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Nutanix AHV tire kickers say they avoid 'VMware tax'

Nutanix customers like the idea of the Acropolis Hypervisor, but only 15% have switched. Some are waiting for broader support from third-party products.

LAS VEGAS -- While the vast majority of Nutanix customers have yet to switch to its native KVM-based hypervisor,...

those who have said they saved a considerable amount of money and management time.

A year after firing a shot at VMware by introducing its Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV), Nutanix gave an update of the hypervisor's status this week at its .NEXT user show. Nutanix also previewed another feature aimed at reducing VMware's lock on the market.

Sunil Potti, Nutanix's chief product officer, said Tuesday during the opening day of the Nutanix .NEXT user conference that 15% of the hyper-converged vendor's customers have deployed AHV. Nutanix AHV launched at .NEXT 2015.

When Nutanix AHV rolled out, its executives denied it was competing with VMware. They claimed they were giving customers more options and staying neutral in the hypervisor game. But most Nutanix customers use VMware ESXi, so that's the hypervisor that will lose the most adopters as customers switch to AHV. When Nutanix people talk about AHV eliminating the hypervisor tax, they're obviously not talking about the free Microsoft Hyper-V or open source KVM hypervisors.

A year after launching AHV, when a Nutanix exec claims a positive relationship with VMware, it's tongue in cheek.

"We love VMware," said Howard Ting, chief marketing officer at Nutanix, during his general session talk to open the conference Monday. "We love them probably like our mother-in-law, but we love them nonetheless."

The most popular Nutanix feature previewed during the general session Monday was one that will reduce VMware's control over the management of Nutanix's hyper-converged systems. Discussing the next major Nutanix operating system -- code-named Asterix -- due later this year, Potti said it will allow multihypervisor support. That will enable customers to manage VMware ESXi without logging into vCenter, making it easier to migrate to Nutanix AHV. The announcement brought a cheer from the crowd of more than 2,500.

Customers save with Acropolis, multihypervisor complications remain

Owning pieces of the stack, such as the hypervisor, is key to Nutanix's goal to establish its technology as an enterprise cloud building block. The only Nutanix customer panel on the opening day of .NEXT featured companies who are running AHV, either alongside or instead of VMware. The customers agreed Nutanix AHV not only eliminated VMware license fees, but it was simpler to manage.

"We were more interested in not having to buy VMware, because it would become real expensive for us," said Doug Shibla, CTO of Intelligence-Solution LLC, an intelligence company based in Ashburn, Va. "We were running hundreds of nodes. The cost point for VMware would've killed us."

Shibla said Intelligence-Solution runs hundreds of Nutanix nodes. It started using Nutanix in 2013 with KVM hypervisors, and migrated to AHV soon after it became available. He said he moved 100 virtual machines with 90 TB of data overnight during the migration to AHV.

Jason Olivarez, systems administrator at Texas A&M University, said his office saved $30,000 a year in licensing by switching from VMware to Nutanix AHV on its hyper-converged appliances.

"I looked at the features VMware provided, what I'm using and what I need," he said. "Then, I looked at what AHV provided. I said, 'Why am I paying all this extra licensing when I'm getting the same stuff with AVH?' The VMware tax adds up."

VMware's hypervisor is more mature and has greater enterprise features than the fledgling AHV. But Jake Yang, director of global infrastructure at Nasdaq, based in New York, said he didn't need all those features when setting up infrastructure for a Splunk deployment.

"With VMware, we're probably using 80% of the feature set and paying for 100%," he said. "We were looking for basic functionality -- high availability, performance [and] management."

Yang said Nasdaq also has teams running VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V, depending on their workloads.

"We're aiming for a hypervisor-agnostic infrastructure," he said. "We believe the hypervisor is a commodity. We want to make it invisible to the end user."

Not all Nutanix customers are AHV-ready yet, though. Matt Day, IT director of Australia-based Langs Building Supplies, said parts of his technology still lack AHV support. He is running VMware Horizon for virtual desktops and uses a Rubrik backup appliance, and neither work with AHV yet.

"I have a deep desire to use AHV, but I don't have a legitimate way to back it up, and I won't touch AHV until I can back it up," he said. "But I like that we have flexibility and are not tied to a particular hypervisor. I don't want to be locked into a hypervisor platform."

Day said, "In the best of both worlds, I would use a mixed hypervisor cluster. I would run Horizon View on ESX and all other workloads on AHV."

Rubrik has pledged to support AHV, likely by the end of 2016. There is no timetable for Horizon support.

"We've talked to VMware; for some reason, they're not supporting other hypervisors yet," said Suda Srinivasan, Nutanix director of product marketing.

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