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KVM vs. VMware [head-to-head comparison]

The KVM vs VMware hypervisor comparison is a classic debate. Most businesses choose to implement hypervisors because of the ability to share resources. There is an excellent variety of hypervisors available on the internet.

Vmware Tutorials VPS Tutorials Oct 09, 20 by Nisal N 6 min Read
KVM vs. VMware [head-to-head comparison]

However, only two of them are the famous ones in which organizations chose to share their resources. These two hypervisors are VMware and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).

A hypervisor provides the foundation for your virtualization platform, and there are many choices, from traditional vendors to open-source alternatives. VMware is a popular choice for virtualization and offers the ESXi hypervisor and vSphere virtualization platform. Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) is an open-source option and is part of Linux.

We have done the research and made a comparison between VMware and KVM hypervisors.

We made the comparison taking into account the following key points that will help in choosing the right hypervisor for you:

  • Performance
  • Integration
  • Cost
  • Complexity
  • Scalability
  • Maturity
  • Functional support

Overview

A hypervisor virtualizes a computing environment where the tenants are provided dedicated physical resources such as processing capability, memory, and storage. Each user can run their operating system within a virtual environment with its resources.

The efficient sharing of resources requires the physical processor to support virtualization called AMD-V for AMD processors and VT-x for Intel processors. A hypervisor needs to effectively isolate each guest such that a guest's operations will not affect the other tenants.

This requirement means that a hypervisor must accurately emulate the physical hardware to prevent guests from accessing it except under carefully controlled circumstances. The method that a hypervisor uses to do this is a key factor in its performance.

Hypervisors often use "para-virtualized" (PV) drivers to emulate physical hardware, which acts as hardware such as storage disks and network cards. These drivers are OS-specific and often specific to a particular hypervisor. PV drivers can improve a hypervisor's performance by order of magnitude.

Performance

Hypervisors are mainly divided into two broad categories.

Type 1: 

The bare-metal hypervisor is the type that runs directly on the physical hardware. The OS of all the guests runs on top of the hypervisor.

Type 2:

They are also known as hosted hypervisors; they run with OS that runs on physical hardware. The guest OS runs on top of the hypervisor.

KVM is extremely difficult to classify because it has characteristics of both types. Linux user can start their KVM from the graphical user interface. It is faster and more user friendly.

While EXI is purely a type 1 hypervisor installed on OS, this type is slower than type 2 and difficult to handle.

Integration

Hypervisors use different modes and methods to communicate with physical hardware.

KVM uses an agent to communicate, which is installed on the hardware of the system. This hypervisor has a Linux based interface that is also used by red Hat and other distributors.

A VMware management plan is used to communicate with the hardware. EXI has an added advantage to access other products by using a management plan. It also uses a VMware control stack to increase hardware requirements.

Cost

KVM is the clear winner when it's about the cost of these hypervisors. You don't have to make any additional expenses to install this hypervisor in order to integrate your systems. You can have access to an open-source OS.

On the other hand, you are charged a license fee when you want to install VMware. VMware is the first company to launch enterprise-class virtualization software. Being the innovator in the industry, they are the first to introduce this concept and a business end-user hypervisor.

Complexity

You don't need to translate the binary codes to accommodate the guests through virtualization. The system takes advantage of the extension of the processor. The first release of KVM was such a lightweight virtualization driver with almost around 10,000 lines of code (LOC).

You would be enthralled to know that VMware uses over 6 million LOC. This fact is a bit difficult to verify because the codes are not available publically. The original codes have not been rewritten since the hypervisor's inception, making it one of the most complex codebase when you compare it to KVM.

Scalability

When it comes to scalability, KVM has the upper hand compared to VMware. This is due to the fact that vSphere has some limitations in the servers it can manage, which is not an issue with KVM. VMware has added a large number of Storage Area Networks (SANs) to support various vendors. This means that VMware has more storage options, but it also complicates the storage support when scaling up.

Maturity

KVM and ESXi are both highly mature and stable. KVM has been part of the Linux kernel for over a decade, and ESXi has been publicly available since 2006. However, KVM is more widely deployed since it's open-source and is included in many packages such as Redhat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV). KVM also supports more features than any other hypervisor.

Functional Support

When it comes to technical support, VMware will provide enterprise-level support which can not be matched with other hypervisors out there. Network and storage support are critical and are probably more important than any other factor besides OS integration. With KVM, you will have to rely on support from the open-source community and your own IT team of professionals.

Summary

The most popular choice for users is KVM. This hypervisor is famous because of the low cost operating features. This is an open-source solution for people who have just started their business and do not want to invest more in the hypervisor.

Once you have crossed the threshold for being a new or middle-level organization, you need advanced practices to prove your identity. Big organizations have to use trusted services to protect their data and reputation. The more prominent companies always prefer VMware as it is a trusted yet expensive solution for resource sharing.

You can get your very own VMware powered VPS services from us by clicking here.

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Nisal N

Computers has always fascinated me since I was a kid and here we are. I love travelling for 2 reasons: the first one to see a new part of the world and second (the most important one) to experience the rich culture hidden among the country and people. I'm pretty good at cooking but very poor when it comes to baking.

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