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Nutanix ramps up VMware opportunity

During its annual Next conference in Barcelona, Nutanix has expanded its hardware partner programme to grab new business from Broadcom

In his keynote presentation at Nutanix Next 2024 in Barcelona, Nutanix CEO Rajiv Ramaswami discussed the “elephant in the room”, which is the fact that Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware has created what he describes as “a major change and new vendor reality”.

Since completing the acquisition of VMware, Broadcom has made major changes to its partner programme, software bundles and software licensing costs to encourage customers to buy into the VMware Cloud (VCF) subscription service. This has led to some facing major price hikes.  

Ramaswami used his keynote presentation to discuss why Nutanix represents a safe bet. “We are here to be your long-term partner,” he told delegates. To capitalise on the opportunity Nutanix has ramped its partner certification programme. At Nutanix Next 2024, it announced that Cisco UCS is now one of the new hardware partners certified to run Nutanix.

Ramaswami said Nutanix has also begun to certify external storage hardware, starting with Dell PowerFlex IP-based storage. This effectively fills a gap for non-Nutanix customers, who have yet to migrate to its hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) product. The opportunity involves offering HCI as a stepping stone towards migrating away from VMware.

Consumer food manufacturer, Hero Group has been a customer of Nutanix since 2014. But after the company embarked on a datacentre consolidation project across Europe, it established two major Nutanix clusters in Frankfurt and Amsterdam. 

Looking at the fallout coming from Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware, Bas Dijkhuizen, head of competence centre infrastructure at Hero Group, said: “I think the whole Broadcom development will help that discussion because there's going to be more and more customers that say that I want to have an alternative. I think over the next couple of months people will want to have a Plan B.”

The Nutanix approach relies on organisations first migrating from a three-tier IT architecture based on separate compute, storage and network infrastructure to its hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Often, this migration happens as older datacentre equipment reaches end-of-life and needs replacing.

The Nutanix customers Computer Weekly spoke to all moved to Nutanix and used the HCI platform to run VMware. But given that Nutanix ships its own hypervisor as part of its HCI product, Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware has provided the company with a golden opportunity to offer existing customers an incentive to switch hypervisors.

Discussing the migration of hypervisors away from VMware to the Nutanix hypervisor, Acropolis, Dijkhuizen said: “I think 95% of what an IT admin would use in day-to-day work works better with the Nutanix user interface than in VMware vCenter. It’s just what you’re used to.” 

Rady Children’s Hospital worked with experts from Nutanix to look at how to migrate each of its 400+ workloads from the VMware-based environment onto Acropolis.

“We ran all the analysis with the help of Nutanix to figure out what the sizing of the virtual machine environment needed,” said Scott Voigts, CTO at Rady Children’s Hospital.

Following purchase of the Acropolis hypervisor environment, Nutanix provided a technical account manager to work with the hospital to move each workload, helping with the conversion of the VM environment from VMware into the Acropolis hypervisor.

“For some workloads,” said Voigts, “we were able to just push a button and migrate it from VMware right into the Acropolis hypervisor.” 

Migrating databases

However, Voigts said that database migrations were more difficult: “We had to rebuild the SQL Server database in Acropolis Hypervisor, then migrate the data to the new virtual machine.”

While a lot of workloads could  be moved directly from the VMware virtual machine to an Acropolis virtual machine, he said: “We had some data integrity errors when moving the database.” This is due to the challenge of keeping live database changes in synchronisation during the virtual machine migration.

“We found that it was easier, instead of doing a V2V [virtual machine to virtual machine] migration of database, to rebuild the database from scratch and then migrate the data over,” Voigts said, adding that this avoids data integrity issues. 

Another database system, the electronic medical records (EMR) application provided by Epic Software, required a different approach. The EMR has its own database, but this was not certified to run on the Nutanix hypervisor. However, Epic recently opened up its hardware stack to enable testing and evaluation.

Rather than attempt to migrate the virtual machine, Voigts said: “We rebuilt the database from scratch and tuned it to make sure it was capable of running the workload.”

He then went back to Epic Software, showing outputs from the test runs of the database, and this was enough to get the EMR certified for Acropolis. “We then migrated the data over and now our largest operational Epic database runs on the Acropolis hypervisor,” he said.

Out of the 400 or so applications Rady’s Children hospital runs, just six have yet to be migrated. Five of these are effectively legacy. With its picture archive and communication system (PACs), the software provider did not offer Nutanix certification, although it was certified for VMware and the KVM hypervisor.

Voigts said that initially, the PACs software provider was “leery” as Acropolis is not the same as VMware. However, after being told that the Acropolis hypervisor is based on KVM, he said: “This changed the conversation because they could get their head around KVM, whereas Acropolis is something that was not very well known to them.”

Nutanix customer Boyd Gaming has also been on an 18-month project to migrate VMware workloads onto the Nutanix Acroplis hypervisor (AHV).

When using VMware on top of Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure, Gregg Lowe, Boyd Gaming’s chief information officer, said AHV is inlcuded with Nutanix, which means there is no need to pay for another hypervisor to run virtual machines: “Looking at VMware, we are paying twice for the hypervisor. Why not pay only once [when you use Nutanix].”

What is clear from the conversations that Computer Weekly had with these VMware customers is that there is a genuine concern over the future of VMware under Broadcom’s ownership.

Discussing his past experience of dealing with Broadcom, Lowe described VMware as “a fantastic revenue stream for Broadcom”, which may last up to five to seven years.  

“I was a big CA fan, but under Broadcom, it stopped a lot of innovation,” said Lowe. “It takes continuous funds and R&D to treat the platform as it should be. I don’t see Broadcom investing in VMware.”

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