Meet the Proxinator: A hyperbox that puts SATA at the heart of VMware migrations

Proxmox box sees fresh dedicated hardware become part of the market for Virtzilla alternatives

Exclusive Every vendor capable of spelling "virtualization" has spent a good chunk of 2024 making a pitch for its products as a fine alternative for folks discomfited by Broadcom's takeover of VMware. Canadian outfit 45Drives has taken matters a step further by creating an entire product – the Proxinator – to lure those considering the open source Proxmox hyperconverged infrastructure stack.

The Proxinator is an appliance that comes pre-installed with Linux and Proxmox, and packs an AMD Epyc 7413, 7543, or 7713P CPU – silicon with 24, 32, and 64 cores apiece – 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of memory (with capacities up to 2TB optional), and either eight, 16 or 32 disk bays. 45Drives believes its biggest Proxinator can host 4,000 VMs. Prices range from $11,309 to $32,981.

The machines support SATA, SAS and NvME drives, with mechanical disks able to blend with solid state devices.

45Drives' founder Doug Milburn believes that tri-mode storage support is important, because plenty of VMware users have persisted with older hardware and will appreciate a migration path that doesn't involve disposing of all their existing disks.

"People want stability, especially with virtualization," Milburn told The Register. So while he acknowledged that SATA is legacy tech that won't be relevant in two or three years, he sees the option to bring your own disks and have them plug and play as attractive to VMware users who aren't thrilled by the need to migrate.

A unified disk controller will make the move easy, he pledged, for those unfamiliar with managing NvME. And as the Proxinator allows replacement of SAS and SATA disks with NvME, users won't be cut off from the latest storage options.

Milburn told The Register the Proxinator will boot Proxmox once you turn it on. For $2,499, 45Drives will configure, setup, and test the box to your liking, and migrate virtual machines from a vSphere rig.

Ongoing maintenance and support are also offered, and 45Drives already operates globally. Milburn told The Register that while it doesn't have follow-the-sun support operations, it has satisfied customers around the world and wakes up support people when needed.

45Drives has done similar things for years – baking boxes to run Ceph and ZFS. It builds around Supermicro motherboards, but does all of its own thermal and mechanical design.

Parent company Protocase specializes in just-in-time manufacturing for the defense and aerospace sectors (SpaceX is a client) and has lent its expertise and scale to 45 Drives, which employs around 60 of the group's 400-plus staff. 45Drives has revenue of around $100 million.

When the topic of VMware alternatives arises, The Register's readers speak very highly of Proxmox, though analysts of our acquaintance worry that the project's developers are hard to reach – even by the standards of FOSS efforts. 45Drives told us it has no trouble getting the access it needs to address technical matters.

45Drives is a smaller player than rivals like Lenovo, Dell, and HPE – all of which offer hardware tuned to run VMware alternatives from the likes of Nutanix, Microsoft (with Azure Stack and Arc), and open source providers like Red Hat. HPE has its own SimpliVity stack.

The likes of Scale Computing and iXsystems also ship hardware running open source hyperconverged stacks, and have a far longer track record than 45Drives.

The Proxinator will therefore face stiff competition. But the mere fact of its existence shows that competition for VMware users' hearts and minds is fierce, and vendors of all sizes see an opportunity worthy of their urgent attention.

And maybe, yours, too: if you're pondering a life after VMware, click here to contact our virtualization desk. ®

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