If you’re in the process of moving your business to the cloud, or about to go live with a cloud-first startup, one of the first things you’ll have to do is choose a hypervisor as the basis of your cloud stack.
And this can be a big decision. There are lots of options out there, from the established VMWare cloud hosting platform to open-source alternatives like KVM, and the market can be baffling to an outsider – not least because there’s no common consensus, and a lot of heated argument, over which is best and which is worst.
So how can you ensure your choice of hypervisor delivers the best possible value and functionality for your digital business? Well, a good starting point is to look at the following five factors: cost, performance, management tools, ecosystem and support.
Cost is, of course, a key consideration in any B2B purchase, and the cost of a hypervisor can vary rather significantly depending on whether you go down the commercial or open-source route. With a free, open-source option like KVM, you only need to pay – ostensibly at least – for the time and effort involved in getting the software up and running. You should, however, be wary that costs can add up once you factor in management tools and any third-party support you may need later down the line.
The strengths and weaknesses of one hypervisor will differ from the strengths and weaknesses of the next, so before you choose you’ll need to establish which aspects of their performance matter most to your business. Do you care more about memory management or the overall stability of the software, for example? And to what extent will your usage determine whether something is a must-have rather than a nice-to-have?
Many cloud customers turn to VMWare when performance is top-of-mind. A pioneer of virtualisation technology, it has established itself as a robust and reliable product and earned that all-important seal of approval in enterprise land. That said, a lot of other hypervisors have upped their game in recent years, so there’s a compelling case to be made for AWS, Azure, KVM and Citrix in some scenarios.
In order to make the most out of your hypervisor, you’ll typically need a decent set of tools to help you manage and run your virtual environment.
It’s in this respect that the differences between commercial options like VMWare and their open-source counterparts are most apparent. VMWare customers have the advantage of a diverse set of management tools, developed both by third-party partners and VMWare itself. With some open-source alternatives, the market may not be quite so user-friendly.
More generally, having an ecosystem of third-party developers, online resources and a thriving user community can add massively to the value of a particular hypervisor. It means more documentation, easier access to skills and support, and a greater likelihood you’ll be able to solve any problems you run into later down the line.
This can come down to your choice of cloud hosting provider as much as your choice of hypervisor, but it pays to choose a solution where you can rely on a high quality of support for the implementation and day-to-day management of your virtual environment.
It’s tempting to assume that commercial options are uniformly better supported than their open-source counterparts (support as a service obligation, versus relying on ad-hoc support found in the user-community), but be aware that you may be asked to pay above the odds for support for a particular hypervisor on a particular platform. Be sure to research your options, as well as ask your cloud hosting provider what they’ll do to ensure your solution is consistently stable and reliable.
It’s also a good idea to find out about the levels of help that will be in place should you need guidance in making your cloud the most effective tool that it can be for your business.