There’s been a great deal of discussion in the IT world about if hypervisors are a commodity with pundits coming down on both sides. It’s a valid question to ask, but solid answers are a bit more difficult to come by.
For those of you wondering about the title, ABC recently released and then cut short a drama series about the oil boom in North Dakota. This came to mind as Oil is one of the most frequently traded commodities in the world and brings me to the below.
Commodities are typically physical in nature: like gold, oil, or water. Their properties are standardized. Getting pure water from company X or company Y shouldn’t matter because all adhere to a standard definition. Company X may purify water in one particular manner. Company Y may do it another—but the product itself is interchangeable. In this respect—virtual machines themselves are commoditized.
However, are hypervisors themselves interchangeable like the VMs they create? While I can acknowledge that the operation of the hypervisor may be standardized—they all create and manage standardized VMs — the way and method they do so is as much a part of the product as the hypervisor function itself.
In this regard, the answer to the commoditized hypervisor question is a resounding NO. Hypervisors aren’t commoditized because they really are more about process, rather than the end product. And as in any process, there are better, more economical, or easier ways to do things and there are more complex and difficult way to do things.
vSphere and VMware are the market leader when it comes to virtualization. There’s a reason for this. Historically they were the first to make virtualization a standard of the modern datacenter, of course. Secondly, their ease of management and the tools they provide for it are usually acknowledged as exceeding the competitions.
In order to make headway in a market historically dominated by VMware, other players have resorted to dropping the cost of their own hypervisors or even making them free. Yes—I’m talking about KVM and lately, Microsoft Hyper-V. While free is appealing to an IT budget no doubt—rarely is free ever free. The idea that “you get what you pay for” does come to mind. People discover that the ease-of-use factor and the ability to effectively manage their virtual environment aren’t included with the freeware and require the purchase of additional tools or being locked into a particular OS with licensing requirements.
Rather than play the “find the hidden cost” game which usually wrecks IT budgets either in operational costs or nickel-and-dime licensing costs for everything else that should’ve been included—purchasing a full-fledged, robust, hypervisor just makes more sense.