If you like putting a little money down at the horse track, you’re probably enjoying watching the virtualization technology stakes as Microsoft trots out Hyper-V R2. Microsoft’s virtualization offering is quickly becoming a serious contender in the field, along with VMware’s offerings.

The Stats
According to a recent Windows IT Pro Instant Poll, most of our readers are using some flavor of virtualization—about 50 percent use VMware ESX Server, 24 percent use Microsoft Hyper-V technology, 9 percent use both ESX and Hyper-V, and a fairly impressive 6 percent use Citrix XenServer. Only 11 percent of respondents indicated that they didn’t use virtualization technology at all.

According to the most recent Windows IT Pro reader survey, IT pros are using virtualization in a variety of ways, including testing, server consolidation, application virtualization, backup and disaster recovery, development, legacy application hosting, database virtualization, and desktop virtualization. Reader Jon Bjerke’s comment posted in response to Paul Thurrott’s article, "Doing More with Less in 2010", provides an example that’s typical of the collective enthusiasm expressed about virtualization: "Virtualization is the way to go. It simplifies management, security, and recovery. Take a small business: If you run ESXi or Hyper-V (both free), you simplify recovery. All I have to do is load the hypervisor software on a new server—\[it\] doesn't matter if it's the same brand or model—copy the VM back over, power the VM back on, and they are back in business."

But the debate still rages over which platform is best, and the only point that nearly everyone can agree on is that IT pros need to carefully evaluate their environment and their business objectives to choose the best solution. Reader Brad Kulick argued in Letters: "Virtualization Preference" that both Microsoft and VMware virtualization offerings are "worthy of consideration, but to say that they’re nearly the same is bewildering."

Resources Galore
So how do you sort out the claims for yourself? Windows IT Pro has a few resources you can use to get an unbiased assessment. One is the Virtualization Faceoff site. You’ll find a couple of blogs written by Sean Deuby and Satish Jakka, both consultants with Seattle-based Advaiya. These blogs cover both VMware and Microsoft technologies, and both writers welcome comments and questions. You can also download a PDF version of the virtualization architecture poster that appeared in the February issue of Windows IT Pro. And coming soon, we’ll have video interviews with representatives and users of both technologies.

Another upcoming opportunity is Windows IT Pro’s first VirtualizationPro Summit, March 16-19 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. This conference will be an agnostic forum for learning in-depth about cross-platform virtualization technologies, with content geared toward helping you evaluate your needs and compare technologies. Summit speakers include authors whose names Windows IT Pro readers will recognize: Michael Otey, technical director, will do a technical tear-down of ESX Server and Hyper-V, as well as VMware vSphere versus Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager. He’ll also demonstrate Live Migration step by step. John Savill's session on exploring high virtual machine (VM) densities will help you determine how many VMs you can cram on a single box. Alan Sugano will demonstrate VMware vSphere 4.0 door-to-door, and Greg Shields will look at VMware ESX security. Keynote speaker Steve Riley, an evangelist for Amazon Web Services, will talk about the intersection of virtualization and cloud computing. Speakers from Microsoft and VMware will also present deep-dive sessions about their technologies. The conference will bring together a compelling group of cross-platform experts who can probably answer any question you have about virtualizing your environment.

As always, Windows IT Pro will continue to cover virtualization from all angles—for example, check out Jan de Clercq’s "Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V Security." You can bookmark our virtualization content page; on this page, editor Zac Wiggy compiles virtualization resources from across our network and presents the latest news, technical articles, and product briefings to help you sort through the virtualization hype.

No matter which horse you put your money on, the stakes can be high when you’re considering virtualization options for your organization. Windows IT Pro’s resources can help you study the field and make the right choice.