8 Ways VMware Thinks It's Better Than Nutanix, Every Other Hyper-Converged Vendor

Enough Is Enough

Chuck Hollis, chief strategist for VMware's storage and availability business, has had about enough of what he considers "misleading" claims being spread by Nutanix and other startups in the hyper-converged infrastructure market.

Hollis, in a recent blog post, didn't name the other hyper-converged vendors, so it's safe to assume that he's primarily talking about Nutanix, which hasn't been shy about its early success. Nutanix leads the global hyperconverged market after generating 52 percent of its overall revenue during the first half of 2014, IDC said in January.

But in Hollis' view, all Nutanix and other hyper-converged vendors have done is create "a software-based storage layer that eliminated the need for an external storage array." VMware's approach, Hollis said in the blog post, is much more comprehensive -- and better -- for customers.

Following are eight points Hollis raised in the blog post that could be a roadmap for how VMware plans to compete with Nutanix and other hyper-converged vendors in the future.

8. It's All About vSphere, Baby

As Hollis notes, VMware vSphere software is everywhere in the data center, and it's also featured in most of the hyperconverged infrastructure products on the market.

Nutanix and other hyperconverged startups basically owe their existence to VMware, because "without the power and presence of the VMware vSphere platform, there wouldn't be a converged or hyperconverged market to argue about," Hollis said in the blog post.

Nutanix, in addition to supporting VMware vSphere, also supports Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM hypervisors. However, Hollis doesn't seem to think multi-hypervisor support matters.

"The harsh market reality is that there’s just not a lot of demand for non-vSphere-based hyper-converged solutions," Hollis said in the blog post.

Simplivity, Nutanix's main rival, only supports VMware's hypervisor today, but it has been talking about adding support for Hyper-V and KVM.

7. Nutanix Isn't a vSphere OEM, So Its Support Isn't As Good

VMware is proud of its partner ecosystem and often cites it as a competitive advantage. Nutanix is a VMware partner, too.

Hollis said in the blog post that because Nutanix is not an vSphere OEM, it doesn't have the "right" to distribute VMware's server virtualization software or to provide support for it.

And since Nutanix's product includes vSphere virtualization, this could confuse customers when things go wrong, according to Hollis.

"Let’s say you have a performance problem with your hyper-converged appliance -- who do you call? The appliance vendor? VMware? Ghostbusters?" Hollis said in the blog post.

Several apparent Nutanix employees disputed Hollis' assertions in the blog comments, with one noting that Nutanix has 12 VCDXs (VMware certified design experts) on staff.

"The fact that Nutanix is not a vSphere OEM is significant," Hollis responded. "This means that Nutanix is not entitled to support VMware customers, period. Any support you provide is not 'official.' "

6. Storage Is Integrated In Hypervisor

Hollis said one big difference between VMware and Nutanix is that its VSAN storage technology is integrated directly into the ESX hypervisor. This makes for easier management, upgrades and support because customers just have to deal with VMware, according to Hollis.

"If our discussion of 'market leadership' includes any notion of creating a more simple experience for users, I would argue that it’s hard to compete with features that are simple extensions of the hypervisor," Hollis said in the blog post.

5. VMware: No One Can Match Our Hardware Ecosystem

Hollis said hyper-converged infrastructure "is about software, not hardware" when discussing the advantages VMware enjoys from its massive vSphere install base.

However, Hollis also said VMware has a distinct advantage in hardware when it comes to EVO:RAIL, its software stack for hyper-converged infrastructure.

VMware now has nine hardware partners for EVO:RAIL, as well as "dozens and dozens of ReadyNodes from server partners that can be ordered as a single SKU," Hollis said in the blog post.

With VMware's EVO:RAIL and VSAN software, customers can get all kinds of configurations, Hollis said.

Nutanix sells its software on server hardware from SuperMicro and also has an OEM agreement with Dell.

4. VMware's Management Tools Are Better

Hollis said despite all the talk about what hyper-converged can do, vendors don't have nearly the breadth of technology that VMware brings to bear.

Customers, he said, want "common tools, processes and workflows that support the entire environment, and not just an isolated portion of it."

Hollis suggested that Nutanix and other hyper-converged startups don't have the kind of "enterprise-scale management tools" that VMware brings to bear. And since VMware's tools manage both virtual and hyper-converged environments, Hollis said true market leadership requires this sort of breadth.

3. Only VMware Has NSX Software-Defined Networking

VMware's ownership of NSX gives it an advantage over Nutanix and other whippersnappers in the hyper-converged market, Hollis suggested in the blog post.

"The ultimate goal should be to give customers the option of running all three infrastructure functions (compute, storage, network) as an integrated stack running on their hardware of choice," Hollis said in the blog post.

However, as Hollis notes, this sort of flexibility isn't yet a reality. While NSX "has not been explicitly integrated and included with EVO:RAIL, there is no technical reason that it would not work," VMware says in its FAQ for EVO:RAIL.

2. VMware's Public Cloud Is A Differentiator

Hollis said VMware's vCloud Air public gives customers options for moving workloads back and forth from VMware private clouds, which is something hyper-converged vendors don't have.

"Ideally, customers could have access to a hyper-converged experience that works the same -- using the same tools and workflows -- whether the hardware assets are in the data center, in a public cloud, or ideally both using the same management tools, sharing behaviors, etc.," Hollis said in the blog post.

1. VMware Is More Strategic

Hollis said he understands why customers sometimes use technology to fulfill immediate needs without considering the long term implications. "They want a handful of boxes racked up ASAP, and aren’t that concerned with what happens down the road," Hollis said in the blog post.

But only VMware can give customers the peace of mind that comes with running their data centers entirely on VMware software, Hollis suggested.

"There are over a half-million IT shops who have built their data center strategy around VMware and vSphere. Every one of them already owns many of the key ingredients needed for a hyper-converged solution.

"More importantly, they trust VMware to take them forward into the brave new world of IT: virtualized, converged, hyper-converged, hybrid cloud and ultimately to a software-defined data center. And that’s a promise we intend to keep," Hollis said in the blog post.