Choosing whether or not to make the leap to network virtualization is the first major hurdle of the implementation process. Congratulations — you’ve made it this far! The next step is a little more difficult, but it has the potential to create valuable opportunities for your company. Once you’ve made the decision to switch, you then have to consider which network virtualization platform to use.

With two central providers leading the virtualization race — VMware and Microsoft — it may seem like a simple decision. But it’s so much more complex than choosing between two main competitors. Even if you choose from VMware and Microsoft and disregard other providers, there are still several factors to consider before settling on the lucky winner. Let’s dive into a few key considerations you should make during your selection process.

Dollars & Cents

No matter how large or small your company is, one of your first considerations should be the cost of your virtualization platform. If your budget is pretty open-ended, you can consider the more expensive packages, such as those provided by VMware. Entry-level network virtualization software from VMware starts around $3,000, but this number may vary depending on your size and needs.

However, one grave mistake many businesses make when implementing virtualization policies is their failure to consider collateral costs. Network virtualization is a holistic process; you don’t get all of your tools from one provider. Buried in the cost of deployment may be additional tools from Microsoft and other providers, licensing fees, training and other hidden costs. Be sure to do your research before making the commitment, because your final price tag may actually be heftier than you initially anticipated.

Scalability

When you make the switch to network virtualization, you’ll be eliminating a lot of redundant hardware and replacing it with a more fluid software-based system. While this can free up a lot of physical space, you have to consider the available digital space when shopping around for a platform.

Ideally, your platform will be fluid enough to scale up with your organization. During your search, consider factors like virtual CPU, physical memory, nodes and other attributes that can affect the potential size of your network. Of course, the “holy grail” is to achieve the highest amount of virtual space at the lowest cost, so make sure to research these two elements in tandem.

Peace of Mind

One of the most recent advancements of network virtualization is the additional security benefits. By creating customizable, network-specific firewalls, this software can dramatically boost your network’s defenses. Depending on the type of company you work for, this may or may not be one of your leading priorities. As you compare and contrast platforms, consider how configurable each provider’s security settings are, and whether or not this can present a significant benefit to your company.

Also keep in mind that entry-level packages may lack certain necessary security features. If privacy and security are priorities in your organization, you may have to invest in upper-level enterprise packages to meet your network’s needs.

On the Go

With network virtualization, mobility speaks to your ability to move or migrate a virtual machine. As your company grows and develops, it may be necessary to reorganize certain networks, which can result in costly downtime if you don’t pay particular attention to a platform’s mobility. Many providers offer migration with no downtime or service interruptions, which can be a remarkable benefit for companies that possess the technical acumen to adjust to developments in the tech industry.

As with security, certain mobility features may only be attainable with more expensive packages. Speak with your provider about the availability of this feature, and this will help you decide which platform is right for you.

Other Players in the Virtualization Game

Your first instinct may be to gravitate toward VMware and Microsoft. They’re industry leaders for a reason, right? But you may actually do yourself a great disservice by overlooking the little guys. Consider XenServer and Hyper-V, for instance. While they may lack some of the features of their big brothers, these powerful platforms make up for that in affordability. So if cost is a major consideration for you, or if you don’t necessarily need the high-power functions of the big name platforms, it might be worth your while to consider other competitors.

Once you begin the process of searching for the right network virtualization platform, all of this information may seem overwhelming. A good way to keep track of your needs is to create a list of strong considerations, including the five mentioned above. Once you have your list, rate them on a scale of importance and choose the platform that meets your most necessary requirements. There are many platforms to choose from, and each offers a unique, exciting package of features. If you make it a point to thoroughly investigate each offering, you’ll be sure to make the right decision for your company.