How do I get myself up to speed with server virtualization quickly

Good evening experts,
my question is really broad , but I want to get down to the minutiae of learning all three virtualization paradigms, Vmware, Hyper V, and Xenserver.  Micsoft , EMC, and Citrix are all players in the virtual server world and what I want to get out of this discussion is :


Which do you prefer


Which one is easiest to learn


Which one can be downloaded for trial installation


Which one lends itself to minimal setup requirements (including nic)

You may be thinking right now that I am completely lazy and this information is readily available on the net. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not lazy, I simply trust experts exchange more than I do other resources. you are my eyes and ears when it comes to some technology I need to get myself up to date on. With that said, let the discussion begin. I look forward to your comments and/or advice on which direction each of you prefers and a simple  reasoning behind the decision.

Note: I have some equipment that may or may not fit the bill for a proof of concept install ( all Dell stuff, Optiplex's)
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
I prefer Hyper-V.
There isn't an "easiest" to learn.
All three have free versions.
All are similar in system resources.

Best way to learn minutae? Buy a book. There are several good ones for all three platforms. And the good publishers vet their authors and hire editors to ensure greater accuracy than any internet resource, even EE.
Mohammed KhawajaManager - Infrastructure:  Information TechnologyCommented:
Here is my take:

1.  Hyper-V is best solution is you would like to stick with a Microsoft stack or if you have Windows Server administration experience
2.  VMware is the leading vendor and is widely deployed.  Also note that there are many appliance solutions that run under VMware only.  Primary examples are Cisco solutions such as NCM, Unity, etc. which will not run under other hypervisors
3.  Citrix Xen code is open-source and is the technology behind Amazon and some other large deployments
4.  Don't forget KVM as it is provided by RedHat and if you are a RedHat expert then try KVM

It is recommended you should be familiar with networking to ensure you separate your hypervisor management, virtual machine networks, vm move networks (i.e. live-migation, v-motion, xen-motion, etc.), backups, etc.  

I personally have used Xen, VMware and Hyper-V and they all have their own merits.  Citrix Xenserver is losing market share and Hyper-V is the fastest growing one.  RedHat KVM is growing in the Linux field and Xen is holding its own and growing with major providers such as Amazon.  OpenStack supports all 4 hypervisors and so that CloudStack.  Choice would be easier if you advise as to what you trying to achieve (i.e. career goal, environment, etc.).

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BLACK THANOSAuthor Commented:
Best way to learn minutae? Buy a book. There are several good ones for all three platforms.

kindly recommend a book. I am a member of safari on line books, so I have access to a very large resource of books. Do you have a favorite author  or ISBN to recommend.
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
The "mastering" series from Sybex and the "unleashed" series are both quality book series.
BLACK THANOSAuthor Commented:
Thank you kindly Cliff. I will put my old man reading glasses on and start the journey all over again.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
When it comes to books, I don't recommend any specific one but I DO recommend you get one (or more).  Books can be a personal thing - how you learn and what format / style you like can make a huge difference and what I find useful to me could be horrible for you.  If you can find a place that carries the books, I would recommend trying to thumb through a few for ones that you find compatible with your style of learning.

Some notes:
0. I have no experience with Xen so I'm not going to comment on them.  Comments below are on Hyper-V/VMWare ESX.
1. As stated, all have free versiosn, but, there can be a HUGE difference in management.  The free Hyper-V can be the most difficult to get setup.  Once setup, it's fine, but I've done it probably a dozen or more times and I still have issues on occasion.  If you have Windows Server - or download a trial of Windows Server (not the virtual trial but full install trial media) you can use that to learn with.  The Hyper-V Role that gets added to a full server install provides a graphical management tool that is ABSENT in the free version.  Thus it's much easier to learn on the GUI version.  You SHOULD move to a GUI-less management as that can be tremendously helpful, but that should be considered the advanced class, not the beginner.
2. VMWare's system doesn't have any management tool built in to the console under any version as far as I'm aware.  It's remote management ONLY.  That said, getting the remote management installed and working is FAR EASIER than on Hyper-V free.
3. Hyper-V and VMWare use different driver models.  VMWare has everything built in to the kernel.  As a result, you NEVER have to install drivers... on the other hand, you CANNOT install drivers.  It either works or it never will.  Hyper-V on the other hand uses Windows drivers and so you can fairly easily add new hardware to a hyper-V install (assuming full GUI).

Microsoft has a suite of books available for free, including (a now dated, but still useful) book on Hyper-V 2008 R2 (pre-SP1).
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
All can be download for evaluation.

I prefer all of them.

VMware has Hands On Labs for you to try them, and Microsoft has the MVA.

see here
You can use the following Virtual Systems in your environment:
Oracle VM Server
Microsoft Hyper-V
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV)
Oracle VirtualBox

I prefer VMware, it's by far the superior product. It's solid, there are some really incredible tools inside and more feature rich product.
I prefer VMWARE myself.  Really if you use something all day everyday like I can learn anything pretty quickly.  I have learned alot from my mistakes along the way, read a ton of kbs and manuals, and took a vmware bootcamp class eventually after i already considered myself pretty much an expert...but there were plenty of things i didnt know how to do when it came to the bootcamp class.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
and Experts Exchange is a great resource for asking questions and learning....
BLACK THANOSAuthor Commented:
I am about to close this thread, but I want to squeeze , one more plum out of it. I mentioned earlier in this thread, that I have some computers laying around. The best way that I learn is to just to build a small scale of what I want and go at it. I love technology, so its no burden. What I don't like is wasting time and that is exactly what Id' be doing if I didn't ask about hardware minimum specs to install the trial versions on. I have two clones that can go up to 8gigs of Ram and they have their own nic cards in them and not the integrated ones (I disabled those).  The other machines which are Dell Optiplex's go up to 4 gigs of ram and I am using the integrated nics. With that bit of information, would any of you experts say that I could build out , Hyper v, Vmware or Xenserver on a proof of concept specification????
Should be pretty easy to build a vmware environment...they dont' have crazy specs by any means.  I've done it numerous times, doesn't take long either.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You've not got much RAM in those desktops! 4GB - (ESXi requires at least 2GB RAM)

and VMware ESXi is designed around a small footprint, and may not support your Desktop PC!

Storage Adaptors and Network interface cards are issues with ESXi.

Get A Lab Online!
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If the CPUs support SLAT you can use Windows 8 Pro with Hyper-V.  Most newer AMD chips (definitely FX series) and as far as I know ALL Intel i-series (i3, i5, i7) support it.

Otherwise, you need CPUs that support Virtualization to use Hyper-V in server (requirements for Workstation Hyper-V are stricter).

If Windows has drivers (And the CPU has Virtualization technology) you can run Hyper-V on whatever hardware you have.  Otherwise, VMWare May not work (though I do have a client where the prior IT guy installed an Optiplex series i7 as the VMWare server).
BLACK THANOSAuthor Commented:
Great advice experts. All of it was invaluable. I now can embark on re-learning these technologies. It remains to be seen if my hardware will support it, but that's the challenge I like. I will now assign points and close the ticket.
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