#VMware vs. #Nutanix: Let’s be positive rivals

In 2016 I had the chance to attend 3 bigger vendor events. VMworld Las Vegas as a blogger, VMworld Barcelona as a regular Partner and Nutanix .NEXT in Vienna.

I summarized my experiences about the conferences in several blog posts and videos (Las Vegas / Barcelona) and try to argument why the rivalry between VMware and Nutanix is a good thing (for their customer and their products).

… a wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends

Nutanix_vs_VMware

I will come back to the quote in the image in the end of my article ;-)

VMware

Founded in 1998. Inventor of the x-86 hypervisor; Changer of the whole server and datacenter industry;  Very mature and profitable (market capitalization: ca. 33bn$, estimated profit in 2016: 1.5bn$, customers: 400.00); Threatened by Public-Cloud solutions and a technological development that makes the hypervisor a commodity (which means every vendor can deliver a similar functionality with an equivalent quality).

I work intensively with VMware since 2010. I joined the club when technologies like vMotion (moving live-VMs from one Server to another) were unbelievable fancy technologies.

The vCenter has always been a great solid solution running as a single and dedicated instance on Windows Server with a Microsoft SQL Database. The .NET vSphere Client was limited to Windows but quiet fast and easy to use.

For sure the product was further developed over the years with more and more features coming in. But with every release from 5.0 on I had the feeling that the benefit for the customer were becoming less and less.

Similar to the marginal utility theorie within the economics field.

‘The more features you have, the less benefit additional features bring to you’.

The product was indeed getting better (even though vCenter 5.0 SSO or vSphere 6.0 Backup API bugs drove us nuts), but I realized from every years reoccurring ‘vSphere What’s New’ classes (and customers excitements about the Upgrades) that the pure server virtualization topic was getting more and more boring.

VMware operated nearly alone in the field as a enterprise hypervisor vendor. Microsoft and Hyper-V tried, but could not keep up closing the technological gap to vSphere. XenServer … nah…. KVM…. Same problem … increased complexity and lack of knowledge in the broad-market.

VMware left the Start-Up (v)Sphere and has become a very profitable, stable business in the technology market. A market that is pretty fast, fluctuated and brutal for the weak and non-adopters. Tech companies typically can rise fast, but can also fall even faster when they don’t innovate and react to a changing market. Kodak, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems are a few samples that failed or at least struggled in those changing environments.

To remain competitive in the market VMware changed their strategy. Becoming the leader of the software-defined datacenter within private clouds or service provider hosted clouds. Abstract all components (Network with NSX, Storage with VVOLs and vSAN, Computing with vSphere) and automate (vRealize orchestrator) everything into a self-service web portal (vRealize Automation and vCloud Director).

We could see where this was going over the last years. VMware wanted to become the technological provider for our ‘on-premises’ and on-demand infrastructure. Abstract everything and manage the workload (Container & VMs) independent of their location (cloud or own facilities) based on flexible policies (Security, Performance, Availability, Recoverability).

The products and the development of VMware sound really reasonable. So why were the feedback of the customer not so excited every year about the announcements.

Most people used only vSphere intensively out of the VMware stack. Product like vRealize Operations, Automation, Business, etc. were nice to have but not critical to the success in companies. Network virtualization and storage integration or replacement through hyper-converged solutions (like VMware’s vSAN) were (and are still blocked) by todays organizational boundaries (Network team vs. Server Team vs. OS Team vs. Storage Team).

Thanks to the great community, partner and sales network VMware made sure the profits were rising and new products like vSAN & NSX were gaining more and more customers.

But somehow over years the core product was not gaining the attention within the development people would liked to have. Hypervisor and its management became somehow commodity. No one else did it better, but the wow effect on the customer site was nearly zero (which is not a bad thing, since it’s somehow describing the maturity of a company).

Increasing vCenter importance -> yes

vCenter high availability -> nope,

Backup Problems -> yes

Flash based Web Client satisfaction rate -> 0.03%

Licenses -> vSphere Enterprise removed and prices increased

Inter- and intra-product integration -> Lack of integration within and among the EUC vs Automation vs Datacenter Virtualization (at least it somehow feels like this)

I know we can argument a lot here,….. but I don’t want to…. that would be a nice bar-talk.

Let’s pause right here with the VMware part (so we are in the beginning of 2016) and I will come back to the latest development announced during both VMworld after I talked about Nutanix.

Nutanix

Nutanix, founded in 2009 (and therefore 11 years after VMware). Located in San Jose, 27 KMs away from VMware’s headquarter in Palo Alto.

Nutanix wants to simply the infrastructure or better: make the datacenter infrastructure invisible with hyperconverged systems. Integrating Storage and Computing components in one scale-out appliance. Two core competencies that are found everywhere within the Nutanix portfolio:

Everything is distributed & simple, simple, simple. Distributed Scale-Out data fabric for storage (Acropolis) and the management of the components (Prism) trying to offer its customer a 1-click feeling.

Creating their own Acropolis hypervisor aka AHV (besides actively supporting all relevant hypervisors like vSphere, Hyper-V, etc.), I thought in the beginning Nutanix is planning to enter the datacenter-computing market with basic functionality we know for several years (but in a much smarter, easier and faster way).

Nutanix started with keeping basic thing simple and than I must admit that I was wrong with my last pre-Nutanix .NEXT conf article. Nutanix enhanced their solution to meet enterprise requirements (from a business and operating perspective) and evolved their hyper-converged appliances to the ‘Enterprise Cloud’ (I don’t like this marketing term) by including integrated file-services, block-level services, self-services, and many many more.

Nutanix has a simple goal: Become Amazon AWS within private enterprise clouds. Everything should be done in a simple and slick 1-click way.

Why does it work so well? Nutanix hired the right people: well known VMware experts (VCDX, vExpert and Bloggers), developers and product manager that understand the customer-needs and the technology.

At the same Nutanix did pretty well in creating a robust management platform. Creating core components that are running in a distributed way out-of-the box are a huge advantage of modern or newer created applications nowadays (compared to older client-server applications like the vCenter 12 years ago).

Having a robust and stable platform, that can be easily extended and improved is a very powerful weapon for satisfied growth.

A successful IPO, euphoric customer, a great community… Yeah: I liked them before attending the .NEXT conference in Vienna (which was completely sold with around 1200 attendees). During the conference I took my chances to talk to customers about their satisfaction level and the result was really impressive. For sure there were smaller problems from time to time, but the overall quality of the products and the especially the support seem to deliver an impressive peace of service (if designed properly).

The customer spirit was completely different from that one I experienced during lasy years VMworld. But let’s stay fair: VMworld had around 30.000 attendees worldwide. VMware fans had their wow and fresh in love moments. With VMware we are married with children, with Nutanix we are 17 and found the love of our life :P.

Nutanix has great growth rates, but at the moment at a price. They are not profitable at the moment and we will see if the support-satisfaction level will remain that way once they have grown to a mature profitable and therefore maybe boring company.

VMware vs Nutanix

Why do I compare both of them? Because they are quiet enemies that might influence each other positive. A few days before the Formula 1 final in Abu Dhabi I stumbled about this pretty cool statement of Niki Lauda in the movie ‘RUSH’ about the rivalry with James Hunt (that nearly costs Niki’s life in 1976).

“Stop thinking of it as a curse to have been giving an enemy in life. It can be blessing to. “a wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends”. And you know what? He was right. Now look at us. ….. Both champions of the world”

For sure aligning this (Hollywood) statement to billion dollar technology companies is far too romantic. But somehow I still like it. Nutanix is evolving pretty well and VMware suddenly brings out a release with many of the features the core-customer / admins always wanted. HTML5 Web Client, REST based vCenter APIs, HA-vCenter Appliance, Integrated vCenter Backups besides the great progress VMware is doing with vSAN (5500 customers worldwide) and NSX (for its future security cross cloud world.

From a feature set vSphere 6.5 is one of the most exciting releases I have experienced so far. In reality Nutanix impact might be non-existing but at least I am really looking forward to see both companies evolving and growing (makes sense since I make my living out of this virtualization thing).

Nutanix needs VMware since most of their customers are still using vSphere. VMware does not necessarily need Nutanix for their market success, but maybe they can get inspired to bring the wow-effect back to their customer and users.

VMware and Nutanix…. Please remain positive enemies and I will also follow popcorn-tweets within the social media in the future :)

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