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Ditching VMware over the Broadcom buy? Here are some of your options

What's your contingency plan?

Opinion Broadcom has yet to close the deal on taking over VMware, but the industry is already awash with speculation and analysis as to how the event could impact the cloud giant's product availability and pricing.

If Broadcom's track record and stated strategy tell us anything, we could soon see VMware refocus its efforts on its top 600 customers and raise prices, and leave thousands more searching for an alternative.

The jury is still out as to whether Broadcom will repeat the past or take a different approach. But, when it comes to VMware's ESXi hypervisor, customer concern is valid. There aren't many vendor options that can take on VMware in this arena, Forrester analyst Naveen Chhabra, tells The Register.

So, for customers worrying about VMware's trajectory or at least starting to scan for contingency plans, we are putting forth four virtualization stacks worth investigating. These obviously aren't the only ones out there on planet Earth. Let us know via email or the comments if there any others you'd like to recommend, and we'll share those, too.

1. Nutanix

Nutanix is a VMware competitor worth considering, especially for customers looking for virtual desktop infrastructure or desktop-as-a-service functionality.

Nutanix AHV is based on the vendor's Acropolis virtualization stack and Prism control plane. In addition to native virtualization, the platform also supports a range of competing virtualization stacks, such as VMware's ESXi and Microsoft's Hyper-V.

Nutanix virtualization stack is also validated for use with a large library of popular operating systems and workloads from the likes of Red Hat, Microsoft, SAP, Veeam, and Citrix to name a few.

And for customers interested in containerization as well as virtualization, AHV also supports Docker or Kubernetes.

2. Oracle

Then there's Oracle, which offers a suite of hypervisors for everything from desktop virtualization to datacenter-scale deployments.

For enterprise use cases, Oracle's KVM-based virtualization is built around the company's Linux OS and can be used to run virtual machines or "hard provision" workloads with core or socket-based licensing models.

These deployments are managed via Oracle's Linux Virtualization Manager, which provides a centralized dashboard for deploying, managing, and monitoring clusters, hosts, and VMs.

The combination boasts support for Oracle Linux, Red Hat, SUSE Linux, Ubuntu, Solaris, and Microsoft Windows.

3. Microsoft

For customers closely aligned with Microsoft's software ecosystem, Redmond offers a pair of ESXi and vSphere alternatives. For small businesses that just need to run a couple of virtual machines, there's Microsoft's venerable Hyper-V, which ships with Windows Server.

It should be noted Microsoft changed the licensing model for Hyper-V in Windows Server 2022 to limit the number of VMs supported on its Essentials and Standard editions. These limitations aren't present in Windows Server Datacenter edition. The hypervisor is supported through 2031 and, for what it's worth, the version of Hyper-V that launched in Windows Server 2019 is supported through 2029.

Meanwhile, for enterprises managing large virtualization clusters, there's Microsoft Azure Stack. The platform is based on a combination of Hyper-V and the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) tech used in Azure.

Azure Stack essentially extends the public cloud provider's control system for virtualization, containerization, networking, and storage to customer's existing on-prem infrastructure.

The tight integration with Azure may have benefits for customers looking to migrate workloads to the cloud or take advantage of the company's cloud-based services on prem.

4. Red Hat and OpenShift Virtualization

For customers entrenched in the Red Hat camp, the choice is non-trivial because while the Linux distro giant offers Red Hat Virtualization – a full suite of virtualization and storage services – development of the product has stopped and it enters a maintenance-only phase in August 2022. After another two years, it enters an extended-life phase that runs until August 31, 2026.

Red Hat now recommends OpenShift Virtualization, which runs virtual machines side-by-side with containers and treats them as native Kubernetes objects within OpenShift. Adopting OpenShift Virtualization therefore means learning a container-centric management approach.

OpenShift Virtualization is built on top of OpenShift, and uses KubeVirt – a KVM framework inside of a Kubernetes container – to run VMs. It also provides a centralized dashboard for deploying, managing, and monitoring clusters, nodes, VMs, and containers.

For Red Hat customers, or those considering a switch from VMware, the platform provides tools for migrating customers' virtual machines.

Time to containerize?

Another question customers looking for VMware alternatives may want to consider is whether to take the opportunity to modernize their apps through containerization. This is by no means a trivial task, notes Chhabra.

"I have my applications running on a hypervisor stack, but for me to even approach and run a Kubernetes or container platform, I will need to make changes to my application," he said. Those are "massive efforts from an application development standpoint."

And that assumes the end user even wants to modernize the application. There are many applications on which customers may still rely, but they have no interest in investing the resources to modernize them, Chhabra added.

But for enterprises that have already prioritized application modernization, container migration may be worth considering. And when it comes to independent software vendor (ISV) workloads, many are already validated to run on Docker or in Kubernetes clusters.

Before you make the switch

Before committing to any new platform, customers should validate whether it meets their needs, something Chhabra notes is far from guaranteed.

"Don't resort to a knee-jerk reaction," he said. "Make calculated decisions."

This means taking stock of existing product and support contracts to get a better understanding of the organization's dependence — both perceived and real — on VMware.

What's more, customers need to be mindful of ISV compatibility, or they may find that their workloads may not be supported even if they manage to get them running on a competing virtualization stack.

"Not all ISVs will certify non-VMware stack at the same speed at which you want them," Chhabra said. "Just because the customer wants to move off VMware doesn't mean the entire ISV ecosystem will move at your speed."

For example, if a customer has deployed a SAP workload on VMware ESXi, and they now want to migrate to a competing hypervisor, they may have to wait for SAP to certify their software to run on that platform. "You cannot outpace your ISV partners," he said.

And even if a viable alternative is available, IT teams may need time to develop the skills necessary to implement and integrate a new virtualization stack into their workflow. ®

Editor's note: This article was revised to note the upcoming end-of-life of Red Hat Virtualization and Microsoft's plans for Hyper-V.

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