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Broadcom’s VMware Impact: Why Open Source is Back on the Menu

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise tech. In this feature, Virtuozzo‘s Worldwide Director of Sales Engineering Paul Brunyee offers commentary on Broadcom’s VMware impact and why open-source is an option once again.

For more than two decades VMware has been very successful in building an ecosystem and community around virtualization, and for many has become the de-facto standard.

However, I would argue that Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware, and its recent announcements to the VMware customer and partner communities, have done more to undermine confidence and credibility in the virtualization marketplace than any other move in recent years.

Details are still emerging at the time of writing, but it is already clear that VMware customers, partners and service providers increasingly feel that they are being left in the lurch. The question is, what can they do about it?

A Somewhat Expected Development

When Broadcom announced its intention to acquire VMware in 2022, industry watchers pointed to the company’s history of integrating previous acquisitions as an example of what may happen to VMware – that being, significant layoffs and huge restructuring. Sure enough, this is starting to unfold right in front of us.

To some extent change is inevitable in any acquisition, but what makes this example particularly striking is the lack of clarity for customers and partners, and the suddenness of those decisions that have been made.

After months of speculation and silence, just before Christmas 2023 the company announced the end of perpetual licensing and a new bundling strategy for products that customers could previously buy separately. Of course, this reduces flexibility for customers and potentially forces them to purchase a bundle with products they do not need. At the same time, changes seem to be coming to the VMware channel program: details have yet to be confirmed, but the implication seems to be that it will be invitation-only, based on revenue.

No clear changes to VMware’s service provider program have yet to emerge, but to date, VMware customers and partners alike have been left feeling unsure about their future, ongoing support and further significant changes that may come down the pike.

Seeking VMware Alternatives

Whereas in the past, the “cost to change” was considered very high, these companies are looking at an immediate future where change is being forced upon them – and even long-standing VMware users have many fewer reasons to swallow that change.

SME customers are now looking seriously at alternative ways to run their virtualized workloads, while channel partners are wondering if they will have to turn to larger partners to fulfil VMware license commitments and see even more shaved off their already thin margins – or find alternative vendors to work with.

What vendor alternatives are out there? As you would expect, the usual suspects are clamouring for their piece of the VMware pie. There are various functional equivalents to choose from, but in light of the unexpected changes following the Broadcom acquisition, customers are concerned about more than just the technology.

They’re looking for the Three Cs:

  • Confidence in whom they choose to partner with going forwards – confidence not just in the software technology, but also the company that provides it
  • Credibility, in terms of any alternative vendor really “having their back” and offering them a clear path forward
  • Continuity – minimal business disruption in terms of helping to move and migrate workloads with the least impact to their business operations

Opening the Door to Open Source

One trend emerging in conversations we have with VMware partners and customers, is that Broadcom’s changes are bringing open-source alternatives back to the top of the priority list.

Given the potential for far-reaching changes of the kind emerging currently, it’s natural to consider whether swapping VMware for a different proprietary vendor is really a sensible long-term solution. Could lightning strike twice? Maybe.

Open-source alternatives exist for virtualization and cloud and go a long way to mitigating that worry: even if something dramatic happens to a commercial open-source based vendor, the underlying technology is compatible with other open-source alternatives. The risk of lock-in is markedly reduced, and of course, the real power of open-source is its vast community of developers, a global hive-mind that far exceeds the scale and capability of even the largest proprietary software vendor.

For companies coming from the VMware world of enterprise software licensing, however, there are of course barriers to overcome. Tools such as Proxmox, for example, are sometimes touted as a functional equivalent, though the reality is that it’s true only for very basic use cases, which can be off-putting for companies with more sophisticated VMware environments.

At the other end of the spectrum, OpenStack is a fully functional VMware equivalent marred only by the perceived complexity of “build it yourself” and “support it yourself”, a somewhat different mindset than buying or subscribing to an enterprise software license.

If you find the right vendor there can be a happy middle ground, however, and commercial open-source alternatives to VMware not only overcome the challenges of “do it yourself” but also include professional support, often at a radically lower price point than customers may be used to.

What’s Next? – Keep an Open Mind

As more changes emerge in the first months of 2024, it is time for impacted companies to keep an open mind not just to well-known VMware competitors, but to open-source alternatives that could offer more stability and security – and equivalent functionality – for the longer-term future. In all conversations, keep the Three Cs at the top of your priority list, and challenge vendors to prove their credibility, that you can have confidence, and that they’re willing and able to help you maintain business continuity – not just swap one unhealthy set of contract terms for another.

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