Differences between Hyper-V, Hyper-V Server, Hyper-V Client, and VMware

There are three different versions of Hyper-V; the role that is installed on Windows Server 2012, its free version called Hyper-V Server and the Hyper-V that comes in Windows 8 called Hyper-V Client. This article will explain the differences between all the versions and a comparison between Hyper-V and its competitor, VMware.

Hyper-V limitations improvements

Hyper-V has improved since it was first introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2. The following table shows the improvements.

ResourceWindows Server 2008 Hyper-VWindows Server 2012 Hyper-V
Logical Processors 64 320
Physical Memory 1TB 4TB
Virtual CPUs per Host 512 2048
Virtual CPU per VM 4 64
VM Memory 64GB 1TB
Active VMs per Host 384 1024
Maximum Nodes 16 64
Maximum VMs per Cluster 1000 8000

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V

Hyper-V is one of the most fascinating and improved role on Windows Server 2012. Its third version goes beyond virtualisation and helps us deliver the correct infrastructure to host your cloud environment.

Windows Server 2012 can be installed as a role in both Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions. The only difference is that in the Standard edition, two free Windows Server OSes are licensed whereas there are unlimited licenses in the Datacenter edition.

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012

Hyper-V Server 2012, the free virtualisation solution from Microsoft, has all the features included on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

The only difference is that Microsoft Hyper-V Server does not include virtual machine licenses and a graphical interface. The management can be done remotely using Hyper-V Manager from another Windows Server 2012 or Windows 8.

All the other Hyper-V features and limits, including Failover Cluster, Shared Nothing Live Migration, and Hyper-V Replica are included in the Hyper-V free version.

Hyper-V Client

One of the new features of Windows 8 is Hyper-V Client. Users can have the same experience from Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V on their desktops or tablet, making their test and development virtualized scenarios much easier.

Hyper-V client is present only in the Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise version and requires a CPU feature called Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).

Although Hyper-V client is very similar to the server version, there are some components that are only present on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, as shown in the following list:

  • Hyper-V replica
  • Remote FX capability to virtualize GPUs
  • Live Migration and Shared Nothing Live Migration
  • SR-IOV Networks
  • Virtual Fibre Channel
  • Network Virtualisation
  • Failover Clustering
  • VM Monitoring

Even with these limitations, Hyper-V Client has very interesting features such as Storage Migration, VHDX, VMs running on SMB 3.0 File Shares, PowerShell integration, Hyper-V Manager, Hyper-V Extensible Switch, Quality of Services, the same VM hardware limits as Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Dynamic Memory, DHCP Guard, Port Mirroring, and much more.

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V X VMware vSphere 5.1

VMware is the existing competitor of Hyper-V and the current version 5.1 offers the VMware vSphere as a free and a standalone Hypervisor, vSphere Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus.

The following list compares all the features existing in the free version of Hyper-V with VMware Sphere and Enterprise Plus:

FeatureWindows Server 2012 Hyper-VVMware vSphere 5.1VMware vSphere 5.1 Enterprise+
Logical Processors 320 160 160
Physical Memory 4TB 32GB 2TB
Virtual CPU per VM 64 8 64
VM Memory 1TB 32GB 1TB
Active VMs per Host 1024 512 512
Maximum Nodes 64 N/A 32
Maximum VMs per Cluster 8000 N/A 3000
Native 4-KB Disk Support Yes No No
Maximum Virtual Disk Size 64TB 2TB 2TB
Maximum Pass Through Disk Size 256TB+ 64TB 64TB
Extensible Network Switch Yes No Third part vendors
Network Virtualisation Yes No Requires vCloud networking and security
IPSec Task Offload Yes No No
SR-IOV with Live Migration Yes No No
Guest OS Application Monitoring Yes No No
Guest Clustering with Live Migration Yes N/A No
Guest Clustering with Dynamic Memory Yes N/A No

The following table lists a comparison of features between Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and vSphere 5.0 Enterprise Plus:

Windows 2008 vs Windows 2012 vs vSphere 5

Hyper-V comparing technologies

To understand the Hyper-V technologies better, the following table that is created by the Hyper-V Program Manager Ben Armstrong illustrates in which scenarios the conflicting Hyper-V features can be used: