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.