Nutanix Unveils Own Hypervisor, Aligns With Microsoft For Data Center Battle With VMware

Nutanix thinks it's well-equipped to knock VMware off its perch as the dominant data center vendor, and now the scrappy startup is offering a detailed plan of attack.

Nutanix debuted its own KVM-based open-source hypervisor at its .NEXT customer conference in Miami Monday, along with technology that automatically migrates VMware-based workloads to KVM and Microsoft Hyper-V.

It's all part of Acropolis, a new Nutanix product line that integrates compute, storage and virtualization to run any kind of application, Greg Smith, senior director of products and technical marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based Nutanix, said in an interview prior to the conference.

[Related: 5 Reasons Why A Cisco-Nutanix Licensing Agreement Would Make More Sense Than An Acquisition]

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Acropolis consists of three distinct technologies: a KVM hypervisor, a distributed storage fabric and an app mobility fabric. Nutanix already has some customers running KVM, and by adding hardened security to the Acropolis hypervisors, it's hoping to get more on board, said Smith.

Citrix Systems, Dell, Docker, Microsoft and other vendors have certified their apps to run on Acropolis, according to Smith.

Nutanix also debuted Prism, its virtualization management technology for the Acropolis hypervisor. Together, Acropolis and Prism make up what Nutanix is calling its Xtreme Computing Platform.

Nutanix's app mobility fabric amounts to a major shot across the bow of VMware, Palo Alto, Calif. It lets customers convert and migrate workloads from VMware's hypervisor format to KVM and Microsoft Hyper-V automatically, Smith said.

The app mobility fabric also works with Linux containers and the Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure public clouds, said Smith. "The app mobility fabric is the unifying element that allows customers to run any workload, on any hypervisor, adjacent to running their workloads as containerized apps," he said.

At the conference, Nutanix Senior Vice President of Engineering and Products Sunil Potti did a live demo of the app mobility fabric, converting VMware vSphere virtual machines to Acropolis and Hyper-V.

With Acropolis and Prism, Nutanix now has all the tools IT professionals need to "break free of legacy technology," Smith said. "We have extended our solution from compute and storage and added an entire virtualization layer," he said.

The big question is, how will all this affect Nutanix's relationship with VMware? The startup drives sales of VMware's virtualization management software, but now's it's offering its own hypervisor and management products.

"VMware will remain an important partner for Nutanix," Smith told CRN. "There are a large number of customers running vSphere on Nutanix, and we will continue supporting VMware technology."

At the same time, Smith acknowledged that Nutanix will compete with VMware in certain areas.

"We want to give customers alternatives to what they're using today. It's an opportunity for them to minimize what's commonly referred to as a virtualization tax," Smith said. "We're going to provide a very economical virtualization platform."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working closely with Nutanix, Smith said.

"Microsoft has never been a stronger partner for Nutanix than they are now. We're working closely with them to make sure [Acropolis and Prism] work seamlessly with Azure."