NSW Electoral Commission goes Hyper-V over VMware

New technology challenges incumbent in burgeoning hypervisor market

The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) has selected Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization platform over the more mature VMware for its server consolidation project.

NSWEC is in the middle of deploying virtualization for its in-house environment and installing 6TB SAN for storage. Large project work like this is usually done in between election periods to minimize the potential for any service disruption.

The commission's information systems manager Ian Brightwell said his team spent “quite a bit of time” evaluating and both products have good feature sets.

“We chose Hyper-V because of the advantages of its integration with other Microsoft products,” Brightwell said.

“Many of VMware's features are for larger data centres and we are the opposite. We are using virtualization to allow us to run multiple vms on one machine to run multiple workloads to get around server sprawl.”

Brightwell said VMware can run data centres with large numbers of server hosting large numbers of vms on top, but “that's not what we are facing as a business problem”.

NSWEC has a continuous process of buying servers and hardware, but no significant purchases were required for this project.

“Outside of election times we use a small amount of CPU capacity,” Brightwell said. “Virtualization helps us there as we can port those servers to a larger environment relatively transparently.”

The commission has virtualized most of its in-house servers and its new results system will be developed and run on vms.

With 12 vms running now, according to Brightwell NSWEC will “double or triple” that over the next six months.

“The Hypervisor is Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V and the guest vms are Server 2008, or Server 2003. That is the beauty of the platform,” he said.

“Microsoft had virtual server out for a while and they are later into the game than VMware, but the gap between them is largely in the management tools for larger enterprises.”

Brightwell said the evaluation process was “quite a complex exercise” and he admits the team may not have reached a final result with all the options.

“Other reasons are training and support. We found it challenging to find contractors and resources to support the hypervisor software,” he said. “Hyper-V has more experts on the ground. That was a bit harder to do with VMware.”

One of Brightwell's biggest problems remains licensing, which, he says, must be assessed across all the software that goes onto a virtual server.

“A lot of software is cpu licenced so if you have the same software running on the same cpu in a vm and you can split it across physical servers – that is a good outcome,” he said.

“The Oracle licensing and other app licensing is very complex and we struggle with it.”

For app support, Brightwell hopes vendors end any requirement for problems experienced in vms to be recreated on physical machines.