What does a post Broadcom VMware mean to you?

The Story So Far

Broadcom announced it would buy VMware in May, 2022.  What followed was a whistle stop tour of various regulators ending with the Chinese giving their ascent to the deal.  Worth US$69bn, the deal closed in November, 2023.  It follows Broadcom acquisitions of Symantec and CA previously.

Many assurances were sought on the way through with regulators concerned about the future of such a fundamental technology.  Like most tech businesses, to stand still is to die and Broadcom intended to invest a large amount into R&D.

A large partner community,  a big customer base and a community of enthusiasts waited with bated breath.  What would all this mean to them?

The overall direction for VMware is still unclear but there have been many changes to licensing, the bundling of products and the nature of the partner community on which many VMware customers depend.

Broadcom recently stated that they want double digit growth from their customers this year.  That means getting their existing or remaining customers to pay more.  That’s nice but what about 2025 and beyond?  Where will the growth come from?  Not new customers that’s for sure.

Why do I Care?

That is a great question.  Does it really matter who owns the hypervisor underneath your fleet of virtual machines?  Changing hypervisor can be traumatic and perhaps if the prices rise you’ll just wear it.  There’s nothing wrong with that approach.

But let’s say you’re a customer who doesn’t use VMware directly but you purchase capacity in a small datacenter or niche cloud provider?  Your supplier has just had to deal with an earthquake in their supply chain.   Their costs may have gone up and in some cases it’s harder for them to make the business viable.  In that case you might be forced into a change or have a price increase forced on you.

Put simply, it seems VMware aren’t that interested in the little guys anymore.  The little guys cost a lot to service.  Their withdrawal of the free tier of ESXi for instance means that it’s hard to maintain a community of tinkerers and enthusiasts.  So if you’re Boeing, Bank of America, McDonalds or other very large organisations you’re still interesting to VMware.  They are taking many of those customers direct while they restructure their partner network.


So What are my Options?

You don’t have to play the game, you have agency.  You can choose a different path.

Get off and move to the cloud

It’s 2024 and there’ve been options to move from VMware to public cloud for a while.  So if you still have virtual infrastructure in place there could be several reasons for this:

  • You have lots of VMs and the economics don’t stack up.  Big environment in VMware are often cheaper to run on premises.  There’s some debate about this but we do a lot of this kind of analysis and looking at the *real* costs of running environments its true.
  • Your environment is ropey.  Your ICT stack is a bit on the ancient side and it’s easier to leave it where it is, you’ve got more going on.
  • Other.  There are reasons specific to your organisation that make it difficult.

But if you don’t fall into one of those camps then this might be the impetus you need to do a move to the cloud (shameless plug here :)).  This will get you off VMware and onto either AWS, Azure or Google Cloud.  You’ll have a new set of problems but at least you’ve made the leap.


Move to the Cloud but with VMware

This is an interesting option.  You get out of the datacenter and you move to either AWS or Azure but you stay on VMware.  Broadcom and VMware care about AWS and Azure, they kind of have to.  AWS and Azure offer products that allow you to migrate your virtual workloads onto ESXi and vSphere in public cloud.  The hyperscaler takes care of the VMware licensing and you can migrate easily with existing VMware tools.  Nice and simple.  

But what if Broadcom, AWS and Microsoft get into a bunfight down the line?  When I recently spoke to people at Microsoft they were kind of unaware of this big change in the VMware universe.  They’re busy doing their AI thing and kind of looked down at this Broadcom acquisition with mild interest and moved on.  The incorporation of VMware onto AWS and Azure feels a lot like embrace and extinguish.  Why wouldn’t AWS and Microsoft want to remove the Broadcom/VMware middleman and take you native anyway.  So perhaps this sort of move is just staving off the inevitable. 

Change Hypervisors and Stay on-prem

This one could be traumatic but it would get you off VMware.  You’ve got a few options here:

  • Proxmox.  My colleague Daniel has written this one up.  It’s a good option that might suit you.
  • KVM.  Move to the Linux-based hypervisor using one of the management tools available.
  • Xen.  Hmmm..  I’d stay away from Xen, it’s not had much love in the OSS community for a while.
  • Nutanix.  Commercial, supported and they’re loving the fact that Broadcom has set off a bomb inside of VMware.
There are certainly issues with each of these options, like:
  • What about the other tools?  Backups, monitoring, patching and all that can rely on hypervisor features.  You might have to change your whole toolchain.
  • Hardware.  You have an existing fleet, do you migrate the physical hosts to the new tech stack progressively or buy new hardware?
  • Skills.  Your team and MSP might be used to using VMware to keep the lights on, they’ll need to change.

Why not just move to the cloud if it makes commercial sense since you’ll need to change everything anyway.

Just Say No

Yep, here we are.  We need ESXi and vSphere to run virtual machines.  We move to another stack and we have virtual machines.  So perhaps we’re not dealing with the real issue.  Maybe it’s the virtual machines that are the problem?

Take a good hard look at your environment.  Do you really need these servers anymore?  Perhaps it’s time to move a bunch of your applications to SaaS and drastically reduce the number of VMs.  What remains you can move to AWS or Azure infrastructure (or perhaps a more fitting name is “death row”).

This one feels hard but in reality it’s the right move.  It’s 2024, if you’re in business you use apps, not servers.  So consume the apps and get rid of the servers altogether.


VMWare vs Proxmox in enterprise

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