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5 Key Topics to Consider If Choosing a VMware vSphere Alternative

All size organizations appear to share one objective for 2024: identifying an alternative solution to VMware vSphere. The significant software licensing changes announced by Broadcom in December 2023 have prompted many organizations to consider alternatives to vSphere. While the most appropriate VMware vSphere alternative for each organization will vary, questions they will need to ask will look similar. Here are five (5) key questions on topics that organizations should ask if they choose a VMware vSphere alternative.

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Topic #1: VMware vSphere Alternative Guest OSes

Question #1: What guest operating systems does the new platform support?

Many organizations predominantly host guests on VMware vSphere that run either the Windows or Linux operating systems. However, organizations still need to inventory the versions of Windows and Linux they currently host on VMware vSphere.

They must then confirm any new platforms under consideration will support these guest OSes. If the new platform being considered does not, this may necessitate the organization consider another platform. Alternatively, an organization may need to change the guest OS of some VMs to a different guest OS before they move.

Topic #2: Data Migration to the VMware vSphere Alternative

Question #2: What options, if any, does the new platform offer to migrate data off VMware vSphere?

Organizations will need to migrate applications, data, VMs, and container-based workloads from VMware vSphere to the new platform. The difficulty associated with completing this task correlates to the data migration tools that an organization has available to use.

Some platforms have data migration tools that first discover and assess an organization’s current VMware vSphere environment. Once assessed, an organization may then use that platform’s available tool to migrate the data.

If the new platform being considered does not offer a data migration tool, that may not matter. Many backup solutions offer the ability to recover backed up data or VMs onto a different hypervisor guest OS. If an organization owns backup software that offers this feature, they may use it to perform the data migration.

Topic #3: VMware vSphere Alternative Server Hardware Requirements

Question #3: What minimum server hardware requirements does the new VMware vSphere alternative possess?

Migrating from VMware vSphere likely requires at least some new server hardware to complete the migration. Moving to another platform may even require organizations to purchase all new hardware.

However, the VMware vSphere alternative solutions that DCIG has reviewed often possess lower minimum server hardware requirements than VMware vSphere. While organizations will likely need to purchase some new server hardware, they may find they can re-use some existing servers. Some may even realize performance gains once they move to the new VMware vSphere alternative.

Topic #4: VMware vSphere Alternative Data Protection and External Storage Support

Question #4: What third-party data protection and external storage options does the VMware vSphere alternative support?

VMware has worked with multiple backup and external storage providers for years to optimize vSphere data protection and storage. This has resulted in these providers supporting the multiple VMware APIs used to take snapshots and manage storage.

VMware vSphere alternatives often lack a similar full, robust set of data protection and storage APIs. Even if a competitor offers such APIs, it may not have a partner ecosystem that supports them. If an organization uses VMware vSphere’s APIs, it must consider how well a VMware vSphere alternative supports and delivers this feature set.

Topic #5: VMware vSphere Alternative Cloud Support

Question #5: How well does the VMware vSphere alternative support the compute and storage features in third-party general-purpose clouds?

Creating a hybrid cloud has emerged as a default operating mode for some organizations. They want the flexibility to run applications, VMs, and workloads on-premises or in the cloud according to their needs.

Here again, organizations will find themselves hard-pressed to find a competitive solution that offers as many hybrid cloud choices as VMware. Some VMware vSphere alternatives certainly do offer and support hybrid cloud configurations. However, few, if any, offer all the hybrid cloud choices that VMware already supports.

The Joys – and Challenges – of Finding a Viable VMware vSphere Alternative

These five topics and questions represent only a fraction of what organizations should ask when considering a VMware vSphere alternative. However, they also help highlight why Broadcom made the decision to change VMware’s software licensing model.

Organizations that currently only use VMware vSphere’s standard to moderately advanced features may well find suitable alternatives. In many cases, they will uncover VMware vSphere alternatives offer equivalent features, better performance, and a lower price.

However, the challenge of finding a VMware vSphere alternative becomes more difficult for those using vSphere’s high-end features. They may find that no other solution supports as many backup solutions, general-purpose clouds, and storage arrays as VMware vSphere. Further, VMware has a partner ecosystem that, despite recent changes, remains difficult to match.

All these factors combine to illustrate the joys and challenges that organizations will encounter as they begin this journey. Some will find themselves pleasantly surprised at the robust features and lower costs of VMware vSphere alternatives.  However, other organizations will discover that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find a viable VMware vSphere alternative.

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