Here's The Most Important Thing Nutanix Unveiled At This Week's Customer Conference

Nutanix unveiled its own KVM server hypervisor and management software this week, pitching it as a way for customers to save money on VMware vSphere licensing.

But according to Nutanix partners, the startup's unveiling of technology that automatically converts virtual machines from VMware format to KVM and Microsoft Hyper-V is by far the most important announcement from its first-ever customer conference, held this week in Miami.

"I think this will be a very big deal. It’s like an 'easy button' to convert VMware to either Hyper-V or KVM," said Tim Joyce, CEO of Roundstone Solutions, a San Francisco-based Nutanix partner.

[Related: Nutanix Unveils Own Hypervisor, Aligns With Microsoft For Data Center Battle With VMware]

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Nutanix started out selling hyper-converged infrastructure, which combines compute, storage and virtualization running on x86 server hardware. But the new technology, which Nutanix calls "App Mobility Fabric," shows that its ambitions run deeper.

App Mobility Fabric also allows customers to move workloads back and forth between private and public clouds, Sunil Potti, senior vice president of engineering and products at Nutanix, said in a Q&A Wednesday at the event.

Nutanix is working with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure to support App Mobility Fabric, and plans to work with other public cloud vendors at some point, said Potti.

Howard Ting, Nutanix's senior vice president of marketing, said App Mobility Fabric is akin to a "next generation vMotion," referring to VMware's widely used software for moving running VMs from one physical server to another while the machines are running.

"We're restoring power back to the buyer, so that the buyer can negotiate with their vendors and decide what works best for them," Ting said in the Q&A.

App Mobility Fabric is part of Nutanix's new Acropolis product line, which includes the KVM hypervisor and a distributed storage fabric. While debuting its own hypervisor was a bold move by Nutanix, there are mixed opinions in the channel as to whether it will help the startup lure VMware customers.

"In addition to simplifying a customer's hardware environment, Nutanix can help them save a lot of money by not having to pay VMware licensing fees for the hypervisor," said Joyce of Roundstone Solutions.

However, Tal Klein, vice president of strategy at Lakeside Software, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based firm that works with Nutanix, isn't sure the startup's moves this week will necessarily have much effect on VMware.

"Certainly, some battle lines are being drawn to further commoditize the hypervisor element for application workloads," Klein told CRN. "But VMware has been cognizant of that for a long time, and has added many more value-added components to a vSphere license than simply being able to virtualize an operating system."

Charles Kanavel, CEO of The Kanavel Group, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider that works with enterprise vendors, said converting virtual machines is "technically possible to do but hard to execute in real life."

"The holy grail would be fully functional VMs -- with the app structure in place -- migrating from one cloud to another," Kanavel told CRN.

Nutanix, which is said to be close to filing for an IPO, has reportedly resisted acquisition bids from multiple suitors. And after showing off its new technologies this week, it's clear that the startup feels it deserves a seat at the table with other enterprise vendors.