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Although there are some comparison between Hyper-V 2012 R2 (the version 4 of this product) and the existing vSphere 5.1 suite (like this one: Comparing WS2012 R2 Hyper-V and vSphere 5.1), I prefer keep consistency in the available product versions and compare the actual releases (and replace the precedent and old comparison between Hyper-V 2012 and vSphere 5.0).

The 3rd release of Microsoft Hyper-V and the VMware ESXi (and vSphere suite) 5.1 has similar technical features (and both of them are in the top-right Gartner quadrant), and probably for the first time, VMware has added one year ago some features (like the VMware vSphere Replication) to respond at the Hyper-V functionality (also some features, like Storage vMotion, has been moved to lower edition). I think that this a big value related to a good competition and customers are the first to gain the most advantages!

First to all, you can start from understanding the different terms used in each product: Know vSpeak? Learn to be Bilingual.

Then you must found some homogenous aspects to make the comparison, at least at technical level (but as written, it’s not so much important now). For numbers could be really easy, but numbers are not enough: for example memory management it’s still really different (VMware implement different technologies, Hyper-V only Dynamic Memory, only on some OSes)… so it’s not the same what you can do with the same amount of memory. For a suite comparison see also this post: Comparing Microsoft Cloud with VMware Cloud.

More complex is analyze the requirements and the depencies for each product: for example in Hyper-V the Active Directory it’s mandatory to build and Hyper-V Cluster (that it’s based on Microsoft Failover Cluster technology)… For VMware it’s not mandatory, but it’s really so simple have the VMware SSO and vCenter Center outside the Active Directory? From the other side vCenter Server it’s mandatory (but you can use also the virtual appliance) and System Center VMM it isn’t (for small environment you can use the Fail-Over snap-in or the CLI).

Manageability it’s also different, but this depends by the technical skills, so could be too much subjective. If you have Microsoft background, you may like the console aspect in Hyper-V that seems similar to a RDP client. Otherwise, if you have multi-OS background, you can appreciate the vSphere Web Client… Just to make two simple examples. In my opinion something is still missing in Hyper-V, in this area, like for example the guest OS information like hostname and IP addresses.

Hardware requirements are becoming much similar, considering that now also VMware require hardware assisted technologies. Hypervisor space requirements are completely different (ESXi could be installed on a 1 GB USB or SD card!) and also minimum memory requirements are singly different (ESXi require 2 GB of RAM, Hyper-V could run with less).


System Resource Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 VMware vSphere 5.1
Free Hypervisor Essential Plus Enterprise Plus
Host Logical Processors 320 160 160 160
Physical Memory 4 TB 32 GB 2 TB 2 TB
Virtual CPUs per Host 2048 2048 2048 2048
Nested Hypervisor No Yes Yes Yes
VM Virtual CPUs per VM 64 8 8 64
Memory per VM 1 TB 32 GB 1 TB 1 TB (max 64GB with FT)
Maximum Virtual Disk 64 TB 2 TB 2 TB 2 TB
Hot-Add Only disks Disks/vNIC/USB Disks/vNIC/USB All
Active VMs per Host 1024 512 512 512
Cluster Maximum Nodes 64 N/A 32 32
Maximum VMs 8000 N/A 4000 4000

As written memory management it’s really different and is not so easy to be compared. Dynamic Memory it’s better or worse? For supported OS, in my opinion, it’s an interesting approach (and VMware could implement it, considering that they already have the RAM hot-add feature), but of course having memory it’s always a better option. Remember also that the VMware Transparent Page Sharing feature have some limit with new OS (and also that it’s working on a page hash, and not on a real page comparison).

There are more difference in the supported virtual hardware: VMware has CPU and memory hot-add (but only from the Standard edition) and also NIC and other device hot-add and disk hot-extension. VMware support serial and paralle ports, USB device virtualization and also PCI passthought!

And VMware support more OS (also more Microsoft OS compared to Hyper-V). Also VMware can virtualize other hypervisor, including Hyper-V!


Capability Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 VMware vSphere 5.1
Free Hypervisor Essential Plus Enterprise Plus
Thin disks Yes (dynamic disks) Yes Yes Yes
Differential disks Yes No (only with API) No (only with API) No (only with API)
NAS SMB 3.0 NFS 3 over TCP NFS 3 over TCP NFS 3 over TCP
Virtual Fiber Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes
3rd Party Multipathing (MPIO) Yes No No Yes
Native 4-KB Disk Support Yes No No No
Maximum Virtual Disk Size 64TB VHDX 2TB VMDK 2TB VMDK 2TB VMDK
Maximum Pass Through Disk Size 265TB+ 64TB 64TB 64TB
Storage Offload Yes (ODX) No No Yes (VAAI)
Storage Virtualization
No (only 3rd part) No (only 3rd part) VSA VSA (limited to 3 nodes)
Storage Encryption Yes No No No
Caching Yes (CSV read-only cache) Swap to host cache Swap to host cache Swap to host cache

On storage side it’s really interesting the new VHDX format that permit huge virtual disk (I found that the 2 TB limit is becoming, in some cases, a big limit). But note that, in Hyper-V, you have still to use an IDE disk for the OS disk: this is not an issue in performance… but a big issue in scaling, considering that there is no way to hot-add space to an IDE disk!

Note that both support thin provisioning in production (Hyper-V called it Dynamic Disks). Hyper-V also have Differential disks (but not recomended in production).


Capability Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 VMware vSphere 5.1
Free Hypervisor Essential Plus Enterprise Plus
NIC Teaming Yes Yes Yes Yes
Extensible Switch Yes No No Replaceable
PVLAN Support Yes No No Yes (only with DVS)
ARP/ND Spoofing Protection Yes No No vCNS/Partner
DHCP Snooping Protection Yes No No vCNS/Partner
Virtual Port ACLs Yes No No vCNS/Partner
Trunk Mode to Virtual Machines Yes Yes Yes Yes
Port Monitoring Yes Per Port Group Per Port Group Yes
Port Mirroring Yes Per Port Group Per Port Group Yes
Dynamic Virtual Machine Queue Yes NetQueue NetQueue NetQueue
IPsec Task Offload Yes No No No
SR-IOV Yes Yes (No Live Migration support) Yes (No Live Migration support) Yes (No Live Migration support)
Network Virtualization Yes No No VXLAN
Quality of Service Yes No No Yes
Data Center Bridging (DCB) Yes Yes Yes Yes

Networking it’s becoming most similar and the integration of teaming feature in Windows Server 2012 it’s really useful to avoid complicated 3rd part tools. Note also that not all services required a teaming feature, like, for example, Fail-Over Cluster heartbeat (in Hyper-V) or VMware vMotion or Hyper-V Live Migration network (that can work with multiple networks).

But (a good) Hyper-V network desing remain a little more complicated compared to a VMware design, considering also that teaming policies could not be set (in Hyper-V) al Team Interface level.

High Availability & Resource control & Resiliency

Capability Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 VMware vSphere 5.1
Free Hypervisor Essential Plus Enterprise Plus
Nodes per Cluster 64 N/A 32 32
VMs per Cluster 8000 N/A 4000 4000
Virtual Machine Live Migration Yes No Yes Yes
Shared-Nothing Live Migration Yes No Yes (only from Web Client) Yes (only from Web Client)
CPU Compatibility for Live Migration
Per VM (only one baseline) No Cluster EVC (several baselines) Cluster EVC (several baselines)
Guest Clustering with Live Migration Support Yes N/A No No
Automated Live Migration
Yes N/A N/A Yes (DRS/DPM)
Simultaneous Live Migrations Unlimited N/A 4 (1GigE) or 8 (10GigE) 4 (1GigE) or 8 (10GigE)
Live Storage Migration Yes No No Yes
Simultaneous Live Storage Migrations Unlimited N/A N/A 4
Hot and Incremental Backups Yes No (some 3rd part tools) Yes Yes
VM Replication Yes No Yes Yes
Integrated High Availability Yes (Fail-Over Cluster) No Yes (VMware HA) Yes (VMware HA)
VM Lockstep Protection No (3rd part tools) No No Yes (VMware FT)
Guest OS Application Monitoring Yes N/A No No
HA handle storage failure Yes N/A No No
Cluster-Aware Updating Yes N/A Yes Yes
Failover Prioritization Yes N/A Yes Yes
Resource Pool
Yes (host groups) Yes No Yes (DRS is needed)
Affinity & Anti-Affinity Rules Yes N/A N/A Yes


One controversial aspect is the one about the real cost of implementing Hyper-V or vSphere: you can use cost per application (or service) metric (like suggested by VMware) or cost per host (like suggested by Microsoft). But honestly the software and hardware costs are not only that you have to consider. Implement and maintain has also other costs and those depends by you knowledge: for people skilled on Microsoft technologies maybe Hyper-V could be simplest, for people skilled on VMware technologies of course vSphere will become more easier. Note also that cost that VMware has a mandatory subscription (at least for the first year), Microsoft leave the Software Assurance as on option (but considering the new product lifecycle it’s becoming more a requirement rather than an option).

Anyway it’s almost true that the free version of Hyper-V give the most features (note that System Center VMM it’s not mandatory to handle and manage an Hyper-V cluster) and also there are not specific API limit in the free version (for example backup product for Hyper-V works fine). On the other side VMware differentiate with several editions, each with a different set of functions. For a more complete analysis of the free features have a look at this post: Real Hyper-V vs. VMware comparison: What you actually get for free (part 1 and part 2).

So Hyper-V it’s (or could be) a good choiche for SMB? Maybe, and with the support also of NAS storage (but only with SMB 3.0) or the share nothing storage approach could be more interesting (see also this post: Hyper-V over SMB makes virtualization more accessible for small and medium businesses), but we have to remember that the vSphere Essential+ edition could also fit almost the SMB requirements (and the 3 nodes limit is probably the upper limit for a SMB).

And for the Enterprise? Could Hyper-V be a reasonable choice? Again this is a difficult answer, probably here the gap is higher (considering also the different maturity level, different number of supported OS, different number of case studies).

Other site with a comparison between Hyper-V 2012 vs. vSphere 5.1:

There is also a really good site to compare vSphere with Hyper-V with XenServer and RHEV is Virtualization Matrix.


Virtualization, Cloud and Storage Architect. Tech Field delegate. VMUG IT Co-Founder and board member. VMware VMTN Moderator and vExpert 2010-24. Dell TechCenter Rockstar 2014-15. Microsoft MVP 2014-16. Veeam Vanguard 2015-23. Nutanix NTC 2014-20. Several certifications including: VCDX-DCV, VCP-DCV/DT/Cloud, VCAP-DCA/DCD/CIA/CID/DTA/DTD, MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, CCA, NPP.