Recent Wikibon survey research indicates that users do not expect VMware to own the virtualized mission critical application space. Rather, their expectation is that their hypervisor of choice will be up to the task for their virtualization roadmap. This points to overall brand preference (and simplicity in terms of skills and processes) as the key decision factor about hypervisor choice, with performance or lock-in concerns being of lesser importance.
Figure 1 illustrates this expectation for mission critical applications. Users are reporting their intention to deploy their current hypervisor into an application area that the hypervisor does not currently support. This pattern was seen for all the application areas we covered.
The data indicates that while the virtualization entry point for applications for each hypervisor brand may vary, user expectation is that their hypervisor of choice will extend its application reach beyond its initial starting point and be able to support virtualization in many other application domains.
When Wikibon conducted its Multi-Hypervisor Survey in August 2013 VMware Dominant in Multi-Hypervisor Data Centers, we concluded there was a bifurcation in strategies. Many IT practitioners preferred having the simplicity of a single hypervisor and were less not concerned about lock-in and preferred to focus on one hypervisor; a significant minority were comfortable with a multi-hypervisor strategy, and would choose best of breed for the job. We further elaborated on that finding (prior post) and concluded that smaller organizations are likely to choose a single hypervisor, while larger organizations and those offering cloud services are more likely to select multiple hypervisors. One risk of the single hypervisor approach is that it ignores the possible constraints on application performance. For instance, do organizations actually believe that they can use a single hypervisor for every type of application – from Desktop Virtualization to Email and Messaging to Mission Critical to Business Intelligence?
Our research suggests that organizations believe a single hypervisor approach (vs. best of breed) is a viable approach. When we asked about whether they were buying more servers for a particular hypervisor and what the applications for those hypervisors would be, in many cases (especially with Hyper-V), users reported that they would be extending the hypervisor to support applications that it was not used for before. In other words, they were planning to stretch their existing hypervisor into new application types. This would make sense for a smaller enterprise with fewer skills and a mandate for simplicity. But we found this pattern in some larger enterprises as well.
Applications for Hypervisors Today
We asked respondents to characterize the use of their current hypervisors on the basis of whether the hypervisor was used to support at least some workloads in Test & Development, Enduser/Desktop Virtualization, Web Applications, Email/Messaging/Collaboration, Mission Critical, Business Intelligence, and "Other".
Most respondents use their hypervisors to support applications in multiple classes. Nearly all have high penetration in Test and Development. But when it comes to business applications, the differences between hypervisors were significant. VMware has strong application usage across the board. Outside of “Other” applications, VMware (Figure 2) is used less often for Desktop/Enduser Virtualization than in other application types – but at a much higher level than Desktop/Enduser for the other hypervisors.
Hyper-V (Figure 3) is used across the breadth of apps fairly evenly, but with less overall penetration across applications than VMware.
KVM (Figure 4) is very strong today in Web Apps (makes sense given its concentration among Software/Service providers), but its users still report its relatively frequent use for other application types
The Oracle OVM and Citrix samples were very small, so they were not analyzed on this dimension.
Future Application Plans for Hypervisors
To test our assumption that hypervisor buyers want to consolidate on as few hypervisors as possible, we asked our users to characterize the virtualized workloads they expected to deploy on their current hypervisor brands when they acquired new X86 servers. If hypervisor users were going down the best of breed path with multiple hypervisors, one might expect them to be doubling down on current virtualized application types, and refraining from extending into completely new application areas for that hypevisor. On the other hand, if hypervisor users were expecting to consolidate virtualization around a single hypervisor, one might expect them to be extending the application breadth of their current hypervisors when they purchased new servers.
The Figures above show that users are looking to consolidate their hypervisor profile by extending their current hypervisor into applications areas that they aren’t present in today.
Interestingly, users of VMware (which already has a high degree of penetration across all types of applications) report they would be looking to use VMware in virtualizing “Other” applications beyond the highly penetrated named applications. Hyper-V users have high expectations for new penetration into Desktop/Enduser Virtualization, but has high expectations for other application areas as well.
So why the hubbub around “multi-hypervisor’? This may be purely a phenomenon of users’ belief that Microsoft HyperV’s is now industrial grade and it’s pricing, requires users to give it a look. To the degree to which it will challenge VMware as a general purpose hypervisor remains to be seen. But multi-hypervisor use for many organizations may be a transitional phase to an end state where a single hypervisor will dominate the hypervisor landscape at a single enterprise. This would certainly be the case for SMBs who will gravitate to a Microsoft solution for reducing complexity.
However, in some large enterprises requiring large scale, best of breed solutions, they may elect to continue to use VMware in mission critical production business applications, while considering a low cost HyperV approach for less mission critical apps or where Microsoft can show some significant HyperV:application leverage. Similarly, they might select Citrix for a Desktop Virtualization application and Oracle for a large data warehouse.
Action Item: Best of Breed hypervisor performance may be necessary for some critical applications – requiring IT to embrace a multi-hypervisor approach. At the same time, IT skill sets and the benefits of simplicity argue on behalf of a single hypervisor strategic approach. IT practitioners should consider whether their preferred hypervisor will deliver “good enough” performance to support new application workloads – or at least sufficiently good enough performance on its near term road map to accommodate IT’s own application virtualization roadmap. Expect to have to live in a multi-hypervisor world in the near term, but monitor the progress being made by your preferred hypervisor vendor to ensure they’ll keep up with your own virtualization plans.