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Can a hyper-converged appliance be multi-hypervisor?

It's possible to design hyper-converged hardware to run several hypervisors at the same time, but various factors make this a scenario we're unlikely to see for some time.

A single hyper-converged appliance can sometimes support multiple hypervisors, but you can't run multiple hypervisors at the same time.

The primary barrier to simultaneously running multiple hypervisors is that the hypervisor expects to have full control over the server's hardware. If multiple hypervisors simultaneously ran on a single server, they would fight over resource ownership.

Another issue is the hyper-converged layer. While it's generally true that hyper-converged hardware comprises multiple servers, those servers are designed by the manufacturer to run a common hypervisor and a common management tool such as vCenter.

It is theoretically possible for a manufacturer to design a multi-platform hyper-converged appliance that allows a data storage administrator to assign hypervisors on a node-by-node basis. Such a system would likely be configured out of the box to support cross-platform management. Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager, for instance, is designed to manage Hyper-V servers, but it is also capable of managing VMware servers as long as vCenter is installed.

However, no current hyper-converged vendors offer such a system. My guess is that no such system will be created in the near future because the whole point of hyper-converged hardware is to offer a simplified, cost-effective environment that is guaranteed to work. A multivendor offering would increase licensing costs, complexity and the likelihood of compatibility issues in the system.

Another interesting way of looking at the question of multi-hypervisor support in a hyper-converged appliance is whether it might be possible to migrate from one hypervisor to another. Some vendors offer everything necessary to switch hypervisors. But storage architecture plays a big role in the ease with which such a transition might be made. Virtual storage appliances, for example, would be easier to connect to a competing hypervisor than proprietary storage directly controlled by the hypervisor.

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This was last published in January 2016

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