Nutanix Launches Tech That Lets VMware Customers Switch To Its Hypervisor, Partners Say Interest Is Growing

Hyper-convergence startup Nutanix, which unveiled technology last summer that converts VMware-based workloads to its own KVM-based Acropolis hypervisor format, made it available to customers for the first time in an update released last week.

Nutanix may have delayed its long awaited IPO, according to a report this week from CNBC. But the scrappy startup, which has a $2 billion-plus valuation, is still aiming to convince VMware customers to dump ESX, the world's most widely used server virtualization hypervisor, in favor of Acropolis.

"Right now we have the ability to do a one-click conversion of a virtual machine on VMware ESX to the Acropolis hypervisor," Howard Ting, chief marketing officer at Nutanix, said in an interview.

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Nutanix isn't just going after VMware: It's also working on adding VM conversion capability for Microsoft Hyper-V, Ting said, without offering a time frame.

Needless to say, Nutanix will face a tough challenge in getting VMware customers to switch to its hypervisor. Microsoft -- despite more than seven years in the market with its Hyper-V hypervisor, and solid market share gains during that time -- has been unable to unseat VMware as king of the data center, and it hasn't been for lack of effort.

Yet Nutanix partners told CRN that at least some of their customers are looking for alternatives to VMware for cost reasons. And it's no secret that VMware's licensing costs have been increasing over the years as the vendor packs more features into each new vSphere release.

While the Nutanix partners aren't seeing customers dump VMware entirely, they said customers are keen on the idea of moving noncritical workloads -- like software testing and development -- from ESX to Acropolis.

"We have Nutanix clients running [Acropolis hypervisor] who have moved from VMware, and we have a line out the door with other clients wanting to talk more about it," Jeff Guenthner, director of solutions architecture at CMI, a Mill Valley, Calif.-based Nutanix partner, told CRN.

"I think there is a readiness to jump from VMware -- competition and change is good," said Daniel Holm, director of enterprise solutions at InterWorks, a Nutanix partner in Stillwater, Okla. "Nutanix Acropolis makes a lot of sense and customers are seriously considering it."

A VMware spokesman declined to comment. VMware acknowledged last month that sales of vSphere, the server virtualization software that includes ESX, are slowing. But VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said sales of newer products like NSX software-defined networking are poised to pick up the slack.

Although the VM conversion technology is getting lots of attention, Nutanix's Ting said Acropolis 4.6 comes with better performance and features that weren't previously available.

One example, he said, is backup and recovery between the Acropolis and VMware hypervisors, which customers can use to cut their VMware licensing costs. Nutanix has also achieved a fourfold increase in performance for random reads compared with the previous Acropolis release, according to Ting.