VMware end to free ESXi opens up new options from spurned customers and partners

While these major changes are not good news for developers and SMBs, there are still options, from the cloud to smaller hypervisor vendors like Proxmox, which has an open source hypervisor that led storage vendor 45Drives to partner with them.

Brett Kelly, Head of R&D for 45Drives

The latest news from Broadcom in its acquisition of VMware is the announcement of the discontinuation of VMware’s former free version of ESXi. The free version served several use cases, all of which are now scrambling for an equivalent of the free VMware product or something close. Sydney Nova Scotia-based 45Drives, is a storage vendor who believes that their partnership with German-based server vendor Proxmox, whose portfolio includes an open source hypervisor, is ideally suited for the needs of this customer.

“The ending of the free ESXi supervisor is extremely important because VMware is everywhere,” said Brett Kelly, Head of R&D for 45Drives. “When Broadcom came in, you could see the writing on the wall. All the smaller players to SMB and below, who had thought this was the only option, have been left in the lurch. It’s another way that Broadcom is changing things.”

Several use cases have been identified for the free ESXi.

“Like any good open source product, free tends to mean that there are some rough edges at the start,” Kelly indicated. “That’s the nature of open source. That’s why they typically start in developer environments, because developers tend to be the least risk averse. But while it starts there, SMBs come in for price reasons, and now there are lots of shops with a couple people who want to virtualize their mail server.”

Kelly said that until now there has not really been much competition in the market.

“It is this lack of competition that has allowed VMware to do what they want, but there’s no technical reason to enable this,” he indicated. “From our experience, the Linux kernel is just as good, and Linux can play with variety, and appeal to some of the newer businesses we have been touching. VMware doesn’t do anything technically that others don’t do. They do have good support, and that’s all a competitor really needs, the ability to provide good support.”

45Drives considers that Proxmox is best of the free open source competition, which is both open source and low-risk. Their technology tightly integrates the KVM hypervisor and Linux Containers [LXC], software-defined storage and networking functionality on a single platform.

“Proxmox is a German company, which offers services that go along with the free hypervisor,” Kelly said. “They also have enterprise products, and offer both services and paid subscriptions.”

Kelly also pointed out that Proxmox complements 45Drives very well.

“We are a storage company,” Kelly pointed out. “They natively support a full range of open source and all file systems. They also support Ceph, which has a massive presence in open source IBM.”

In contrast, VMware has never really played well with others. The exception of course is Dell, which VMware has worked with closely for many years, but that gives them a stronger relationship with Dell than with Dell’s competitors.

“As we started working with Proxmox, customers began to ask about it,” Kelly said. “We think that now is the time and opportunity for them to expand in the market. We have talked to a lot of tech companies who are willing to drop VMware.”

Kelly also stressed that VMware is likely to lose market share over the end of ESXi not just to direct competitors, but to other types of solutions in the market.

“People are also going into the cloud, and that’s one alternative to the hypervisor, although some large organizations will keep all that on site,” he said. “What I want to see happen is to evangelize beyond what the market screams to you is the right option. What is important is that with the end of free ESXi, you still have options. Renewing with VMware may still be right way for some, but there is an option. I think there will be a massive growth in the market for non-VM hypervisors,  but some will be cloud and some will be depth players. We are best in class in terms of products we offer, and we integrate perfectly with Proxmox.”