Nutanix vs. VMware: History and Hybrid Solutions

The History: Nutanix and VMware

To understand the differences between Nutanix and VMware, we must first explore the origins of both organizations. Founded in 1998, VMware is credited with commercializing compute virtualization technologies with their popular vSphere product, enabling multiple virtual applications to run concurrently on a single physical host. This increased utilization of IT resources, which dramatically improved the economics of enterprise datacenter infrastructure.

Nutanix later pioneered the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market, modernizing IT design and operations by integrating enterprise storage services via distributed software inspired by web-scale cloud architectures. Nutanix software runs on a wide variety of off-the-shelf servers, delivering all types of virtualized and container-based applications, and eliminating the cost and complexity of traditional SAN storage arrays.

Both companies are based in California and are publicly traded. Interestingly, they began as technology partners, with Nutanix software providing a simpler and more efficient infrastructure to run applications hosted on VMware virtualization. In fact, Nutanix founders launched the company at VMWorld 2012 and went on to win the VMWorld Best of Show award in 2012 and 2013.

Today, while thousands of enterprise IT teams around the world use both companies’ products, the two companies are rivals in key markets, including hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), virtualization, IT automation, hybrid cloud management, software-defined file storage, network-based microsegmentation, and more.

How do Nutanix and VMware
Meet Customer Needs?

While the architectural differences are important to explore, both companies’ customer-facing skills should be briefly discussed, too. According to the Net Promoter Score, a measurement of customer loyalty and willingness to return to and recommend a company, both companies receive good-to-great scores. VMware’s score of 45 ranks close to the industry average of 56, whereas Nutanix’s score of 92 is remarkably higher than both the average and other organizations in the industry. 

Below is a breakdown of how the two companies are working to meet their customers’ IT requirements.

VMware:

During their first several years, VMware focused on delivering disruptive virtualization products that brought radically better efficiency to enterprise IT environments. Nowadays, while many IT teams have built their datacenter around VMware technologies, VMware’s clear focus is on increasing customer dependence on vSphere virtualization technologies and driving long-term lock-in to VMware products.

One of the best examples of this approach is their vSAN HCI software solution. Rather than building an HCI solution to support multiple hypervisors and allow customers to choose the best virtualization technology for their business, VMW engineers embedded vSAN deeply into the kernel of their ESXi hypervisor. As a result, IT teams become more locked into VMware technologies and forgo any future possibility of moving their environment to a non-VMware hypervisor to reduce licensing costs.

One other example involves VMware’s approach to helping customers build hybrid cloud environments. VMware has a public partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which allows VMware customers to run their VMware software in an AWS cloud environment. Unfortunately, however, VMware has chosen to offer their VMware Cloud (often referred to as “VMC”) only as a managed service. This effectively blocks IT teams from using existing AWS accounts and AWS credits to drive better overall economics and makes the customer more dependent on VMware-provided services.

On the other end is Nutanix, which delivers greater flexibility to customers. Nutanix products are widely known to enable customer choice—with solutions that allow IT teams to select the right technologies for each use case. For example, Nutanix HCI software supports the most popular hypervisors in the industry—VMware’s ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, and KVM (via Nutanix’s own license-free AHV hypervisor).

In fact, approximately 50% of Nutanix customers now elect to run ESXi on the Nutanix platform, while others can reduce virtualization licensing costs by using either Nutanix AHV or Microsoft Windows Server Hyper-V.

To support increasingly popular hybrid cloud designs, Nutanix offers full portability of licenses between on-premises private clouds and public cloud environments, such as AWS. This gives IT professionals investment protection, knowing that investments in private cloud infrastructure can be easily shifted to a public cloud initiative.

Additionally, because Nutanix modeled its solutions on popular cloud and SaaS offerings, Nutanix products are known for full lifecycle simplicity and ease of use, from initial deployment, production scaling, and troubleshooting.

Comparing Solutions from VMware and Nutanix

One of the main differentiators between Nutanix and VMware solutions lies in the product-to-product breakdown. See the charts below for a side-by-side comparison of hyperconverged infrastructure and hybrid cloud solutions offered. 

HCI
Nutanix
VMware
Hypervisors supported VMware ESXi, Nutanix AHV, Microsoft Hyper-V
VMware ESXi only
Additional hypervisor licenses required AHV virtualization included at no cost Virtualization licenses are sold separately 
Architectural design Modern web-scale architecture Legacy SAN technologies retrofitted into software
Native file storage services Yes, via Nutanix Files Yes, via File Services
Native object storage services Yes, via Nutanix Objects No native support. Third party products required
Integrated Database as a Service Yes, via Nutanix Era
No support
Integrated machine learning Yes No
Low-latency application performance via data locality Yes Architecturally not possible
Hybrid Cloud
Nutanix
VMware
Delivery model Customer managed for full flexibility Available only as a VMware-managed service
Public clouds supported AWS and Azure (announced support) AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
Integration with public clouds Natively integrated
Requires proprietary gateways for network integration
License portability between public and private clouds Fully supported Very limited support
VM hibernation to reduce costs Supported
Not available

Related Resources

The Definitive Guide to Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Building a Business Case for HCI

Top 20 HCI Questions Answered

10 Signs It's Time to Upgrade your IT Infrastructure

AHV: Best Practices Guide

Nutanix AHV Tech Note

Compare Nutanix vs. VMware

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