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VMware vs. Microsoft: Which is right for your small business?

May 05, 2015

If your small business is getting started with server virtualization technology, chances are you’d like to know which offers the best choice for you: Microsoft or VMware. Well, the simple answer to that question is this: There is no simple answer.

If you’re already using Windows Server 2008 or higher, the path of least resistance is to go with Microsoft virtualization tools, according to Brad Meiseles, Carbonite’s Senior Vice President of Engineering. But Meiseles adds that it’s definitely worth evaluating both companies thoroughly prior to moving forward with your virtualization plans.

In this blog, we’ll take a quick, high-level look at which vendor comes out on top in four main areas: cost, features, ecosystem, and cloud enablement. In the interest of making an apples-to-apples comparison, we’ll consider four Microsoft and VMware virtualization products that are suitable for small businesses.

On the hypervisor side, that includes Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi. For the management layer, that includes the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) and VMware vCenter Server. (Note: The combination of VMware ESXi and VMware vCenter Server make up VMware’s vSphere virtualization offering.)

Cost
When it comes to cost, Microsoft definitely gets the nod, according to Meiseles. That’s primarily because Microsoft Hyper-V ships free with Microsoft Server 2008 and later. That said, however, VMware has made significant efforts to introduce low cost virtualization technologies, including a free, slimmed-down version of ESXi.

“Before vSphere Essentials and the free version of ESXi was introduced, it used to be that VMware was considered super expensive and really out of reach for SMBs,” Meiseles explained. “But VMware has solved that problem and that’s not true anymore. Hyper-V still gets the nod on cost, but it’s not as big a factor as people think.”

Features
VMware is the incumbent and Microsoft the challenger when it comes to virtualization. And overall, VMware offers a richer set of features and functionality.

But because Microsoft has a history of starting small and moving its way up into the enterprise, you’ll likely find that both Microsoft and VMware are equivalent when it comes to the lower end, less expensive virtualization product packages.

“At the lower SKUs, where some of the more advanced features are fenced out, Microsoft and VMware are probably equal,” Meiseles explained. “But if you want to set yourself up for scale, VMware is likely the better choice.”

Ecosystem
As the more mature, leader in the virtualization market, there are more add-on products and compatible third-party products for VMware. There are also more IT professionals with experience using VMware products. As a result, VMware gets the nod when it comes to having a superior ecosystem.

“All of the members of the ecosystem — whether they’re building add-ons or just being compatible – are targeting VMware first. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a big ecosystem for Microsoft, because there is,” Meiseles said. “Microsoft is the challenger, and their market has gotten big enough to where it’s very meaningful. But they’re still the challenger.”

Cloud enablement
Microsoft has a track record of making sure that its products are tightly integrated and work well together. (Think: Microsoft Office) Microsoft’s strength in this area makes them the superior choice for small businesses that are interested in moving more business operations into the cloud. Both VMware and Microsoft have cloud offerings, but Microsoft’s focus on integration is stronger.

“Microsoft is doing a great job of enabling scenarios where you’ve got Hyper-V in your own data center and you’re using Microsoft Azure for a cloud platform. They work incredibly well together,” Meiseles explained. “If you think that the journey to the cloud is something you want to get on, and you’re not averse to putting all of your eggs in one vendor’s basket, then Microsoft is a good choice.”

How Carbonite supports virtualization
Businesses are embracing virtualization because it can reduce both capital and operational costs, free up valuable IT resources and deliver superior performance. The latest version of Carbonite Server Backup includes advanced backup functionality for Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor. Some of the benefits and other capabilities include:

  • Restore VM disks to any local machine
  • Schedule backups flexibly and frequently
  • Use full backup for a complete VM snapshot
  • Schedule full and incremental backups to align with workflow
  • Choose local or cloud backup targets
  • Replicate and restore VMs individually or within a VM cluster
  • Recover files with a simple drag n’ drop or cut n’ paste

Carbonite Server Backup gives you robust protection for your entire virtual infrastructure, from individual Hyper-V VMs to multiple virtual servers. It’s the safest way to reap rewards when virtualizing.

Learn more about Carbonite Server Backup.

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