VMware alternatives offer users opportunity to change

VMware isn't the right fit for everyone, so what's the next step? There are options, like cloud, if you want to move away from VMware.

It takes time and effort to become familiar with VMware and all of its offerings, but maybe you're not satisfied or your budget has changed. Would you consider moving away from VMware? Well, if you're a Windows shop, you already have a hypervisor, failover clustering, live migration and dynamic memory in your operating system. So, do you want to continue paying money to VMware for something that you already have for free?

Moving away from VMware isn't only for users in a Windows shop. In the case of Linux, the KVM hypervisor is included and everything needed to build a versatile data center is available for free as Open Source software. So, why would anyone still consider staying on VMware?

Well, if you already have a fully virtualized platform that's based on VMware, you can't just replace it overnight. But that certainly doesn't mean that you're bound to it forever. There are different VMware alternatives that can be used to move away from VMware.

The dual stack approach

An easy approach to moving away from VMware is to use a dual-stack approach. With dual stack, there is no need to replace VMware with something else; rather, you just start working with a second hypervisor. It doesn't really matter if your old Windows servers are still on VMware; your new Windows servers can be installed on Hyper-V and still communicate with the old servers. There's no reason why the underlying virtualization platform should be the same.

In this approach, as the alternative infrastructure becomes bigger, the VMware infrastructure will slowly be phased out without any business disruption.

Moving to the cloud

Another VMware alternatives is migrating to the cloud. Many companies are replacing their hypervisor platform with a cloud platform; while they're doing that, they're moving workloads to the cloud. How easy that process is depends on the cloud platform you choose. Many offer an option to import workloads and offer specific cloud-management tools.

However, you should make a plan before deciding to move workloads to the cloud. In many organizations, the cloud is used, but only for specific workloads. Core business functions might still be better off within the secure firewalls of your own network and in the current hypervisor infrastructure. Moving to a cloud normally implies a dual-stack approach as well.

A different platform

The bold option is to just stop paying licenses to VMware and move everything to the new target platform. This is something that Windows shops do quite frequently. A conversion of this kind typically takes two steps. In the first step, the disk format is converted from VMX to VHD. In the next, the new disk format is imported to the target hypervisor platform.

Before starting the change, it's important to look at the conversion of the hard disk that is used in the virtual machine (VM). You'll probably also have to work on the contents of the VM. For starters, make sure to remove the VMware Tools from the VM, and make sure you're using virtualized hardware that is compatible with the new target platform. A basic installation won't be too difficult to convert, but the more advanced the features and drivers used are, the more difficult the conversion will be.

How to approach a migration

Even if all the pieces are in place to migrate from VMware to another hypervisor or cloud provider, the process of making the switch can be difficult. Cases where every VMware VM is replaced in one big project are rare. The most common scenario is to adopt a dual-stack approach, where companies just install a new hypervisor platform and have the old platform slowly fade out. This prevents administrators from having to do difficult conversions and guarantees the best business continuity. This phased approach is the most reasonable approach for moving away from VMware.

This was first published in July 2014

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