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Broadcom's VMware acquisition has introduced enormous uncertainty in the virtualization sector.

Since the acquisition, Broadcom has made sweeping changes to VMware, leading to concerns among customers and partners. 

VMware has shifted away from perpetual license sales in favor of a subscription-based model, a move that has left some customers grappling with budget concerns and the loss of support for existing licenses. 

Broadcom recently axed the free version of vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi), potentially contributing to a future skills gap in VMware expertise. 

These changes, combined with an overall sense of uncertainty, have caused customers to begin contingency planning. 

The purpose of this article is to provide some insight into the VMware alternative landscape and assist data protection professionals in understanding how these changes might impact their environments and data protection software options.

VMware alternatives

Despite touching almost every facet of a production environment, data protection is an often overlooked integration point. Discussions evaluating VMware alternatives will often revolve around virtualization features, performance and scalability, and the topic of safeguarding data tends to take a backseat. 

The hypervisor landscape is dominated by several major players and numerous smaller and niche alternatives.

Nutanix Acropolis

Nutanix Acropolis, also known as AHV (Acropolis Hypervisor), is a robust bare-metal hypervisor developed by Nutanix. It stands out for its seamless integration of compute, storage, networking and data protection capabilities into a single hyperconverged solution. 

Key capabilities:

  • Unified Management: Nutanix Acropolis offers one-click operations, AI-driven automation and streamlined administration.
  • Hardware Agnostic: AHV can be directly installed on various Nutanix-certified OEM hardware servers.
  • Storage Approach: AHV passes disks to virtual machines as raw SCSI block devices, optimizing I/O performance.
  • Virtual Networking: AHV leverages Open vSwitch (OVS) for VM networking. Features include teaming modes, QoS, VLAN tagging and more.


  • Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI): Nutanix pioneered the HCI market, offering a web-scale, distributed cloud architecture.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): Nutanix AHV is suitable for VDI and desktop-as-a-service functionality.
  • Container Support: AHV also supports Docker and Kubernetes.


  • Market Share: While growing, Nutanix still has a smaller market share compared to VMware.
  • Learning Curve: Transitioning from VMware to Nutanix may require some learning for IT teams.

Microsoft Azure-HCI/Azure Stack

Microsoft's Azure Stack HCI is a robust hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution that hosts both Windows and Linux virtual machines (VMs) or containerized workloads along with their storage. It serves as a hybrid product, bridging on-premises systems to Azure for cloud-based services, monitoring and management. 

Key capabilities:

  • Unified Management: Administrators can monitor and manage individual systems through the Azure portal, as well as leverage existing tools like Windows Admin Center and PowerShell.
  • Proven Technologies: Azure Stack HCI is built on a foundation of well-established technologies, including Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct and core Azure management services.
  • Flexible Hardware Choices: Azure Stack HCI can be purchased as an integrated system (with the OS pre-installed) or as validated hardware with self-installed OS.


  • Integration with Windows Ecosystem: Ideal for Windows-centric environments.
  • Cost-Effective: Often considered more budget-friendly than VMware.
  • Ease of Deployment: Integrated with Windows 10/11 Pro.


  • Limited OS Support: Primarily focused on Windows workloads.
  • Feature Set: Some advanced features may not match VMware's.
  • Community and Ecosystem: Smaller community compared to VMware.

Red Hat OpenShift

Red Hat OpenShift serves as a compelling alternative to VMware in the realm of virtualization and container management. OpenShift is a scalable virtualization platform powered by Kubernetes. As such, it is very container-driven and focused.

Key capabilities:

  • Unified Platform: Red Hat OpenShift seamlessly integrates virtual machines (VMs) and containers within the same platform.
  • OpenShift Virtualization: A key feature of OpenShift, it allows VM administrators to incorporate VMs into containerized workflows. This leverages the power of Kubernetes orchestration while maintaining compatibility with existing VM-based applications.
  • Container-Centric Approach: OpenShift treats VMs as native Kubernetes objects, enabling a container-centric management paradigm.
  • Cost-Effective and Supportive: Organizations seeking alternatives to VMware often prioritize cost and support. OpenShift offers accessible pricing models and human-centered support.


  • Open Source: OpenShift is vendor-neutral and fully functional for private and public clouds.
  • Hyperconverged Architecture: Supports hyperconverged setups.
  • Cost Savings: Charmed OpenShift distribution offers cost-effective migration from VMware.


  • Learning Curve: Requires familiarity with Kubernetes and containerization.
  • Vendor-Neutral: While an advantage, it lacks the tight integration of a single-vendor solution like VMware.


OpenStack is a robust and versatile open-source cloud computing platform that provides essential services for cloud infrastructure, including compute, storage and networking resources. OpenStack offers additional features such as orchestration, fault management and service management, ensuring high availability for user applications.

Key capabilities:

  • Open-Source Nature: OpenStack's collaborative, community-driven deployment model fosters innovation and rapid development.
  • Architecture Comparison: OpenStack provides features like multi-tenancy, strong network isolation, scalability and vendor neutrality. Its architecture aligns with modern cloud requirements.
  • Cost: OpenStack's accessible pricing models simplify cost calculations, reducing overall expenses.
  • Support: Robust, human-centered support ensures smooth operations, especially during critical scenarios.


  • Open-Source Cloud Platform: Suitable for private and public cloud implementations.
  • Hyper-Converged Architecture: Runs on regular hardware.
  • Cost Savings: Available under the Apache License.


  • Complexity: Requires expertise in managing distributed systems.
  • Vendor-Neutral: Distributions vary, so choosing the right one is crucial.

Other platforms

While AHV, AzureStack, OpenShift and OpenStack dominate the VMware alternative conversation, there are some additional and niche players as well:

  • Citrix Hypervisor/Xen
    • Pros:
      • Mature Platform: Xen has been around since 2003.
      • Open Source: Available under the GNU General Public License.
      • Performance: Known for efficient resource utilization.
    • Cons:
      • Smaller Community: Not as widely adopted as VMware.
      • Complex Configuration: Setting up and managing Xen can be intricate.
      • Limited Features: Some advanced features may be missing.
  • Oracle VM Server
    • Pros:
      • Oracle Ecosystem: Optimized for Oracle applications.
      • Core Licensing Model: Allows hard provisioning of workloads.
      • Multi-OS Support: Works with Oracle Linux, Red Hat, SUSE and more.
      • Free VM VirtualBox version available for development and small deployments.
    • Cons:
      • Vendor Lock-In: Tightly integrated with Oracle products.
      • Complex Licensing: Oracle licensing can be intricate.
      • Limited Community: Smaller community compared to VMware.
  • Full-Stack Hyperconverged (Star Wind, Scale Computing, StorMagic & Archer)
    • Pros:
      • Simplicity: Integrated solutions combining compute, storage and networking.
      • Cost-Effective: Often more budget-friendly than traditional setups.
      • Scalability: Designed for easy scaling.
    • Cons:
      • Vendor-Specific: Solutions may lack the flexibility of open-source alternatives.
      • Feature Set: May not offer all the features of VMware.
      • Community and Ecosystem: Smaller compared to VMware.

The choice between these alternatives will depend on an organization's specific requirements, existing infrastructure and organizational goals. Factors to consider include licensing costs, feature sets, community support and ease of migration.

Current state of hypervisor data protection

VMware remains a dominant force in the hypervisor landscape. Its comprehensive features, mature ecosystem and widespread adoption have solidified its position as the go-to choice for virtualization. Organizations rely on VMware's solutions for efficient resource management, high availability and seamless migration of virtual machines (VMs). Its comprehensive suite includes vSphere, vCenter and other tools that simplify administration and enhance security.

Support for other hypervisors

While VMware is still the dominant provider, other hypervisors are gaining traction. These alternatives — such as AHV, AzureStack, OpenShift and OpenStack — are supported by various data protection vendors. However, 'who supports what' is a patchwork and should be evaluated on a vendor-by-vendor basis. Some backup and disaster recovery solutions cater to specific hypervisors, ensuring compatibility and efficient data protection. Others provide very broad support.  Organizations should evaluate tools that align with their proposed virtualization environment.

Evaluating and expanding support

Currently, all data protection vendors are re-assessing their offerings. They recognize the need to adapt to evolving technologies and customer requirements. We have seen several vendors extend support for alternate hypervisors which they had planned to deprecate, and many vendors are planning additional support.

Kubernetes container workloads protection

With the accelerating deployment of containers, most vendors now recognize the importance of protecting Kubernetes container workloads and developing or purchasing solutions to address this challenge.

Protection strategies for cloud-based assets

Cloud-based assets such as VMs, databases and storage instances hosted in public or private clouds have become critical. Data protection vendors understand the need to secure these resources effectively and are developing or purchasing solutions tailored for cloud environments, ensuring data integrity, compliance and rapid recovery. 

Go forward strategies

Data protection and VMware alternatives should be evaluated together. While data protection is often an architectural afterthought, today's world of critical data and cyber attacks lends increased importance to evaluating and deploying the right data protection strategy.

Since coverage for non-VMware hypervisors is inconsistent across the data protection vendor landscape, leading with a virtualization strategy alone may require the data protection strategy to be re-evaluated or updated based on the virtualization platform chosen. Virtualization alternatives may be considered based on hypervisors currently supported by existing data protection platform(s), or the virtualization alternative can be selected with the understanding that the current data protection platform may not be supported.

In the worst case, organizations would have to return to agent-level backups for VMs. While this would impact some of the automation and performance advantages that come with taking image level backups of VM's at scale, it is essentially identical to physical server backup, and most platforms will handle these workloads easily.

Hypervisor and feature support matrices

We examined six backup application vendors (Cohesity, Commvault, Dell, Rubrik, Veeam and Veritas) support for seven key hypervisor backup solution criteria on VMware, AHV, Azure Stack/Hyper-V, OpenShift and OpenStack.

Solution Criteria:

Solution Criteria Explanation
Image level backupImage-level backups treats VMs as complete objects, not as a set of files and backs up the image as a single instance rather than the files and data inside the VM.
File/folder level restoreThe ability to take Image-level backups and open or mount them to allow for a single file, set of files or a folder to be restored without restoring the entire VM.  Typical expectation is for Windows and Linux VMs.

Cross-Hypervisor Restores

  • Redirected Restore
  • Cloud Disaster Recovery
Ability to backup a VM from one hypervisor and provide the capability to convert then during restore to a different hypervisor.   For example, backup VMs from VMware and allow restore to Nutanix AHV transparently.  Cloud Disaster Recovery VM recovery refers to the ability to restore a VM to Azure and/or AWS.
Granular backup - changed black tracking etc.Refers to the ability to utilize changed block tracking to perform an incremental backup of a VM. 
DiscoveryAbility to interrogate and discover new VMs that were created and protect them automatically.
Snapshot IntegrationsAbility of the backup application to integrate with native Snapshot technologies of the hypervisor.  Important for performing image level backups and crash consistent backups of virtual machines.
App Consistent BackupAn application-consistent backup is one coordinates with an application running inside a VM that a backup is about to take place.  It then allows the application to quiesce it's data by flushing any pending I/O operations to disk.  Generally expected for Microsoft SQL and SharePoint as well as Oracle and SAP.


Here is how the various hypervisors are supported (Note: This data was sourced from OEM capability guides):



Azure Stack/Hyper-V





Broadcom's acquisition of VMware has introduced a significant disruption into the virtualization landscape. What the net effect of this disruption will be remains to be seen, but customers are in the process of evaluating alternatives and data protection needs to be a part of that evaluation. If a data protection platform your organization uses already supports the alternatives under consideration, this will be a straightforward process. Data protection teams need to be involved in these discussions early or they may find themselves evaluating data protection replacement options as well. This article should provide a good starting point to becoming an integral part of that conversation.