The rise of native virtualization

“Desire is irrelevant. I am a machine.”

– Terminator 3

Virtualization as a stand-alone product has had an incredible run the past 15 years and has transformed IT across the globe. But server virtualization, like storage deduplication and compression before it, has morphed from stand-alone product to standard feature. As I predicted back in a 2015 blog post, Gartner has now even retired its Magic Quadrant for virtualization.

Why Native Virtualization?

I get rankled when I hear Nutanix reps talk to prospective customers about how AHV saves them the “vTax” vs. legacy virtualization; people tend to associate low cost, and especially “free”, with not as good. Microsoft, for example, made no headway in terms of market share against vSphere despite shouting for years about Hyper-V’s much lower cost  in advertisements, videos, success stories, white papers, analyst reports, ROI tools and on its web site. It was only once the company started focusing on the benefits of virtualization that it started to gain some traction.

Virtualization is hardly something with which to take chances. A CIO would look silly explaining to the Board that although their environment was down for the past two days, they saved money on the hypervisor software. Companies can simply not afford to compromise with virtualization which is a big part of why VMware has enjoyed such a dominant market share for so many years.

But with an increasing amount of virtualization taking place in the cloud on hypervisors other than ESXi, this market share is eroding. Nutanix is also starting to make a dent in on-premises market share with its own virtualization solution, AHV, based on the open source Linux KVM solution also used by Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon EC2, and Red Hat Enterprise solutions. Nutanix reported in its Q2 2018 earnings that its customers now use AHV for 30% of NX nodes. Even more significantly, a multitude of departments and agencies making up Nutanix’s largest customer, the US. Federal government, are leveraging AHV for 74% of all the Nutanix nodes they purchased in calendar year 2017.

License savings may be one of the drivers that government, and other customers, use to justify switching to AHV, but it is the integration of virtualization into the software-defined infrastructure and the resulting simplicity enabled that is truly compelling. Nutanix Prism provides a single pane for managing the entire infrastructure stack whether in a single datacenter or spread throughout data centers and offices globally. AHV deploys, manages  and protects VMs holistically as part of the Enterprise Cloud architecture rather than utilizing disparate products and policies.

Expanding on Linux  KVM: Building The Cloud Hypervisor

Legacy hypervisors were designed, and are still maintained, to work with a vast array of storage, compute and networking components. These “generic” platforms require significant time simply to validate interoperability/HCLs (Hardware Compatibility Lists). They are necessarily complex in order to support all of these devices.

AHV, on the other hand, was designed specifically for Enterprise Cloud and its scale out platform. AHV starts with virtualization from Linux KVM and then incorporates  the software intelligence of Nutanix hyperconverged architecture, changing the core building block of the virtualized datacenter from hypervisor to application. It liberates virtualization from the domain of specialists – making it simple and easily manageable by anyone from IT generalists to DevOps teams to DBAs.

AHV uses the same web-scale principles that power the distributed storage in Nutanix’s HCI offering to create a resilient and distributed virtualization management plane front-ended by Prism. Add a Nutanix node to the cluster, and you’ve automatically extended the virtualization. Should a node fail, the Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric automatically self-heals storage for availability and AHV restarts impacted VMs on other nodes.

Like Nutanix, two of the three leading cloud providers, AWS and Google Cloud Platform Services, both now base their virtualization on Linux KVM. This is not accidental. The KVM architecture lends itself to the demands of a cloud hypervisor. Nutanix tuned it for HCI performance, hardened it for security, stripped out the complexity, and integrated it into Prism for comprehensive management.

AHV utilizes REST APIs to enable automation, scripting and powerful reporting. Over 60 manufacturers now support AHV including Microsoft, Citrix, Veeam, Arista, Docker, Epic, Veritas and scores of others. Manufacturers such as HYCU even have written software products exclusively for AHV.

Pushing Beyond the Virtualization Stack Comfort Zone

Where were you when you first saw VMware vMotion?

Seeing vMotion for the first time was so magical that most seasoned (i.e. over the age of 30) IT people can readily answer this question. In my case, I was at my house in March of 2005 where my friend, Gary Lamb, dialed into a VMware deployment he set up at a customer. I decided on the spot to start a channel partner business with him focused on enterprise virtualization.

I consider VMware not just one of the greatest technology firms of all time, but one of the greatest companies. VMware did a masterful job at building a community, a great channel partner program, and hundreds of thousands of loyal customers the world over. VMware has had a huge impact on my career, and I’m proud to be one of a small number of people on the planet to have been a VMware vExpert for all ten years of the program.

Despite VMware’s extraordinary prowess, the widespread transition of virtualization from product to feature is inevitable. The growing public cloud movement, Gartner’s retirement of the virtualization Magic Quadrant and Nutanix’s success with AHV all validate this transformation. Advantages including simplification, automation, increased scalability and resiliency, make it very worthwhile to push past the comfort zone of legacy virtualization.

Thanks to @Jason_Burroughs, @jodgers @MCWronski and @StorSC  for suggestions and edits.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Nutanix, Inc. or any of its other employees or affiliates.

See Also

VMware Technology Network. 04/23/2018. “Nutanix AHV…is on par with VMware in performance, and light years ahead of VMware in ease of management.”

NF102: Nutanix AHV Basics. 11/15/2017. Mike Wronski. Nutanix.NEXT.

AWS KVM Adoption and Nutanix AHV. 11/15/2017. Steve Kaplan. By The

What’s .NEXT 2017 – AHV Turbo Mode. 06/29/2017. Josh Odgers.

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3 Responses to The rise of native virtualization

  1. Dear Steven,

    I share with you the respect for the job VMware until now and the enthusiasm for Nutanix that is building the enterprise standard for hyperconverged solution.

    There is however a point not clear in your post.
    You wrote that ‘“generic” platforms require significant time simply to validate interoperability/HCLs”. When Nutanix will become a software solution only, they will have to validate “many” generic platforms not only for the AHV hypervisor but for the whole suite. Do you see a strong advantage for Nutanix toward VMware (and Microsoft)?

    • Steve Kaplan says:


      Thanks for the comment. AHV, of course, is integrated into the overall Nutanix software OS so there is no separate interoperability required for virtualization and infrastructure. Additionally, being a software solution does not require Nutanix to validate and support any/all hardware platforms. Nutanix’s goal is to provide a solid selection of options for performance and capacity on the most popular server platforms. Nutanix has always worked under the concept of opinionated design. Under that concept, Nutanix offers choice of supported platforms but not unlimited choice. The platforms and configurations on our HCL are carefully selected and vetted to ensure the best possible user experience, performance and capacity options.

  2. Ruby Cook says:

    I really love to read this article about virtualization. In today`s era virtualization is almost in every field because digitalization is everywhere. Also, I used VMware technology as you listed in see also area it is amazing keep updating with this type of article.

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