Nutanix vs VMWare - The Difference

Alright I think I might have stumbled upon the core of the difference between VMWare and Nutanix. More tech knowledgeable people please correct me where I am wrong.

Starting with basics HCI replaces the the three tier data center by converging virtualized storage, compute, and networking. We’ve put that to bed I think.

VMWare’s HCI Software product is known vSAN.

Nutanix’s HCI Software is known as the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform.

Reading through the reviews of the two HCI offerings it sounds almost as if it’s two different products in the way the customers were discussing the products. Not just the normal thing of the same product from different vendors, but many of the reviews just seemed like different products. The vSAN reviews used a lot of language about the storage this or the storage that.

That’s because vSAN is not the complete VMWare HCI product. It can be considered that I guess but it’s largely what it sounds like. It’s VMWares addition of software defined virtualized Storage Area Network.

See many customer reviews lamented the licensing fee structure of VMW. Many talked about making sure you had all the licenses lined up before you attempted to deploy etc. I didn’t understand it until I saw this comment from a customer that points out the difference.

“vSAN is a hypervisor converged storage that is optimized for vSphere virtual infrastructure.”

What do you dislike most about the product or service?

“Obviously vSAN license are in addition to a vSphere licenses, so cost is one factor.”

vSphere is kind of what made VMW. It is their legacy compute virtualization platform for creating virtual machines that they’ve had for years. It is a mature low growth platform with hundreds of thousands of customers. It is also where their hypervisor lives. It is an enterprise license product.

It appears in order to deploy vSAN and create a VMW HCI Datacenter you have to first have a vSphere license and platform. vSphere provides the compute function to the storage networking vSAN package. You essentially need two VWW platforms with separate licenses to get your foot in the HCI door.

It’s hard to find somewhere that directly states this somewhere outside of that review. But look at this quick start guide for setting up DellEMC VxRail vSAN powered HCI appliance.…

Under licensing “Purchase vSphere license or apply licenses”. The VxRail comes with the vSAN licenses embedded.

A Nutanix HCI appliance with Nutanix Enterprise Cloud license includes Acropolis Operating System (AOS) which is all three tiers in a single OS. I’m not saying that this is makes Nutanix a better choice, but I believe it is definitely a major difference between the two. Basically VMW has bolted on a vSAN to an existing product to make the whole thing HCI. It’s more like a mud blood than a pure blood in the magical world of HCI.

So what does that mean for all those market share numbers I wonder?



So what does that mean for all those market share numbers I wonder?

Evolution tacks on new features. Technology development often starts with a clean slate even while it relies on what has come before.

I mentioned switching costs as an important aspect in gaining market share. When you learn to drive a car you have learned to drive almost any car, no switching cost. With software often switching costs are high. I’ve been using computers for ever, Macs for about 30 years. When I have to work with Windows I get totally frustrated – high switching cost.

High switching costs keep VMWare customers locked in even if Nutanix offers a better product. New users are more likely to prefer Nutanix over VMWare. VMWare could do a total makeover but how likely is that? Mac made a total makeover switching from System 9 to OS-X but Apple was going though a near death experience.

I don’t have a position in Nutanix but I would rely on Nutanix’s growth and fundamentals to make an investing decision. With HCI, not being a Gorilla type investment, market share is less important than performance, cash flow, and profitability.

Denny Schlesinger


Thanks, Darth and Denny.

Denny brings up switching costs as was pointed out recently by another poster. Essentially, the poster’s concern was that many organization won’t migrate from VMWare to Nutanix due to switching costs/difficulty.

My question if anyone knows is how hard is this to do? I would think Nutanix has to address this question all of the time. As it is, many of their current customers have had to make this transition at least to a degree.

How long does a migration take? Does a customer need to be running two different environments (VMWare and Nutanix) for some time until the transition is complete? Are there additional costs associated with this?

Here is one article albeit from 2016 and specifically talking about hypervisor migration, but it sounds as simple as one click.…

Hyper-convergence startup Nutanix, which unveiled technology last summer that converts VMware-based workloads to its own KVM-based Acropolis hypervisor format, made it available to customers for the first time in an update released last week.

If anyone has any thoughts on the matter it is appreciated.




Can’t speak to the actual “how difficult” but I do know that each VM has to be ran through the converter and then you would need to test those in non-production and once you have enough confidence, move to production. This can be time consuming but once you have confidence and test plan, can be done in bulk.

One thought I had, I haven’t found the numbers for this yet, is looking at NTNX repeat business and/or growth with existing customers. I would expect that med to large enterprises are not doing large deals out of the gate. They will do proof-of-concepts (POCs) and run a set of workloads for sometime until they have confidence. Then I would expect to see larger deals.


One thought I had, I haven’t found the numbers for this yet, is looking at NTNX repeat business and/or growth with existing customers. I would expect that med to large enterprises are not doing large deals out of the gate

The only data point I know of is the growth from Global 2000 customers. From their initial purchase, they purchase 7.3x in some time frame greater than 18 months.

That doesn’t tell us a ton of detail, but is something.



I’m not an IT guy so the only thing I have to go by is user experience reviews on Gartner.

First though we need to figure out what we’re talking about. I think the question is how expensive and how difficult is it to Migrate from being a VMWare customer to a Nutanix customer. For Nutanix to win over a VMWare customer if you will.

Define VMWare customer. I think we’re talking about two subsets of customers. The harder one would be the VMWare customer that is both a vSphere customer and a vSAN customer,or a VMWare HCI customer. The one that has made the HCI choice already. For one vSAN launched in 2014 or 2015. What’s the shelf life of infrastructure hardware, two or three years maybe? So only the early customers would be coming due for new equipment. While VMWare has 17,000 vSAN customers now that would put the available pool here in probably the very low thousands. Another reason would be that the nature of HCI buildout is usually start somewhat small and scale as you grow adding additional nodes over time. So while some equipment may be coming due for an update you could have much more that’s still within its shelf life. So customers would only be replacing a portion of what they run so in most cases it would be rare to do an entire switch out one would think. That’s all before you get to the cost and difficulty question. Winning over VMWare HCI customers will probably be small potatoes for Nutanix for the time being. The market is growing so fast it doesn’t matter at this stage.

It’s the other VMWare customer that is important for Nutanix and it’s the ones that are new to HCI. It’s the customer that has 3 tier infrastructure and is a vSphere customer for their VMs. It must be noted that the VMWare hypervisor that controls VMs is native to the vSphere product and is called ESXi. As has been mentioned Nutanix Enterprise Cloud (HCI) is hypervisor agnostic supporting I think 4 other HVs besides Nutanix’s AHV including VMWare’s HV.

These customers that would be Nutanix customers (numbering in the hundreds of thousands I believe though I imagine the enterprise customer count we’re talking about is smaller) would migrate to Nutanix infrastructure and keep the VMWare HV and continue paying the license for vSphere or migrate fully to Nutanix AHV and no longer have to pay a license for that VMWare hypervisor as it’s part of the Nutanix platform. Nutanix said that 35% and growing of customers are using the Nutanix AHV so clearly many are keeping their old HV and paying for additional licenses. The Prism dashboard provides all the interface for the HV no matter which brand is used.

Going by the Gartner Peer Insights reviews of Acropolis Hypervisor the process from VMWare HV to AHV is easy and customers are happy with the process and Nutanix support seems particularly beloved. AHV had the highest rating of all the Hypervisors. A couple of comments from just the first few reviews.…

“Moving to Nutanix as a pure play (utilizing Nutanix AHV Acropolis Hypervisor) will create numerous challenges you likely take for granted today with the other players from that virtualization layer. Its often touted that the integration and simplicity along with removing the “v-tax” can be the best driving factor for the decision, but do not overlook the operating costs as the overhead will shift to FTE. This can be minimized of course through scripting and other automation/configuration management tools which can interface with the solution (SSH and Bash, PowerShell). A trade off possibly worth it’s while however when being enabled to patch systems much quicker and with much less stress and planning than previously available.” v-tax is of course all the VMW license fees. I wanted to include this one as it’s about the most negative one I came across but still concluded its worth it.

“We moved to Nutanix AHV from EMC VNX5300 and VMWare on Dell hosts. This was the BEST decision our company could have ever made. The move was seemless and the hardware and software is ROCK SOLID. Moving the VMs was a breeze and our vendors were there to help every step of the way. I actually configured everything myself out of the box…super simple!”

“It’s just so rock solid. No VM issus, no “vmware tools” issues or bugs like we used to have all the time. It literally is “1 click” upgrades with AHV. Support is just insanely good”

“Networking is crucial for this setup. If you plan on upgrading your switches firmware, make sure to schedule a complete outage and power down all vms before hand.”

“AHV has been a seamless migration from VMware ESXi. We have full control over our VM’s from an easy-to-use Prism Interface…Conversion from VMware to AHV was seamless. The Nutanix Xtract tool provided yet another easy-to-use interface and handled all guest operations such as driver install and retaining networking information.”

“Implementation, migration from VMWare, and support of the hypervisor has been very smooth. The only hangup we’ve run into was full support of our current backup vendor. One key feature of it is not currently supported within AHV.”

“The migration from VMWare to AHV was really simple. After the migration our systems continue to function normal without any issues.”

“Migration from ESXi to AHV was a breeze”.

Again, almost entirely from just the first few. I think we can see that the migration issue is really a non event and fast. Found no complaints whatsoever about migration process from VMWare. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive though sure AHV itself isn’t perfect as it doesn’t support every single use case yet. But it excels at the rest.

The migration for those customer’s keeping vSphere looks even eaiser so won’t go there. Burned out on Nutanix I think. Gonna look at cloud security gateways and Zscaler I think. Maybe see what Nvidia is doing at CES.



they purchase 7.3x in some time frame greater than 18 months.

Which doesn’t mean much if the original purchase was a pilot project other than that the pilot was more or less successful.