The VMware, Nutanix mud wrestle is hilarious, but which one is crying with fear on the inside?

Hint: It's VMware

Sysadmin blog So Nutanix is in yet another spat with VMware. The big ones are getting to be a yearly affair. That's great for them: these little soap operas seem amusing, but underneath it all, there are some very serious issues being hashed out.

VMware wants control of our data centers. The whole stack, top to bottom. It wants to be the only vendor in your data center making any margin, and everyone else can be commoditized into interchangeable (and irrelevant) suppliers of steel and silicon.

Nutanix wants to make VMware (and all other hypervisor vendors) irrelevant and commoditized, and wants to be the one supplying the software that makes all the margins. But VMware has the money, the very smart engineering bodies and brutal ruthlessness to play this game for keeps.

Nutanix, founded in 2009, takes clusters of servers, turns them into pools of storage, and runs virtual machines in those nodes so they can splash around in all that capacity. It supports VMware's ESXi and Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisors, and is saying: "Don't get locked in to VMware." I'm paraphrasing, of course.

Meanwhile, VMware is saying, and again I'm paraphrasing, "Nutanix isn't as good as us because it can't offer you our VMware-certified rubber-stamp of approval."

VMware has a point. There is a large gaggle of people out there who simply see a logo they recognize and then disable the soggy thing residing between their ears. The VMware brandname means something.

But do not underestimate Nutanix. It has fantastic people; many of the very best in the industry. Not only that, but Nutanix's CEO Dheeraj Pandey is wicked smart: he knows how to play the game, he knows how to motivate the troops, and he knows how to make a great product. He is not a cookie-cutter startup engineer-turned-CEO who knows how to turn bits on a disk into neat things but can't lead a team to save his soul.

The chains that bind

More to the point, Pandey is right. Brandname recognition means something, but there is considerable pushback against VMware's lock-in. This is seen not only by Nutanix, but by every other hypercovnergence vendor I've worked with. Why – oh please, do tell me why – would the IT industry blindly refuse to learn from our experiences with Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, EMC and Cisco? Lock-in is a killer.

If you're filling data centers with equipment, you should rely on fewer features if it means being in a better bargaining position with your suppliers. This is better than being 18 months ahead of your competitors on a handful of infrastructure ease-of-use features while being stuck with paying through the nose for the privilege.

Is a fully integrated, fully tested all-VMware solution more efficient than what its competitors can build? Absolutely. But by how much? 6 per cent? (Which is about what I see in actually production environments as an efficiency difference between VSAN and Maxta.)

How about 16 per cent? (Which is the difference between VSAN and Maxta I can create in the lab if I really work at it.)

What increase in efficiency is worth the increased cost and the loss of bargaining position? What percentage of efficiency is worth the cost of lashing yourself and your company to an IT mega-vendor that (judging by its vtax and pricing) thinks little of its customers, less of its partners (PEXtanix, among others), and believes it deserves your custom rather than working to earn it?

We've all been down that road before. Microsoft. Oracle. IBM. Cisco. Do we really want to go there with VMware? Do we want to let VMware be the one to build the first true software-defined infrastructure, and then effectively own us until the end of time?

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