This week Nutanix officially announced Acropolis, their hypervisor based on KVM. As expected there has been a lot of fanfare and hype about this release….but should VMware, the obvious incumbent in this space, be concerned?
The short answer is that VMware should be concerned. But it’s less about Acropolis and more about VMware, their customers, and the industry as a whole. The biggest threat facing VMware from Acropolis is choice and ease of exercising that choice. Nutanix is just the first to make it stupid simple. Customers have been wanting more options for a while. There was a lot of initial interest in Hyper-V that just never seemed to materialize for a myriad of reasons.
vSphere is still the best hypervisor out there without question. VMware also has the best ecosystem in the industry. But we’ve seen a stagnation of relevant innovation in the private cloud space. Customers move to the latest version of vSphere much slower than they used to due to lack of compelling features. Many feel that their tools, like vROPs, are good but often overly complex for what they need. Due to these factors the bar to entry hasn’t been getting much higher over the last few years and this is what Nutanix hopes to exploit.
VMware has tried to create growth in these conditions by reworking licensing, persuading customers to move to larger suites, and expanding their portfolio. VMware has had obvious customer perception issues during some of their missteps in recent memory. Many customers I speak with are starting to feel like they are moving from happy VMware customers to obligated VMware customers, and that’s a problem.
So how do they maintain leadership? VMware needs to refocus. Nutanix is gaining traction due to their customer-focused appearance. Make things easy. Make them simple. Make them available. It’s something VMware has slowly moved away from. Listen to what customers want. Apple can tell customers what they want because they’ve earned that…very few others have that.
And let’s be clear. It’s not Nutanix or VMware. Nutanix states without question that almost all of their deployed systems run vSphere, but now it doesn’t have to be that way. Customers can click one or two buttons and shift the hypervisor and VMs to Hyper-V or Acropolis. There isn’t complete feature parity right now, but does that matter for some use cases such as DR, remote office, or dev/test? VMware needs to work to convince customers that the combination of “invisible” infrastructure and vSphere is the right choice and worth the continued investment.