HPE intros virtualization solution it says is totally not targeting grumpy VMware customers

HPE Discover AI may be the focus of most of the announcements at HPE's Discover gabfest this year - because it's 2024 - but the Silicon Valley veteran has also taken the opportunity to challenge VMware by Broadcom with a virtualization offering of its own.

That offering involves open source Ubuntu Kernel-based virtual machines (KVMs) alongside HPE cluster orchestration software, inside its HPE Private Cloud product. The new virtualization capability includes the same cloud-based control plane as other HPE Private Cloud software - meaning it can function in a hybrid or standalone environment.

If that sounds like a product designed to capitalize on the change at VMware in the wake of the Broadcom acquisition, HPE won't come right out and say it.

For those who came in late, US chip firm Broadcom concluded its acquisition of VMware late last year, then quickly changed licenses in ways that saw many customers complain of spikes in their bills, leading to complaints from industry groups unhappy with the changes.

Broadcom insists its licensing changes included price cuts to some products and will see customers get better value overall. Nonetheless, VMware's competitors have been circling.

HPE leadership denied that this new offering is about creating a VMware competitor. "This isn't us being opportunistic," Hang Tan, HPE's COO of hybrid cloud, told The Register in an interview at HPE Discover. "We're doing this in response to customer requests."

Tan told us that HPE's expansion into offering virtualization for Private Cloud customers was a natural progression of the hybrid strategy that CEO Antonio Neri has touted for years.

"We didn't take this step [into virtualization] lightly," Tan asserted, adding that HPE started by acquiring a container company, then cloud data management firm Zerto, plus AIOps outfit OpsRamp. "We looked at the map [of private cloud offerings] and asked what was missing," Tan added - and the answer was virtualization.

In other words, HPE's announcement of its own virtualization product, at this of all times, is complete coincidence. It's also worth noting that HPE still offers VMware products, which Tan told us it sees as complementary to HPE's own virtualization offerings.

The question on everyone's mind: Licensing

HPE is yet to detail licensing for its virtual offering. When we asked if it plans to address VMware customers' complaints head on during a press conference yesterday, CTO Fidelma Russo demurred - only saying that HPE doesn't currently plan core-based deals, as VMware requires.

Tan told us that HPE is still working on the pricing scheme for its virtualization product and doesn't have anything to share yet. That said, he did point out that HPE believes technology should deliver "incremental business benefits over time."

"This isn't just about licensing costs - it's about delivering a better total cost of ownership," he explained.

We're likely to know more about virtualization licensing - and whether HPE's virtualization solution will manage to convert some VMware customers - by the second half of 2024 when the product becomes available, initially as part of HPE Private Cloud Business Edition.

Other flavors of HPE Private Cloud will add the virtualization product later, but we're told there is no timeline to share yet.®

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