January 14, 2013, 11:28 AM — The race for virtualization dominance between Microsoft and VMware has become more interesting with VMware's recent release of vSphere 5.1. We obtained vSphere around the same moment as the final release of Windows Server 2012, whose newly included virtual switch and enhanced Hyper-V features were designed to clobber VMware.
But back in the garages of their digital "brickyard", VMware was scheming to one-up the one-ups.
While we like Hyper-V3, there are both pronounced and subtle reasons why we like vSphere 5.1 a little more. Some of the competitive difficulties amount to classic Microsoft problems revolving around support for competitive platforms. But VMware also does a better job trying to lift the barriers to virtualization via annual aggressive releases.
The trump card of this release is the ability to move a virtual machine from one machine and storage space to another. If your use of virtualization is small, this release won't make much difference to you. But if you need optimizations or have an appreciation for moving VMs around as though they were almost toys, vSphere 5.1 does it.
The vSphere 5.1 specs are statistically awesome and yet esoteric. At the upper end, vSphere is capable of controlling a 1TB VM, or symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) with up to 64 processors. We don't know of any commercial hardware that supports either of these.
The vSphere 5.1 pricing model was changed at VMworld to a more simplified model revolving around processors/cores, but it's still the priciest virtualization that we know of. It still has warts, but there has been much plastic surgery and lipstick applied, as well -- the face of a new web UI.
Included in the vSphere app kit is an updated Distributed Switch. The switch now supports more controls, including Network I/O Control (NetIOC) for admittance controls, IEEE 802.1p tagging for QoS/CoS flows, and enhanced vocabulary for Cisco and IBM virtual switches. There is increased monitoring capability for the switch, both in-band and out-of-band, and many of the changes reflect control capabilities that are suited towards 10Gigabit Ethernet.