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Hyper-V vs Xenserver (first impressions)


geek-accountant
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OK, I have now been running Hyper-V (full OS version) for about a day and thought I would share a few of my first impressions.

 

First a couple of screen shots:

 

Hyper-V with 3 VM's running, task manager and resource monitor to the side (I like to see the stats)

hyper-v-full.jpg

 

 

Xencenter with two VM's running. This is my router with pfSense and untangle running.

xencenter.jpg

 

 

This is the Xencenter performance graphs, not nearly as cool as the normal Windows ones.

xencenter-performance.jpg

 

 

Before I get started, the first thing I need to say is this really is not a fair comparison for many of the topics. Xenserver is a baremetal OS and the Hyper-V I am using is from the full OS. The system I have running Hyper-V has 16 gig of ram and a 2gig Raid5 2gig Raid0 storage setup. This is a MUCH faster system than I have ever run Xenserver on.

 

Also, this is not intended to be a walk through any of the steps, just my impressions from using both systems.

 

 

1. Install

 

Ok, first this maybe it is just me, but I have the Xenserver install down pat. I can go from inserting the CD to ready to load the first VM in less than 20 minutes. Sever 2008 proved to be MUCH more involved. Once loaded, it isn't ready for the first VM until that role is created and then I wanted to download all the updates before I loaded the first VM. I would estimate it was over a hour before I was ready to try and load the first VM.

 

 

2. Network

 

In both the Xenserver and Hyper-V setups, I have had multiple NIC cards. Normally one is for the management interface and other 2+ are for the VM's. In Xenserver, it's an easy process to bond two NIC cards and then load balance between them. This bonded NIC is then added to all the VM's. I have not found a way to do this yet in Hyper-V. Xenserver is limited to 2 NIC's bonded together (at least in the free version), so if you have a lot of VM's with a lot of traffic, you may still run into some issues.

 

 

3. Managing the virtual server

 

Xenserver is baremetal, so you pretty much have to use Xencenter from another PC. This is also free and very easy to use. From here you can create the VM's, take snap shots, backup the VM's to the location of your choice, start and stop the VM/s and create VM templates. You can also access the Xenserver console if needed or have a small window of the VM's system where you can interact directly with the VM.

 

Hyper-V, WOW, getting the remote management to work is a pain in the %$&!! This should be SO much easier!!! After hours of trying, I gave up. Good news is, I can just remote desktop into the server and use the management console of the OS. I don't know if I am missing anything by doing it this way, but it seems to work just fine. Being that this is a full OS install, there are a lot more options vs XenCenter. As you can see from the screen shots above, I can see the VM's running as well as the performance information I like looking at. Creating a VM is pretty easy, although I did run into something where it would not let me use the mouse during the intial install of an OS and I had to remember to keyboard commands to move around. Just like XenCenter, taking snap shots is easy. However, I have not found out how to make backups of the VM's yet. I am sure it is something simple, i just have not found it.

 

The window Hyper-V gives you from the Server manager of the OS once you click connect is pretty usable. It seems like a remote desktop into the guest from the host.

 

 

4. Speed of Vm's

 

Well, so far I can't really tell much of a difference. Maybe I was expecting to much of a difference with the Hyper-V having the RAID setup or the 16gig of ram. Both Xenserver and Hyper-V seem to run the VM's really good

 

 

5. Conclusion - so far

 

I have to say, that despite all the trouble Hyper-V gave me, I am glad I tried it. I have no plans to change my Xenserver currently running my router VM's over to Hyper-V, but I also don't plan to change my main virtual server running Hyper-V back to Xenserver. Windows based VM's I have tried work on either system, but I have had some issues getting Fedora or Ubuntu to run on Hyper-V. That issue aside, I am really liking Hyper-V. If i had to chose between the two of them, right now I would go with Xenserver due to the easier install and the wider support for OS's. However, from what I hear, memory over commit is coming for Hyper-V. If that is true and Citrix doesn't add to the free version of Xenserver, then Hyper-V wins.

 

I will post more thoughts as I live with Hyper-V a little longer.

Edited by geek-accountant
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Nice Post.

 

I also installed HyperV this weekend, full OS as well. There was definitely a "learning curve cost," but that's to be expected. If I had to do another install and VM or two, I could probably do it in less than an hour. I was expecting the FullOS + HyperV to command a huge footprint, but my informal measurements show it to be about 1GB.

 

So far I'm very happy with the setup and plan to stick with it.

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I have one box running the bare metal Hyper-V server and have been very happy with it. There's a bit of annoyance you have to go through if you're not running it on a Windows domain at first, but it just involves running a couple of scripts. My results have been very positive and the Hyper-V management has been quite easy. In a few days I'm going to be building a new server that will likely run both WHS and another install of Windows Server 2008 R2. That build is can be found at http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic/1670-new-vail-maybe-build/

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How do you backup the VM's? Not snapshots which everybody can do, but actual backups that you can store off the virtual host and install on another host if needed? In Xenserver, this was easy and didn't even require stopping the VM during the process. I always made sure to backup my VM's after the initial install. This really helped when I would rebuild the host or if I wanted to delete the entire guest and start it over.

 

I can't where to make backups with Hyper-V. Also, is performance monitor the only way to see how much ram a VM is actually using? Not the amount allocated, but the actual amount being used?

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Guest no-control

You did all this while I was at CES! Had I been around I could have saved you quite a bit of time. Ahh well

 

Couple of comments/suggestions based on your numbering above.

 

1. You're comparing the setup of a lightweight Hypervisor to a full on Enterprise grade Server operating system. I would expect the set up for one to be much more involved than the other.

 

2. For NLB you need to install the feature. Server Mgr -> Add Feature -> Network Load Balancing

 

3. Again Server is meant to be used on a domain. Using it in a workgroup tends to foul things up a bit. This is also why you had such a hard time with the Type I install. I usually remote in or use a direct interface as I'm in there enough to justify a full KMV. I actually prefer working within the server rather using the console. I'm this way with WHS too wink.gif

 

4. It could be that you're not loading the array enough to see the performance gain. Could be there is no difference.

 

5. Strange Ubuntu should load n run without issue. Never tried Fedora in my ssytem so no comment. But other *nix based stuff works fine. I've tried and used - pfSense, m00nwall, sm00thwall, unTangle

 

Snapshotting is easy like you said but if you want true backups & If you're using WS08R2 just install the Backup Services feature(or is it a role????)

 

And set it up from there. Shouldn't need to stop the VMs.

 

Glad you tried it I think it just a matter of preference. I personally know MS stuff and I'm comfortable with it. That's why I use it.

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@GA -- Why did you install Win7 32-bit rather than the 64-bit version. I assume it could handle it ok, right?

 

I'm only asking because I'm looking to do something similar.

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My thinking may be flawed, but I wanted a smaller footprint both in storage and ram so I want with 32bit vs 64bit. Neither of these systems will require more than 4gig of ram. Plus, it seems 32bit generally has less issues with compatability.

 

The one I am using as a media computer (WMC for 2 Xbox 360's, Playon, Tivo Desktop) doesn't come close to 4gig.

 

The other one my son is using, well I am sure he would use as much as I gave him, but I feel 4gig should be plenty for him.

 

Now with memory over commit coming, I might re-think this and do a little more research on 64bit VM's.

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That was my point. Neither of these systems will need more than 4gig, which is the main reason for going 64bit, therefore I installed the 32bit version. For the WMC VM, I gave it 1gig and the other one has 1.5gig. Neither is close to using even these amounts.

 

The WMC VM with Media Center, Playon and Tivo Desktop running is using only 386meg right now. No need for 64bit.

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@geek-accountant

 

Did you ever get Hyper-V remote management working? If not, I have another idea for you to try: I hadn't thought of this earlier when you were first trying out Hyper-V, but for the remote management tool to work I think your windows user/password (on the remote PC) has to match the user/password on the Hyper-V server. At least that's how it works when you're running the "core" Hyper-V server, but I imagine the same would apply for the full OS version. So for example, in addition to the Administrator account on my Hyper-V server, I have a regular user (with admin privileges) named "joeblow" with a password of "joepassword". On my remote PC, I have to have a user account named joeblow with the same password (joepassword) in order for the Hyper-V remote management tool to even connect. Hope that helps.

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