Is Nutanix Cheaper than Dell EMC VxRail VMware vSAN HCI !?


Part One : Win with “Dell EMC VxRail & VMware VSAN Over Nutanix HCI”

Part Two : The Last HCI: vSAN, VxRail, and Nutanix

Part Three : Is Nutanix Doomed ? I Think Not !

Part Four: Is Nutanix Cheaper than Dell EMC VxRail !?


Just when I though that Nutanix has gone to the furthest extent in spreading nonsense trying to sell a solution, I get a reality check stating otherwise. Just yesterday I got some points sent to a customer by Nutanix competing with Dell EMC VxRail that utterly surprised the heck out of me. Again, I have nothing against Nutanix, it just happens that they are the competing vendor in this case, and I get these cases a lot.

A lot of points were raised which by now looked like standard cliché statements that can be easily responded to in the right context but the statement that really took me by surprise. “ Price of Nutanix is normally X% less than VxRail “. How does a company have the audacity to make such claims officially to a customer, beats me … !


Lets put some context first and then tackle the statement in question. In any solution comparison, both components of the solution should be identical, in HCI that accounts to usable CPU, Memory, and most importantly Disk on top of the required software to run that HCI platform, these are the apples for comparison in an apple-to-apple scenario. Because every solution has a different architecture, hardware/software must not be identical but should provide the same usable capacity with the required set of software features to run them.

The reason context is important is because selling VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail is different than just selling VxRail with vSphere, and selling Nutanix Ultimate with File/Prism Central/Flow/Calm/Xi is different than selling Nutanix with AHV. In our case, the required usable capacity sizing with required software to run it in terms of comparison would be VxRail with vSphere and Nutanix NX with AHV.

Another very important part that takes me to the biggest factor in price difference is Hybrid or All-Flash. Nutanix almost always try to push Hybrid instead of All-Flash while VxRail almost always pushes All-Flash instead of Hybrid. The price difference between HDD and SSD is quite huge and the required disks in any HCI solution is crucial so this amounts to big bucks. Why does Nutanix push Hybrid while VxRail push All-Flash !? One might say it always depends on the requirements and workloads of customers which is true but most of the time not applied unfortunately in real life. More often than not, VxRail sales would say All-Flash is defacto-standard in the market now and Nutanix sales would say you don’t need All-Flash so why pay more and so on ….


Nutanix data locality architecture with tiering dictates that Nutanix use high endurance SSD disks that can take a heavy amount of writes since data is always served from the SSD tier on every node locally ( except if AOS fails on the node ), this means that SSD disks need to be at least 3 DWPD drive writes per day and that is what is being used on Nutanix All-Flash platforms “if a 1TB SSD is specified for 3 DWPD, it can withstand 3TB of data written to it every day for the warranty period”. The higher the disk endurance, the higher the price of the SSD disk. Nutanix support Erasure Coding, Dedup, and Compression on hybrid nodes.

VxRail VMware vSAN architecture uses distributed RAID and an SSD caching mechanism instead of tiering so every disk group that being capacity HDD or SSD is served by a caching disk. In vSAN, the caching disk has the highest endurance which is 10 DWPD to withstand writes and the rest of the capacity disks ( when in all-flash configuration )are only 1 DWPD because in vSAN all-flash writes go directly to the caching tier so capacity disks don’t take the writes per day hits thus not requiring high writes endurance, the caching disk takes the write load. That is why disk groups are limited to a certain number of drives and in vSAN all-flash the buffer for caching is limited to 600GB ( The buffer not the disk ). The lower the disk endurance, the lower the price of the SSD. vSAN does not support Erasure Coding, Dedup, and Compression on hybrid nodes.


That been said, if Nutanix was to offer 50TB of usable All-Flash ( without EC/Dedup/Compression ) in comparison with VxRail offering 50TB usable All-Flash ( RAID1 without Dedup/Compression ), Nutanix would have to use SSD disks with 3 DWPD while VxRail would use 1 SSD with 10 DWPD and the rest with 1 DWPD. Do your calculations and you will find that Nutanix  under any All-Flash scenario would have to pay significantly more for SSD disks than VxRail thus with All-Flash VxRail will almost always be cheaper than Nutanix hardware wise at least.

Because of that, Nutanix almost always lead with hybrid, not because  a customer might not need All-Flash ( which hard to comprehend given the type of workloads nowadays ) or Nutanix wants to save you money but because its more cost effective for them. In the same manner, VxRail does not lead with Hybrid because your workloads demand All-Flash or they want to give you better performance but mostly because they don’t support EC/Dedup/Compression on hybrid and can give you All-Flash VxRail with a relatively very good price because of its architecture.

Why you are being sold a specific solution is not something to be generalized and I don’t want to sound like someone that says Nutanix and VxRail sales always have bad intentions and I am not saying that, just take the above into your consideration when assessing price difference and the question of Why !?

That was regarding Disk usability, what about CPU and RAM ? I am going to call it as it is, the overhead of AOS CVM and the overhead of vSAN given all enterprise disk features are enabled is approx. the same so raising this point is like beating a dead man, still both parties raise it for the necessity of sales like they raise data locality versus distributed RAID and In-Kernel versus CVM. Both vendors know that all of these differences have absolutely no effect on 99% of use cases but they wont tell you that again because of sales necessities which is utter BS …

Lastly, the required HCI software feature set mandates a hypervisor which is vSphere for VxRail and AHV for Nutanix. I never go down the path of comparing both, do your own due diligence, but stop making remarks like AHV is better than vSphere, I mean common, it is embarrassing to say the least given you don’t even have native OS customization for one, or make remarks like Calm/Flow/AHV/Xi represent an enterprise hybrid cloud against VMware Cloud Foundation . If that is agreed upon, AHV is NOT free, Nutanix operates a licensing scheme which you have to rebuy when expired, and every scheme such as starter, pro, and ultimate has a difference price and a different set of functionality. When you say AHV is free and then for example limit the cluster to 12 nodes (Starter License) , that is free with limited functionality which means paid with additional functionality.


So all in all when it comes to All-Flash VxRail conceptually is the more cost effective choice while when it comes to hybrid Nutanix might make a claim of being cost effective but with a definite % that is just absurd, that is given both don’t go on a discount spree.

Part One : Win with “Dell EMC VxRail & VMware VSAN Over Nutanix HCI”

Part Two : The Last HCI: vSAN, VxRail, and Nutanix

Part Three : Is Nutanix Doomed ? I Think Not !

Part Four: Is Nutanix Cheaper than Dell EMC VxRail !?


May the Peace, Mercy, and Blessing of God Be Upon You

6 thoughts

  1. I think this one is incorrect
    “if a 3TB SSD is specified for 3 DWPD, it can withstand 3TB of data written to it every day for the warranty period”.
    It should be either “if a 1TB SSD…” or “, it can withstand 9TB of data written…”

    1. Oops yes that was suppose to be 1TB , thank you for pointing that out.

  2. Hi Saadallah

    Congratulations on making an interesting blog. I am confused about your conclusion that VXRail is more cost effective than Nutanix HCI. The only way to help customers make an informed choice is to understand the full cost stack – hardware, software, number of staff needed to manage and and datacenter costs – and business risk. I have run more than 100 such cases for customers and Nutanix almost always comes out on top when the full cost over 5 years is considered. We always use the customers own data. Your discussion around Hybrid vs SSD disks is just a small part of the full cost picture. Did you know that VXRail runs a higher overhead than Nutanix. I don’t see this point even discussed in your blog. Explain the upgrade process for Nutanix versus VXRail. What if something goes wrong. VXRail upgrades require moving VM’s . Nutanix does not. Moving VM’s is risky and increases the risk of downtime.

    1. Hi Steen, First thank you for your objective response, when it comes to Nutanix and VxRail that is rarely the case. So let me start with your first note, 1000% that is the case I make with all my blogs, understand the customer requirements, workloads, … and factor all of that into the proposed solution but at least in my region that is almost always never the case, it comes down to cost and politics so thats that but I fully agree with that point and is actually what I try to relay every time I write on this subject. On your second note, I totally disagree with the financial part over the course of 5 years, reason being I have been doing this for the last couple of years being a partner with both Dell EMC/VMware and Nutanix, over the course of these engagements, I have almost always seen the price of an All Flash Nutanix solution AHV with pro or ultimate is always more expensive than VxRail with vSphere std or Ent, given that the proposed RAW are the same. Of course we cant disclose numbers but I have solid information that I am basing this on and based on my analysis its because of the hardware cost not the software cost. When it comes to hybrid, that is a different matter for reasons I have detailed in the blog but it comes down to dedup/comp/ec not supported on vSAN and high endurance expensive SSD disks not required on the Nutanix box at least not for all capacity disks. You mentioned using the customer own data and I agree that is key, never the less the norm with Nutanix is to lead with Hybrid and again I base this of factual data with numerous engagements by myself and other partners in the market given I do interact with most here in the MEA region. Again that is not something wrong, the customer workloads/data/requirements/outcome … might dictate the use of hybrid given Nutanix architecture of the same suffices for many workloads, I am just saying that one of the reasons to win deals with Nutanix by using Hybrid is the cost factor, which might or might not fit a customer requirements which is a different discussion. Coming to your point of VxRail running a higher overhead than Nutanix, which is surprising as most of the arguments I hear in the market are for CVM having high overhead discussion which btw I for one don’t acknowledge either. CVM has a fixed overhead despite the size,iops, and/or throughput of the data while vSAN differs based on several factors but being in-kernel is not fixed so different workloads will have different overhead but baseline wise its lower than CVM that is fact. Now enabling dedup/comp/ec/encryption and so on adds to the overhead but I have never seen it overcome what CVM actually takes out of the box. The discussion here deviates from vSAN to VxRail when Nutanix start saying that we also need to add vCenter and VxRail Manager VMs overhead as compared to CVM not only vSAN then this becomes another discussion on what features is offered by each and how that is compared overhead wise but talking pure SDS overhead your statement does not hold merit factually. On your last note, lets agree first that both have a one click upgrade because I have seen some miss-conceptions about this point before, VxRail has come a long way on this point specifically knowing that now it includes firmware upgrades and so on during a one-time procedure, anyhow on your point of moving VMs during upgrade, yes that is true and it does increase vmotion and vsan traffic given that nodes go into maint. mode and data has to be kept in compliance with storage policy, that is simply VMware architecture and yes not moving VMs like the way Nutanix does it is obviously a better way yet i dont agree with your risk statement as this is only host VM migration not data migration so there is no risk of downtime whatsoever and the lifecycle management done by VxRail Manager ensures that during the pre-assessment and during the actual upgrade, most of which I have seen first hand. Would love to hear your take on this and I would be more than happy to upgrade any blog accordingly. Thanks.

  3. Hi Saadallah,
    interesting article but i guess i’m missing the point here.
    As i understand you are saying Vxrail is more cost effective than Nutanin comparing apple to apple and it is ok for me.
    But when you say Nutanix, for the all flash solution, use a better tier for data SDD than VxRail the first thing that comes to my mind is, “Ok, I’ll pay more but i’ll get more from Nutanix”.
    Without talking about tech specs, wher eyou find Nutanix loosing a single disk without impact on the whole SDS and Vxrail loosing a disk cache to loose an entire disk group or, in case of dedup/compression (only for all flash because in hybrid scenarios only Nutanix supports that), loosing ANY disk means to loose the whole disk group.
    As i said, if your intent was to demonstrate Vxrail is better and cheapest than Nutanix, i missed the point.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Hugh , the better tier is dictated by the architecture not by Nutanix wanting to make default SSD endurance/performance in that manner which makes the solution higher in price, ofcourse anyone can pay more to get more but I think you would agree with me that out of the box, solutions from all vendors are delivered in the least amount of $$ possible, if Nutanix was able to use SDD’s with 1 wpd per their SDS architecture they would have … I never mentioned in the post who is technically better or why, that as I stated many times before is totally dependant on the requirements/specifics/workloads/needs/outcome of the customer and no solution is ultimately superior to the other without the right context, the aim was to explain to Nutanix sales that state generic statements that their solution is generally cheaper is simply wrong and this can be easily proven generally, could be true in the right context but generalization is always a bad thing especially when its committed to customers. Hope that clears our the point. Thanks.

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