Nutanix looking for a way to burst VMware's bubble

Hypervisor wars and nullifying EVO:RAIL

Box of tricks

Nutanix has introduced an all-flash box. It has started a high-level software expert certification scheme – the Nutanix Platform Expert – said to be more demanding than most, and wants to encourage a Nutanix eco-system.

With Nutanix reaching a $300m-per-year run rate, everything looks rosy, or would if VMware hadn't devised its EVO:RAIL concept.

This is VMware's own SW-defined HCIA, with its own VSAN software doing away with networked storage, and a hardware design that could have been developed from Nutanix's cookbook. Partners build EVO:RAIL kit, and those partners include Dell, EMC (with its VSPEX BLUE offering for its partners), Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, SuperMicro and more.

EVO:RAIL is VMware's way of saying "Get lost, why don't you?" to the HCIA startups. They can maybe out-scale EVO:RAIL in node numbers, surpass it in market niches and beat it on point software and hardware features but they can't match or outflank the juggernaught that is VMware and VMware's partners' channel.

What to do?

VMware is proprietary software and VMware does lead the server virtualisation market, so supporting Hyper-V is a niche tactic and this is Gridstore's tactic. Nutanix supports Hyper-V and also KVM, so that gives it the edge over VMware in shops that don’t appreciate VMware's lock-in and pricing.

But the bulk of the server virtualisation market is VMware. Nutanix has to play there and somehow preserve its existence and appeal against the relentless onslaught from Pat Gelsinger's company. It can’t rely on hardware superiority – SimpliVity's natural play – as it’s a commodity hardware shop.

Our understanding is that has a two-pronged strategy, a software pitchfork on which it hopes to impale VMware. There are three prime VMware weaknesses: (1) proprietary, (2) pricey, and (3) wasteful of server resources. All its virtual machines (VMs) have to include a full operating system, as well as the app or apps they run, meaning Windows, Unix, Linux or whatever.

So, one strategy that suggests itself is to provide an open source or community edition of Nutanix, and rely on service and support revenues from an enlarged customer base – a tricky manoeuvre which did for Sun and its open-sourcing of Solaris.

Another is to build its own “hypervisor” and support Docker, containerised apps which don't need a guest OS as apps in VMs do, but rely instead on a Docker engine in the server to provide the OS facilities they need.

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