A little part of the virtualization world I visit are in the phase of doing multi-hypervisor environments. But I expect more and more organizations to be not one type only and are open to using a second line of hypervisors other then their current install base. Some will choose on specific features or on product lines for specific workloads or changing strategies to opensource for example.

Some providers of hypervisors are having or bringing multi support to their productlines. VMware NSX brings support for multi-hypervisor network environments via the Open vSwitch support in NSX (with a separate product choice that is), where XenServer leverages the Open vSwitch as an standard virtual switch option. Appliances are standard delivered in the OVF format. Several suites are out there that claim a single management for multi-hypervisors.

But how easily is this multi-hypervisor environment managed and for what perspective? Is there support in only a specific management plane? Is multi-hypervisor bound to multi-management products and thus adding extra complexity? Let’s try and find out what is currently available for the multi-hypervisor world.

What do we have?

Networking, Open vSwitch; a multi-layer virtual switch which is licensed under the open source Apache 2.0 license. Open vSwitch is designed to enable network automation through programmatic extension, and still supporting standard management protocols (e.g. NetFlow, sFlow, SPAN, RSPAN, CLI, LACP, 802.1ag). Furthermore it is designed to support distribution across multiple physical servers similar to VMware’s distributed vswitch concept. It is distributed standard in many Linux kernel’s and available for KVM, XenServer (default option), VirtualBox, OpenStack and VMware NSX for multi-hypervisor infrastructures. Hyper-V can use the Open vSwitch, but needs a third party extension (for example using OpenStack extension). Specifically for networking, but it is a real start for supporting true multi-hypervisors.

Transportation, Open format OVF/OVA; Possibly the oldest of the open standards in the virtual world. Open Virtualization Format (OVF) is an open standard for packaging and distributing virtual appliances or more generally software to be run in virtual machines. Used for offline transportation of VM’s. Wildly used for transporting appliances of all sorts. Supported by muiltiple hypervisor parties, but sometimes conversion are  needed especially for the disk types. OVF’s with a VHD disk needs to be converted to VMDK to be used on VMware (and vice versa). Supported by XenServer, VMware, Virtualbox and such. OVF is also supported for Hyper-V, but not in all versions of System Center Virtual Machine Manager support importing/exporting functionality. OVF allows a virtual appliance vendor to add items like a EULA, comments about the virtual machine, boot parameters, minimum requirements and a host of other features to the package. Specifically for offline transportation.

VMware vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager; Feature of vCenter to manage other hypervisors next to ESXi hosts from the vCenter management plane. Started as a VMware Lab fling, but now a VMware supported product (only support for the product, underlying Hyper-V issues are still for the Microsoft corporation) available as a free download with a standard license. Currently at version 1.1. Management of host and provisioning actions to third party hypervisors. Supported other then VMware hypervisors is limited to Hyper-V. And to be honest not primarily marketed as a management but more a conversion tool to vSphere.

vCloud Automation Center (vCAC);  vCloud Automation Center focuses on managing multiple infrastructure pools at the cloud level. You can define other then vSphere endpoints and collect information or add these computing resources to an enterprise group. For certain tasks (like destroying a VM) there still is manual discovery necessary for these endpoints to be updated accordantly. But you can leverage vCAC workflow capabilities to get over this. Uses vCAC agents to support vSphere, XenServer, Hyper-V or KVM hypervisors resource provisioning. Hypervisor management is limited to vSphere and Hyper-V (via SCVMM) only. vCAC does offer integration of different management applications for example server management (iLO, Drac, Blades, UCS), powerShell, VDI connection brokers (Citrix/VMware), provisioning (WinPE, PVS, SCCM, kickstart) and cloud platforms from VMware and Amazon (AWS) to one management tool. And thus providing a single interface for delivery of infrastructure pools. Support and management is limited as the product is focussed on workflows and automation for provisioning, and not management per se. But interested to see what the future holds for this product. Not primarily for organisations that are managing their own infrastructures and servicing only their own. Specifically for automated delivery of multi-tenant infrastructure pools but limited.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM); A management tool with the ability to manage VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer hosts in addition to those running Hyper-V. But just as the product title says, it is primarily the management of your virtual machines. As SC VMM can be able to read and understand configurations, and do VM migrations leveraging vMotion. But need to do management tasks on networking, datastores, resource pools, VM templates (SCVMM only imports metadata to it’s library), host profile compliancy (and more) or fully use distributed cluster features you will need to switch to or rely on vCenter to do this tasks. Some actions can be done by extending SCVMM with a vCenter system, but that is again limited to managing VM tasks. Interesting that there is support to more then one other hypervisor with vSphere and XenServer support. And leveraging the system center suite gives you a data center broader management suite, but that is out of scope for this subject. Specifically for virtual machine management, and with another attempt to get you to convert to the primary hypervisor (in this case Hyper-V).

Other options?; Yes, automation! Not a single management solution but more of a close the gap between management tasks and support of management suites. Use automation and orchestration tools together with scripting extension to solve these management task gaps. Yes, you still have to have multiple management tools, but you can automate repetitive tasks (if you can repeat it, automate it) between them. PowerShell/CLI for example is a great way to script tasks in your vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer environments. Use a interface like Webcommander (read at a previous blog post http://pascalswereld.nl/post/65524940391/webcommander) to present a single management interface to your users. But yes, here some work and effort is expected to solve the complexity issue.

– Third parties?; Are there any out there? Yes. They are providing ways to manage multi-hypervisor environment as add-ons/extensions that use already in place management. For example HOTLINK Supervisor adds management of Hyper-V, XenServer and KVM hosts from a single vCenter inventory. And Hotlink hybrid express adds Amazon cloud support to SCVMM or vCenter. Big advantage is that Hotlink is using the tools in place and integrate to those tools so there is just a minimal learning curve to worry about. But why choose a third party when the hypervisor vendors are moving there products to the same open scope, will an addon add extra troubleshooting complexity, how is support when using multiple products from multiple vendors where does one ends and the other starts? Well that’s up to you if these are pro’s or cons. And the maturity of the product of course.


With the growing number of organisations adopting a multi-hypervisor environment, these organisation still rely on multiple management interfaces/applications and thus bringing extra complexity to management of the virtual environments. Complexity adds extra time and extra costs, and that isn’t what the large portion of the organisations want. At this time, simply don’t expect a true single management experience if you bring in different hypervisors or be prepared to close the gaps yourself (the community can be of great help here) or use third party products like Hotlink.
We are getting closer with the adoption of open standards, hybrid clouds and a growing support of multiple hypervisors in the management suites of the hypervisor players. But a step at a time. Let’s see when we are there, at the true single management of multi-hypervisor environments.

Interested about telling your opinion, have a idea or party I missed? Leave a comment. I’m always interested in the view of the community.

– Happy (or happily) managing your environment!

Share this: