you select Microsoft's Hyper-V. But VMware's ecosystem is the most mature and comprehensive, as well as the most widely adopted. So you may want to use VMware for reasons of functionality or familiarity, even if it doesn't result in the biggest overall cost savings.
That said, if you want the functionality of VMware, but the cost savings from Hyper-V, there's an obvious solution that many medium- and large-sized enterprises are adopting, and that's to use both hypervisors: VMware where it's needed, and Hyper-V where VMware isn't.
The trouble is that figuring out which virtual machines to put on VMware's hypervisor and which to put on Microsoft's is not always easy — the functionality differences between the two are not as wide as they once were, and the cost savings from switching from one to the other are devilishly complicated to work out.
That's where Canada-based Embotics hopes it can help. The company's recently-released V-Commander for Hyper-V lets you manage VMware and Hyper-V-based virtual machines in a private cloud, and work out the costs associated with running virtual machines on the two different systems.
"We've built in a showback or chargeback capability, so we can see what it costs to run a machine on VMware, then how much it would cost to run the same machine on Hyper-V. That way you can see how much money you could save by switching," says Jay Litkey, Embotics' CEO.
It does this using base assumptions about the costs of VMware and Microsoft licenses, as well as storage and administration costs and other factors, he says. The results can be made more accurate by changing these default cost assumptions with the real costs that an organization experiences.
V-Commander also includes virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversion capabilities, so that if costs savings are identified by converting certain virtual machines from one hypervisor to the other, this can be done, and the resulting machines managed from the product itself. The V-Commander application integrates with VMware vCenter servers or Microsoft's System Center to carry out management of a hybrid VMware/Microsoft private cloud environment.
An obvious question is why anyone should bother doing this rather than simply using VMware's cloud management software?
Aside from the ability to manage Hyper-V as well as VMware virtual machines, it comes down to practicalities, Litkey believes. "The number one reason to use V-Commander is time to value and ease of use," he says. "[VMware's] vCloud Director is complex and takes months to deploy even if you use professional services," he adds. "We are significantly cheaper and the software can be downloaded from the web and up and running in under an hour."
V-Commander uses auto-discovery of virtual machine environments, and automatically creates cloud service catalogs by harvesting virtual machine templates. (VMs can also be imported manually to create catalogs, Litkey says.) The software then provides self-service provisioning of applications from the service catalogs.
Litkey claims the software pays for itself on the day it installs. That may be optimistic, but it doesn't look outrageously expensive: pricing is done on a per socket basis — currently $499 per host socket per year.
At this time V-Commander offers no hybrid cloud management capabilities like those available to vCloud Director users, but it's likely that something similar involving VMware, Hyper-V and EC2 will be announced in the near future, Litkey hints.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about V-Commander — and all the other third party virtualization management platforms now available — is that they decouple the day-to-day management of virtualization and cloud infrastructures from the underlying hypervisors. And why not?
After all, virtualization decouples servers from the physical hardware they run on, so it's not a huge conceptual leap to go a stage further. "If you lock yourself in to VMware for your cloud management stack, that is surely not healthy," Litkey says.
vCloud Director is comprehensive, but the bottom line is that it's complicated, relatively expensive and arguably overkill for the needs of many enterprises. It certainly doesn't hurt to shop around for alternatives like V-Commander.
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.