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VMblog Expert Interview: Jeff Ready of Scale Computing Discusses Latest Findings from their VMware Focused Survey

interview scale computing jeff ready 

Scale Computing recently concluded a joint survey with Spiceworks, leveraging the Spiceworks community of VMware users.  To find out more about the findings from these VMware users, covering things from VMware licensing, costs, complexities, hyperconvergence and edge, we reached out to Scale Computing's CEO and co-founder, Jeff Ready.

VMblog:  What was the inspiration behind this survey and what were some of the most surprising findings?

Jeff Ready:  A little while back we conducted a review of our customer base and realized that more than 70% of our customers came to us directly from VMware and we wanted to better understand what it was that was compelling these companies to make the switch.  So with this in mind, we partnered with Spiceworks to conduct a brief survey with their community of VMware users to drill down on what they found frustrating about their VMware deployment and what compelled them to make a change. I think what surprised me the most wasn't any data point in particular but rather that all of these factors taken together present a barrier to efficiency and innovation.

VMblog:  Among other things, the survey found that more than 50% reported that their VMware deployments had become too complex for their needs.  What did the users in this survey have to say specifically about the complexity of their VMware implementations?

Ready:  We've heard this anecdotally for many years so it was interesting to see this spelled out more concretely in the survey responses. The VMware solution has been around now for more than two decades and over the course of time they have added hundreds of new features and capabilities. Which for the most part is great if you're a VMware power user who spends the bulk of their time managing large deployments of virtual machines. But for the majority of small and medium sized enterprises, they're not fully utilizing all of these capabilities and often feel all of those extra bells and whistles that they're not using simply create a needless layer of complexity. It's kind of like using a souped up gaming PC to just browse the Internet - you can certainly use it for that but it's overkill.

We recently spoke to one customer of ours, Wally Wheadon who runs IT at Ventura Foods, which is the nation's largest manufacturer of edible oils about his struggles with VMware complexity and I think what he said does a great job of summing up this common point of frustration: "this is the argument I've had with VMware since I've walked in the door. I never thought about it when I was at Wells Fargo because I had money to spend. So I asked the VMware guys: if you were shopping for a particular product and it had 10 features in it that were built into the product --- and built into the product's price -- but you only needed one of those features, wouldn't you go and find the thing that only had that one feature just to save yourself the money since I'm not using 90% of the stuff built in your product?"

VMblog:  How exactly does hyperconverged infrastructure help enterprise organizations save on virtualization costs and reduce complexity in their environment?

Ready:  Hyperconverged infrastructure consolidates the storage, network and virtualized workload into a single, easy-to-deploy appliance - or what some like to call a ‘datacenter in a box'. So because you've dramatically reduced the number of systems you need to manage into one unified system, you've not only shrunk your technical debt, you've also reduced the complexity of the deployment as well as potential points of failure in that infrastructure. By consolidating all of these systems, it also makes troubleshooting a whole lot easier as you now only have ‘one throat to choke' and don't have to figure out which vendor might be at fault if something goes wrong. The Scale HC3 operating software (HyperCore) is built on top of the open-source Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor, a bare-metal hypervisor that's integrated directly into the operating system within each node. This means that we can deliver a robust virtualized environment without imposing a licensing fee - and as this survey demonstrates, those fees can really add up.

VMblog:  How have VMware's revision in its licensing fee structure seems to have created some confusion in the market, especially in the midmarket where end-users are wanting to move to higher-core-count CPUs.  How have these new licensing fees changed the cost structure for these customers?

Ready:  There remains a lot of confusion in general about VMware's shift last year to a core-based licensing model - especially as chip manufacturers like AMD are aggressively pursuing this segment of the market.

Consequently, we've seen many customers that want to move over to those higher-core-count types of CPUs, but now all of a sudden instead of one VMware license you might need several -- and this is something that many IT buyers will often not even anticipate when they are thinking about upgrading their infrastructure.

VMblog:  After years of hype, edge computing seems to finally be having its moment in the distributed enterprise.  What impact has virtualization in general had in enabling this move to the edge and why do you think this presents Scale Computing with an opportunity vis-a-vis VMware?

Ready:  A modern edge deployment wouldn't be possible without virtualization. Consider a common edge computing scenario: you're running VDI in an edge environment to a distributed group of remote offices or branch retail shops. It would typically make the most sense to deploy a single CPU in one box or in a single cluster. So if you were to go from needing one license for a single server to suddenly needing several licenses, your capital expenditures are going to rise accordingly -- and these licensing fees for VMware represent a significant proportion of an overall edge deployment. So given that Scale doesn't impose these licensing fees, our pricing is going to be both significantly lower and more predictable.

VMblog:  Your survey touches on one of the hidden costs of VMware that many organizations do not fully appreciate: certification and training of VMware professionals.  How significant are these expenses and how else might they contribute to the complexity of these deployments?

Ready:  Indeed, I think this is one of those types of expenses that often don't get factored into a company's cost structure and it's not cheap. First of all, organizations with a VMware implementation need to have a dedicated VMware expert on staff to manage and troubleshoot the environment. So there's the expense of the fully loaded headcount to take into account in addition to  the training costs to become a certified VMware professional which can cost upwards of $4,500 per individual. Our survey also revealed that there is an opportunity cost that should also be factored in -- respondents reported spending 900 hours per year on routine maintenance chores, which for resource-strapped IT departments is time they would love to have back in their schedules so they can focus on more strategic priorities.

VMblog:  From a channel perspective, how does the pricing model of a VMware deployment impact their own operating model and how should solution providers factor these costs into their offerings?

Ready:  Solution providers, SIs and VARs have two primary methods by which to improve the margins in their business: they can either increase their prices or reduce their fixed costs. The first option works great if you operate in a non-competitive market but of course, the IT solutions marketplace is hypercompetitive and even slight increases in their pricing sheets can lead a customer to look elsewhere. So the question becomes, how do you reduce costs without compromising service quality? We think that the value proposition offered to channel and solutions providers is especially compelling in that it enables them to not only dramatically lower their cost structure by eliminating the need for licensing but also improves their operational efficiency by simplifying their infrastructure requirements.

VMblog:  For many years you guys have been vocal about the notion of a VTAX relating not just to VMware but to conventional virtualization architectures in general.  Can you explain what you mean by a ‘VTAX' and whether you still subscribe to it?

Ready:  As citizens, the government imposes the burden of a tax in exchange for a wide range of services that ultimately improve our collective society. And when citizens feel like their taxes are being squandered, they get agitated. What we and others refer to as a ‘VTAX' is really an amalgamation of all these economic and operational costs that are being imposed on users and questioning whether or not the value being delivered is commensurate with these costs. We believe that the calculus is out of balance and that there is an opportunity to disrupt the status quo. I should also make clear that the NO VTAX movement isn't against a specific company per se but rather against the conventional and increasingly archaic way of doing things.

VMblog:  Where can readers learn more about the survey?

Ready:  You can read out blog post and download an infographic of the survey results at:


Published Wednesday, July 14, 2021 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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