Navigating the New Hypervisor Landscape

May 15, 2024

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The winds of change are blowing through the IT landscape. Building out a 5-year plan for your data center may be more difficult today than it was when Moore's law was in its heyday. Purchasing decisions aren't just made based on whose support made me angry the least recently, since a server was just an Intel chipset in a slightly different looking box. Once SSD (and now NVMe) started working its way into storage, really any vendor could hit fairly impressive IOPS and latency numbers. VMware was the tool that allowed us to make all of this commodity hardware completely interchangeable. It helped us avoid the dreaded "vendor lock-in." 

Now that our workloads were "portable" we could put them on any hardware we wanted.. as long as that hardware was in a data center that we could physically walk into. Which leads to the next phase of workload management, which is "the CIO told me everything has to go to the cloud because it's cheaper." I'll fast forward a little bit to the end of that story, which is "turns out it wasn't cheaper." But that didn't matter, because "we're more agile now, and we can do DevOps, which I'm told is worth the price premium." Generally, when this statement is made in an organization, it's tied to a workflow that is based on a specific public cloud provider. The only problem with this is now we're right back to vendor lock-in. Moving to a different cloud is not impossible, but many things need to be rewritten to use a different API call, images need to be refactored to get deployed into a different infrastructure, and administrators need to learn an entirely new interface for other management functions.

Let's get around to the elephant in the room. Broadcom has purchase VMware and made a few changes. They almost entirely dissolved the partner program, including with major server manufacturers. They laid off R&D, and significantly reduced the frequency of updates. Changing the licensing model was likely the most immediate impact to their customers, however. IF you used to have a basic license with a couple of add-ons, you can't renew that. You now need one of the two bundles, which are priced according to the fact that they include everything. Also, if you owned a perpetual license, that doesn't matter because they only offer a subscription option now. Most renewals we have seen are between 3x and 7x the cost of the previous renewal prices, with some hitting 12x-15x. The primary responsibility of Broadcom is to the shareholders, and since the stock has more than doubled in the last 12 months, they are doing what they are "supposed" to do.

Where does this leave the customers that don't want to pay the significant premium that Broadcom has placed on VMware licensing? Working under the assumption that applications have not already been refactored for containerization, since regular VMs are what generally runs in a VMware environment, it would not be very efficient to move those workloads directly to the cloud. That leaves us with on-premises options. Currently, the main options for that are:

  • VMware (obviously)
  • Hyper-V (except Windows Server 2019 went end of standard support in Jan 2024 and Server 2022 and newer will not contain Hyper-V, so that's already not really viable)
  • AzureStack (like Hyper-V, but with microtransactions)
  • Proxmox (cool, but no enterprise support available)
  • OpenShift Virtualization (containerization platform that technically supports VMs)
  • XCP-ng (remember Citrix? Pepperidge Farms remembers, but it's open source now)
  • Oxide (rack-scale hyperconverged, cool, but still really new)
  • AHV by Nutanix (enterprise-grade, but requires compatible hardware)

Each of these options has its own unique benefits and caveats. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some that make a lot more or less sense when you dig into the details. It's hard to beat the price of Proxmox, and its community support is growing, but is NBD support out of Germany sufficient for your needs? OpenShift Virtualization has a big company behind it for support, but do you want to be the only one in the state running VMs on containers? Nutanix has a great track record of supporting enterprise customers on their own virtualization platform (AHV) as well as others (VMware, Hyper-V), but did you just spend a lot of money on a shiny new SAN?

Every use case is different, so being able to weigh all the options against the specific requirements of your environment is critical. Don't feel like you just need to keep heading down the path of least resistance. There's a good chance there are options out there that you haven't thought of or that you've brushed aside because of how the technology used to work. There's also a good chance that talking through these options with an experienced partner, like AE Business Solutions, will help ensure you make the right decision for your organization.

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