For Hyperconverged, Does The Hypervisor Matter?

Most hyperconverged infrastructures are turnkey solutions that include server hardware, storage software and a hypervisor. While that hypervisor tends to be VMware’s vSphere, we are seeing an increase in some of the alternative hypervisors, either Hyper-V or one of the linux-based options. The question for the IT professional is, does the hypervisor matter anymore?

VMware is without question the leader in the hypervisor market, at least in the traditional enterprise. It has a large ecosystem of third party products supporting it. The most common phrase I hear is “we have a vCenter plug-in.” If you are looking to move to a hyperconverged architecture and you already have a VMware investment it is hard to resist sticking with what you know.

Why Leave?

Given VMware’s dominance why would you ever want to install something else? In comparison to other hypervisors there is almost no feature that VMware doesn’t have. The big complaint most data centers have against VMware is the cost. The “VMware tax” can be quite punitive and as a result organizations are looking elsewhere.

The alternative hypervisors have matured significantly over the last few years and while not quite as complete as VMware, certainly they have more than just the basics covered. While there should be a licensing savings in switching to an alternative hypervisor there is a cost associated with migrating to the new platform, learning it and workaround any missing capabilities. That reality keeps many in the VMware camp.

Hyperconverged Makes Hypervisor Switching Easy

Hyperconverged architectures may soften the impact of switching to an alternative hypervisor. Hyperconverged by its very nature is a turnkey solution. Many of these solutions include their own interface that manages all the converged components. The vendor has essentially hidden the hypervisor from the customer anyway. At that point does the hypervisor matter?

Using a Linux-based hypervisor also allows the vendor to optimize its hyperconverged solution for the hypervisor. The tighter integration could lead to better performance, more simplified expansion and even easier management. But the big win, for both the vendor and its customer, is reduced costs.

The “bring your own hypervisor” trend began in hyperconverged solutions targeting the small to medium sized data center. Cost is always a concern in that market so replacing VMware to save money made sense. But now we are seeing enterprise class hyperconverged systems provide their own hypervisor. And while cost is just as important to enterprises, the ability to optimize the hyperconverged infrastructure may be even more appealing.


The decision to use an alternative hypervisor is one organizations should not enter into lightly, especially if the organization made investments in the tools that make up VMware’s large eco-system. But if the organization feels the cost savings will more than make up for the transition then hyperconverged architectures bundled with one of those alternative hypervisors, should make the conversion more simple.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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One comment on “For Hyperconverged, Does The Hypervisor Matter?
  1. With Linux it’s not like there are an overwhelming number of hypervisor options. You basically have two, KVM or Xen. Amazon uses Xen, and pretty much everyone else uses KVM. It’s pretty much my experience that all of the commercial KVM-based solutions, regardless of whether they are appliance-based or software-only just work out of the box. Of course you might end up going instead with a container strategy, but really, that’s an entirely different question.

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