Migrating an individual virtual machine from one hypervisor platform to another can be as simple as converting the files, defining a VM to a different format, moving the file to storage accessible to the new host, and then provisioning the VM with comparable resources in the new hypervisor. However, migrating an entire IT infrastructure and translating virtualization management features from one platform to another is more complex and requires more planning.
There are two questions to ask yourself if you’re planning to migrate from one hypervisor platform to another:
To answer these questions, you will want to consider the following areas:
What virtualization features are you using?
We have published several posts on choosing between Hyper-V and VMware which are quite helpful when comparing the two platforms and their licensing structures.
Heroix’s downloadable comparison chart of Hyper-V and VMware provides a feature by feature comparison that will help you determine which features you will need to add to your new platform in order to reproduce the features of your current platform.
One thing to keep in mind is that VMware management features are based on the version of vSphere licensed for your site. For example, the “High Availability” failover feature is built into the licensing for the vSphere Essentials Plus and vSphere Standard editions, while Hyper-V’s corresponding Failover Clustering feature does not require additional licensing.
Hyper-V virtualization features are not limited by licensing but can differ between generation 1 and generation 2 hypervisors. Generation 2 provides all the features available in generation 1, but supports fewer VM operating systems.
What OS versions are you running?
Each hypervisor has a virtual machine hardware version that defines the virtualized hardware available for creating VMs. VMware hardware virtualization version 13 and Hyper-V hardware virtualization version 8.0 are the latest versions for both platforms and support the most recent versions of virtualized hardware and operating systems.
If your environment is made up of recently supported OS versions, then the latest hardware virtualization versions will be compatible with your environment. However, if you need to support older operating systems - say legacy software that needs to run on XP - then check that they are supported. In general, VMware delivers better support for legacy versions of Windows and a broader array of Linux versions as compared to Hyper-V.
VMware includes a fairly intuitive management interface, the vSphere Client, with a new HTML5 version due to be released in Fall 2018.
However, there is also a PowerShell PowerCLI that can be used to manage VMware via scripts and the command line.
Hyper-V offers several management interfaces, and can be managed via built in Hyper-V role management tools, the Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), the new Windows Admin Center, PowerShell commands, or through third party tools. Additionally, the Failover Cluster Manager MMC plugin is available to manage Hyper-V fail-over.
Each platform and each set of tools has a learning curve, and you will need to build in time to become fluent with a new tool-set. The learning curve isn’t quite as steep if you already know how to manage virtual machines and hypervisors as to compared to starting from scratch, but it will take time for your administrators to become just as familiar with the new tools as they were with the old ones.
Both Hyper-V and VMware have specific hardware requirements - VMware has an especially extensive hardware compatibility list. You will want to check to make sure that your hardware is fully supported by your virtualization platform of choice. Also, make sure to take special care to review hardware compatibility between versions of virtualization platforms.
If you need to purchase new hosts, storage, network devices, etc., then make sure to build those costs into your calculations.
Planning for the future
VMware and Hyper-V both provide support for features that you may not need now, but which might be beneficial in the future: Cloud integration and containers.
While VMware and Hyper-V can be run on most Cloud platforms directly, they also have pre-existing integrations with cloud vendors: VMware Cloud is built on AWS, while Hyper-V provides Azure Site Recovery.
Also, you will want to examine your backup and disaster recovery strategy and calculate the cost differential (i.e. between Azure and AWS). Costs will most certainly vary based on the size, scope, and level of resiliency that you require.
Containers can also be used to deliver applications to users while saving on resources, and are supported on both VMware and Hyper-V. In addition to saving on host resources, using containers instead of Windows Servers can help save on Windows license costs. Of course, containerizing your applications and moving to microservices comes with significant development costs - so you'll want to perform a cost benefit analysis to determine what works best for your organization.
Virtualization vendors have a vested interest in making it easy for prospective customers to migrate to their platform, so the technical details of migrating between platforms are relatively straightforward.
However, the burden is on you to select features, software versions and tools that will make a migration worthwhile.