Channel partners rally behind Nutanix Web-scale converged infrastructure

“Really?!”

That was the one word email I received from Nutanix’s Sr. VP of Sales (and my boss), Sudheesh Nair, in response to the Q4 2013 Piper Jaffray Storage VAR Survey. The surveyed partners ranked Nutanix second to last in terms of sales performance relevant to plan.

Needless to say, I was frustrated. The channel perception of Nutanix was out of synch with Nutanix’s record-setting sales in 2013 as the fastest-growing infrastructure company of at least the past ten years.

But understanding and successfully positioning Nutanix has been a learning process for the channel. When Nutanix CEO, Dheeraj Pandey, first approached Lightspeed Venture Partners almost five years ago, he made it clear that his new company would disrupt the storage industry – including the venture capitalists’ existing investments. Unlike most entrants into the suddenly popular hyper-converged space, this revolutionary vision is integral to everything we do at Nutanix.

Partners can’t simply pitch a “faster, cheaper, better” storage array as they can with the other early stage companies in the survey. Partners need to be able to articulate and evangelize to their clients how Web-scale is a sea change that is fundamentally altering the infrastructure of the modern, virtualized datacenter.

The Difference a Year Makes

2014 continued the trajectory of rocketing sales and, gratifyingly, a much broader spectrum of channel partners caught the Web-scale fever as well. From small partners building their businesses around Nutanix to multi-billion dollar channel organizations moving Fortune 500 clients over to Web-scale, Nutanix is changing the channel landscape.

According to the latest Piper Jaffray report, channel partners now rank Nutanix sales performance in the #1 position – ahead of CommVault, Dell Storage, EMC, HP Storage, NetApp, Nimble, Pure Storage, Veeam and VMware.

Piper Jaffray

 

The Stern Agee Channel Survey similarly shows a huge improvement in channel recognition of Nutanix. Channel partners listed Nutanix as the second leading key company disrupting the established storage sector – right behind Pure Storage (but quickly catching up). Nutanix is ranked ahead of Nimble (and rapidly increasing the spread), and is ranked far ahead of Tintri, Violin Memory, Nimbus Data, Nexenta, Solidfire and everyone else.

sterne Agee

 

Looking Forward to 2015

It’s exciting to see Nutanix partners across the world enthusiastically embrace the Web-scale opportunity. They’re leveraging Nutanix to differentiate their companies, gain new customers, increase sales and shorten sales cycles.

I want to thank all of our partners for your continued faith and trust. The good news is that Nutanix is really just getting started. New capabilities such as one-click hypervisor upgrades, metro availability, connectivity to AWS and Microsoft Azure, among many others, mean extraordinary continued opportunity in the year ahead.

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NetApp joins the hyper-converged froth

I’m surprised that The Register, with its humorous yet poignant headlines, didn’t run an article titled something along the lines of:

NetApp to VMware: “EVO is nice for branch offices and stuff, but leave the heavy lifting to us”

Apparently, the whole NetApp EVO:Rail announcement took VMware by surprise.  Duncan Epping, Chief Technologist at the VMware CTO office commented in his blog, “Although I have been part of the EVO:RAIL team, it is not something I would have seen coming.”

From a datacenter disruption standpoint, the EVO:Rail partnership is important because it indicates yet another of  the “big 7” have now announced their own hyper-converged solutions; only IBM and Hitachi remain without an offering (not counting standard EVO:Rail for Hitachi). But I have my doubts about how serious NetApp actually is:

  1. NetApp has publicly stated, “FlexPod works more in the enterprise data center and large offices, while EVO: RAIL is more for department and branch office deployment outside the core data center.” I can just imagine that the VMware folks are grinding their teeth about that quote.
  2. Adding a Filer, or any SAN/NAS storage,  kills the EVO:Rail scale-out story – one of the most powerful attributes of a hyper-converged architecture. In other words, once customers fill up the Filer, they’ll need to purchase another Filer.
  3. EVO:Rail isn’t cheap. And even if an organization has a VMware ELA, it must still purchase the EVO:Rail licensing on an OEM basis from the manufacturer. When it is time to upgrade the hardware, the licensing must be purchased again. Adding NetApp will, of course, make the solution still more expensive.
  4. There is confusion about what the offering really is. No one even knows which servers will be used (best guess: Lenovo or Fujitsu). One thing is almost for certain, it will be complex. NetApp and VMware are probably banking on VVOLS with policy management to help administer the environment, but VVOLS itself is not yet proven.
  5. Since NetApp cannot compete with a truly hyper-converged solution, it is trying to move the EVO:Rail architecture back toward the FlexPod/Vblock architectures by adding capabilities such as data deduplication, compression, cloning, replication, etc. But it will be difficult to message the NetApp EVO offering in respect to FlexPod. Support will likely be challenging (is it a VMware EVO or NetApp issue?), flexibility will be limited, and resiliency constrained by the RAID and other archaic options of an array-based solution.

NetApp appears to have rushed this announcement to market – it didn’t want to be left out of the hyper-converged revolution. I suspect that while NetApp may use its EVO:Rail offering to open doors, that its reps will still primarily be pushing FlexPod.

Time, of course, will tell whether I’m right or totally off-base. In the interim, I would be very interested in hearing from readers, especially from channel partners and potential customers, about your take on the NetApp EVO:Rail announcement.

EMC implies that SANs may not be so great for hosting virtual machines after all

The inventor of the storage array, EMC, has indicated that a hardware-designed architecture is perhaps no longer the best solution for hosting a virtualized datacenter. The Register reported today that EMC will utilize ScaleIO as a VMware kernel module.

As I pointed out in the introductory post to this site less than two months ago, IDC says that $56B of annual server and storage sales go through just seven datacenter manufacturers: HP, IBM, EMC, Dell, Cisco, Oracle and NetApp. EMC’s announcement means that the majority now have a certified hyper-converged solution (not even counting EVO:Rail):

  • EMC:     ScaleIO
  • Cisco:    Maxta. Cisco also has invested in Stratoscale.
  • HP:         StoreVirtual
  • Dell:       XC Series web-scale converged appliances, powered by Nutanix software

Despite their dependency upon legacy 3-tier infrastructure for tens of billions in revenues, these datacenter giants recognize the necessity of joining the hyper-converged revolution. The threat of public cloud combined with much faster access to information is resulting in an astounding pace of its adoption.

SAN Huggers

Back in the aughts, we had to contend with the server huggers who staunchly refused to believe that their applications could run as well, let alone better, as virtual machines. But the financial and other advantages were too compelling to resist, and datacenters are now approaching an 80% virtualization rate.

Today, server huggers have been replaced by SAN huggers. These are the folks who insist that it is preferable to move flash and disk away from the compute and put them into proprietary arrays that must be accessed across the network. Never mind the issues around complexity, performance, resiliency, time-to-market and cost.

But just as virtualization provided an enormous opportunity for forward-thinking channel partners last decade, Web-scale has even more potential over the next several years. The key is introducing the concept in a way that will resonate with customers steeped in years of 3-tier infrastructure tradition.

Financial Modeling

It is natural for technologists, including channel partners, to jump into speeds and feeds and attributes and deficiencies. But I suggest taking a different tact. Help customers see a bigger picture, and consequently adopt a more strategic approach, with the aid of financial modeling.

IT leaders are realizing that to remain relevant, they need to run their internal operations with the same type of efficiency, responsiveness and accountability as the public cloud providers. This necessitates a more comprehensive process for selecting infrastructure than simply comparing up-front costs of similar solutions.

Cloud providers ruthlessly evaluate all of their on-going costs to ensure they are maximizing every square meter of datacenter space. Transitioning to ITaaS requires evaluating not only the equipment purchase price, but also expenses such as power, cooling, rack space, support, administration and associated hardware and software requirements.

One approach is to boil everything down to a lifecycle cost metric that can be easily applied to competing solutions. I describe a TCO per VM model in a recent Wikibon article. But regardless of how partners present the results, financial modeling on its own is insufficient for optimally determining an organization’s datacenter future.

Financial modeling is the hook to capture a prospect’s attention and to guarantee an audience with decision-makers. It is the key for partners to really understand their client’s pain points and objectives. They can then incorporate other vital variables such as risk, expandability, agility, reliability, resiliency, and so on within a framework that will resonate with their customers.

Going through this process positions a solutions provider to help its customers begin the datacenter migration process. It also provides the opportunity to incorporate private cloud, active/active datacenters, virtual desktops and other use cases made economically feasible by a hyper-converged infrastructure.

Disruption Made Easy

Even a compelling Web-scale evaluation can still leave a partner challenged to disrupt existing buying habits, processes and governance policies. But now that EMC has joined VMware and three of the other leading hardware manufacturers in validating hyper-converged infrastructure, it is easier for partners to initiate a conversation around datacenter strategy.

The winners in the new software-defined era will be those solutions providers who help their customers understand, select and implement the best architecture for their environments. The losers will be the VARs who continue to push legacy solutions without even bringing the Web-scale options to the table.

Cisco jumps into the hyper-converged game

Cisco changed the datacenter game with UCS – the only server designed from top to bottom for virtualization. Despite widespread skepticism that the networking giant knew nothing about servers and would fail miserably, in less than five years UCS became the number one blade seller in the Americas.

In our new compressed disruptive-cycle world, Cisco itself has now fallen far behind when it comes to optimally hosting a virtualized datacenter. The company is, however, scurrying to catch up. Within the past few weeks, it’s been revealed that Cisco both invested in hyper-converged startup, Stratoscale, and also blessed Maxta as the first, and so far only, certified hyper-converged solution to run on Cisco UCS.

How UCS Thumped the Server Leaders

I’ve been a vocal fan of UCS from the beginning. In late 2009, when “over 100 companies” were using UCS, I wrote a blog post comparing UCS vs. the HP Matrix. While competitors scoffed at UCS as a “one-size-fits-all product”, I maintained that it would revolutionize datacenter virtualization.

The dominant server manufacturers of the day were perfectly happy with the status quo. But Cisco realized that virtualization would become the datacenter standard and that a new type of server was required. Cisco initially approached IBM and HP to jointly develop a product, but both companies declined. So Cisco instead funded VMware cofounder, Ed Bugnion, and a team of engineers to spend three years building UCS.

UCS helped mitigate virtualization challenges with capabilities such as FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet), hypervisor bypass, extended memory, services profiles and a GUI that can help the server, storage and network teams collaborate more effectively.

But UCS’s Achilles heel is that it really only addresses a small part of the virtualized datacenter issues – the compute. By far the majority of the pain in the modern datacenter has to do with storage. Not surprisingly, four storage manufacturers, EMC/VCE, NetApp, Hitachi and Nimble, all incorporate UCS as an integral component of their so-called “converged infrastructure” solutions.

Channel partners across the globe, such as the one I worked for, understood that as customers increasingly virtualized their datacenters, they would want the enterprise capabilities and features that UCS offered. These partners worked with Cisco to make UCS the number two blade seller in the world.

Descending into Irrelevance

Ah, but all things must change – especially in a software-defined world. While Cisco was promoting the superiority of custom-designed ASICs, Nutanix was bringing the advantages of commodity-driven web-scale architecture to the enterprise. The impressive innovations that Cisco unveiled over five years ago are now not just obsolete, but superfluous.

  • Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE): Unlike the converged infrastructure offerings built around UCS, FCoE is an example of true convergence of the network stack – melding fibre channel and IP Ethernet networks. But today, Web-scale eliminates the requirement for SANs and switching fabrics entirely.
  • UCS Manager GUI: Lets storage and server teams collaborate more effectively together. Not so useful when separate storage administrators are no longer necessary.
  • Custom ASICs: Cisco boasts 12% increased performance from proprietary hardware. Nice but inconsequential when Moore’s Law doubles performance every 18 months anyway. Nutanix utilizes commodity hardware, but increases performance nonetheless with regular software updates that improve hardware effectiveness.
  • Services profiles and templates: These were great in the day for relatively fast provisioning of ESX hosts. Nutanix Foundation is much faster and doesn’t require zone masking or manual hypervisor installs.
  • Integrating the Cisco Nexus switch: Making the network the management center was key to Cisco gaining traction with its network administrator constituency. But Web-scale eliminates the requirement for complex, intelligent and expensive converged network switches.

The leading converged infrastructure manufacturer, VCE, proudly advertises that it only takes 45 days to order and put a Vblock into production – 5 X faster than with conventional servers and storage. In contrast, Nutanix can be ordered, received, installed and in production in around five days.

VCE ad

Upgrading VMware vSphere requires a corresponding upgrade to the entire Vblock – a process that can easily require a team of consultants several days to accomplish. And even then there are risks involved. A former Vblock customer that recently migrated to Nutanix was still running three versions back of vSphere because they didn’t want to have to deal with the associated Vblock upgrade.

Contrast all of this time, expense and risk with doing a vSphere (or Hyper-V or KVM) upgrade on Nutanix. The process is literally just a single click. No cost, no downtime and no risk.

Lesson for Nutanix

UCS and Nutanix both target the same customers – virtualized enterprise environments. I’ve heard from multiple partners that despite our relatively tiny size, Cisco has declared Nutanix to be its number one competitor. Not HP. Not VMware. Nutanix. Cisco’s announcements around Maxta and Stratoscale reflect its determination to, albeit belatedly, get into the game.

Cisco is one of the most successful and well-run companies of all time. While known for its innovations in areas such as routing, switching, VoIP and collaboration – perhaps nothing has been as impressive as Cisco’s accomplishment in the datacenter. Cisco upended all of the existing dominant server players by developing UCS to fulfill the computing requirements of the virtualized datacenter.

The lesson here for Nutanix is that if Cisco can fall into complacency, anyone can. We’ve got to keep our heads down, be humble, stay hungry and keep innovating – even if we have to eventually disrupt our own technologies.

Lesson for Channel Partners

Cisco, VMware, Nutanix, Dell and HP, in addition to the other EVO:Rail partners and lots of startups, validate that hyper-converged infrastructure/web-scale is the future of the virtualized datacenter. There’s a $50 billion + annual server and storage market out there just begging to be disrupted by those channel partners with both the vision and the desire to execute.

Thanks to @vmmike130, @langonej, @evolvingneurons and to @richardarsenian for input.

Happy birthday VMware vMotion

On this day 11 years ago in 2003, VMware introduced vMotion, and the datacenter was never the same again.

Windfall for Storage Manufacturers and for Solutions Providers

If you were involved in IT, you probably still remember the first time you saw vMotion – moving a live running virtual machine between physical hosts seemed like magic at the time. In my case, a friend’s demonstration of vMotion convinced me to start an integrator business with him focused on enterprise virtualization.

The introduction of vMotion was also the birth of the modern datacenter. It was the feature that made IT organizations really take notice of virtualization and of what it could do to improve their operations. And because vMotion required a SAN, it prompted organizations across the globe to begin purchasing shared storage arrays in massive quantities.

vMotion

VMware vMotion was, of course, a huge bonanza for the young storage manufacturers whose sales had been hit hard by the dot com bubble burst. EMC recognized a good thing when it saw it, and the next month announced its intent to purchase VMware for $625 million (VMware’s market cap today is $36 billion – so quite an astute acquisition).

VMware vMotion also turned out to be quite a boon for solutions providers – many of whom were still struggling themselves from the dot com bubble aftermath. Their services were in strong demand for helping organizations decide what arrays to buy, and how to design and implement the complex products and switching fabrics.

SAN Huggers

In the early days of virtualization, server huggers were common.  We used to joke with IT staffs about putting in a façade of servers and blinking lights so that they could make the application owners feel comfortable. And we really did used to hide the ESX tools from the Windows task bar so that the software manufacturer, when troubleshooting its product, wouldn’t see that it was running as a virtual machine.

Today, the server huggers are nearly an extinct species. Organizations are commonly virtualizing even large SQL Server, Oracle and Exchange applications. But a new group has arisen to take their place: SAN huggers.

As the name implies, SAN huggers don’t want anyone to replace their arrays with the new breed of hyper-converged or web-scale infrastructure products. They’re very comfortable with LUN snapshot management, balancing virtual machines across different physical volumes to get around LUN limitations, maintaining aggregates/meta-volumes, and the many other storage administration tasks.

The ironic thing is that storage arrays were built for a physical “scale-up” datacenter. Although they satisfied vMotion’s requirement for shared storage, they’re simply not a good fit for a highly virtualized “scale-out” datacenter . Take RAID which was invented in 1987. This is a really old technology that requires lengthy rebuild times and that can be disastrous if multiple drives fail simultaneously. The same is true if a SAN loses both of its storage controllers. Losing just one controller significantly reduces performance.

SANs take the disk and the flash away from the CPU and stick them in proprietary arrays at the end of networks where they’re subject to latency and network hops. They scale very poorly, are expensive, in many cases require separate switching fabrics, and are complex to manage.

Web-Scale Converged Infrastructure

When Google came on the scene in the late 1990s, co-founder Sergey Brin refused to buy SANs and instead hired a group of scientists to rethink datacenter infrastructure. They invented the Google File System, Map Reduce and NoSQL and put all of the intelligence into software rather than into proprietary hardware. The result was a very inexpensive infrastructure that is also highly resilient, scalable and simple to manage.

The lead Google scientist and two other Nutanix co-founders brought this same type of architecture to the enterprise datacenter by leveraging the hypervisor to virtualize the storage controllers. The result is a low-cost, self-healing, linearly scalable and very simple to manage infrastructure.

Although still very small by datacenter incumbent standards, Nutanix has already made a big impact in the industry. VMware introduced VSAN and now EVO:Rail as the recommended path to a software-defined datacenter. And hardware leaders EMC, Dell, HP and Cisco all have existing solutions, or planned entries, in the web-scale/hyper-converged infrastructure space.

While it may seem highly unlikely today, my guess is that the SAN huggers are going to have a much shorter reign than the server huggers did before them.

Today’s vMotion-like Moment

Nutanix’s management interface, Prism, is simple, elegant and comprehensive. When partners and customers see it for the first time, many report having the same type of “wow!” experience that they had the first time they saw vMotion.

Thanks to @vmmike130 for editing.

When a channel partner looks in the mirror, does a trusted advisor look back?

In my former position as VP of Cloud and Virtualization at Presidio, I frequently used financial modeling to assist our reps, but did not drive sales on my own. That changed after I learned about Nutanix.

I loved the no-SAN concept and was curious to see how it would actually play in Peoria. I pitched a savvy CIO who had participated in an EDUCAUSE panel I moderated, and she was immediately intrigued. But the Chicago office of Presidio was reluctant to work with a new manufacturer. I just made the sale myself and convinced another region with which I had stronger ties to process the paperwork.

The experience should have tipped me off as to the type of situation I would face in my dual channel and strategic sales role at Nutanix. While it’s been surprisingly easy to sell web-scale converged infrastructure to former clients who have called me or vice-e-versa (always running the deals through partners of course), it’s often difficult to get buy-in from VARs – especially from large ones.

mfg rep 1

The Channel Partner Perspective

I had dinner a few days ago with the VP of Sales of a sizable regional VAR. He asked me how much business our top partner would do with us this year. I told him that one organization had a plan in place to sell $50M in our new fiscal year, though internally we pared it down to be conservative. The VP told me that his company will do $90M this year with EMC alone.

As enamored as he and his team were with our technology, I could tell he was thinking about how he could realistically present it internally. Even matching the sales of Nutanix’s largest partner wouldn’t come anywhere near the business he’s driving with EMC and Cisco. How could he convince his executive team that they should risk the wrath of their two largest vendors by promoting Nutanix?

And, suppose he did manage to persuade the executive team to go all in with web-scale; they still would have to get their sales reps on-board. The reps have established relationships with legacy manufacturers, are trained and experienced in selling their products and depend upon them for opportunities. These “coin-operated” reps do not readily gravitate toward promoting new technologies.

mfg rep 2

The Customer Perspective

If I were a CIO, I would not want a solutions provider who simply brought me different product configurations from a leading datacenter manufacturer – I could find that information myself on the Web. I’d want to work with a partner who was diligent enough to constantly investigate new promising technologies, and who was astute enough to discern which ones could have a positive impact on my organization. I’d expect the partner to bring those options and his recommendations to me for review.

VARs that close-mindedly mimic their vendor perspectives risk becoming, in the eyes of customers, glorified manufacturer reps. An EMC partner, for example, might feel confident today in leveraging a trusted relationship with a CIO to advocate Vblock as the best option for a VDI deployment. But the probability is increasing that the CIO will learn on her own that she could have implemented a similar project at a fraction of the cost and with none of the risk by utilizing web-scale. She will consequently feel her partner is either uninformed or, worse, acting in EMC’s rather than in her best interest.

mfg rep 3

Preserving the Customer Relationship

Channel partners tell me that large enterprises move very slowly – the implication being that they have plenty of time to continue making lots of money by promoting legacy 3-tier infrastructure. Perhaps they’re correct, but it’s a dangerous way to conduct business.

Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  Just because a customer asks for more storage doesn’t mean a solutions provider should limit the conversation to arrays. They can take the opportunity to educate their client about how Google and the leading cloud providers have moved away from using SANs and ancient (1987) RAID technology. They can discuss the advantages of web-scale converged infrastructure and about whether or not the architecture might be appropriate for the customer’s environment.

Even if the customer decides, for whatever reason, to go with traditional 3-tier infrastructure, at least the channel partner looked out for the customer’s best interest. Over time, as web-scale/hyper-converged infrastructure becomes the virtualized datacenter standard, the customer will appreciate the effort and integrity of the partner for introducing it.

The Playing Field has Already Changed

I don’t agree with the premise that big enterprises will continue to move slowly. External pressures from public cloud and internal pressures from much more rapidly changing technologies will force enterprises to change more quickly as well.

Just look at web-scale. Almost overnight it has jumped solidly into the mainstream. VMware’s endorsement of hyper-converged infrastructure as the platform of choice for hosting virtual machines leaves no doubt as to the future direction of virtualized datacenter architecture.

Then there’s Dell – one of the “big seven” who collectively drive 76% ($56B) of the annual server and storage business. Dell also blessed hyper-converged architecture last week with its launch of the Dell XC Series: Web-scale Converged Appliances. Yet another of the “big seven”, EMC, has said it will develop its own EVO:Rail offering. Even HP is weighing in both with an EVO:Rail solution and with its own StoreVirtual product. Cisco is showing signs of making the leap as well.This massive validation during the past few months by the leading datacenter players enables solution providers to bring up web-scale without concern of appearing “bleeding edge”. It also means that they should, with at least some degree of impunity, be able to focus on hyper-converged solutions by creating a separate division explicitly for this purpose.

However they do it, I strongly encourage channel partners to figure out a way to get engaged with web-scale. Nutanix continues, and is even accelerating, our trajectory as the fastest-growing infrastructure company of the past decade. This provides an extraordinary opportunity for forward-thinking partners to grow along with us.

Dell XC Series Launches – and Nutanix partners benefit

Nutanix partners will benefit from the rising tide of web-scale mindshare as Dell launches its XC Series: Web-scale Converged Appliances across the world. But solutions providers currently selling Nutanix-branded appliances through Dell are already discovering other advantages. Choice Solutions, for example, beat out an entrenched Vblock incumbent with the assistance of Dell’s existing server business and its financing capabilities.

Disruption with Dell

Nutanix’s Sr. VP of Sales, Sudheesh Nair, likes to talk about the compressing disruption cycle in our industry. Disruption used to take place over a roughly ten year period, but now it occurs on a to a two to four year cycle.

Large companies tend to be very, very good at running marathons.  They spot emerging patterns and then maintain their leadership through acquisition or internal development. Only rarely have exceptional companies such as NetApp and VMware been able to emerge through the disruptive cycles as large leaders themselves.

The datacenter infrastructure landscape is long overdue for disruption. According to IDC, just four manufacturers – EMC, NetApp, IBM and HP, command a 65% market share of storage today. EMC, with a 30% share alone, has been particularly adept at acquiring innovative companies such as Data Domain* and Isilon. IBM and HP acquired XIV and 3Par respectively.

Dell’s acquisitions of Compellent and EqualLogic have enabled it to attain a 7% share of the storage market. In contrast, Dell has a 17% share of the server business which is also dominated by a handful of manufacturers:  HP, IBM, Dell, Oracle and Cisco own a 77% market share between them.

This discrepancy between server and storage market share creates a huge incentive for Dell to leverage its server base to more deeply penetrate the enterprise storage market. While Dell knew that EVO:Rail was coming, it also recognized that EVO would be a 1.0 product lacking the necessary enterprise attributes for wide scale adoption. Enter Nutanix.

Nutanix Web-Scale

Nutanix pioneered the hyper-converged infrastructure era just three years ago, but legacy datacenter players have already been scrambling to claim a stake. After EMC’s mid-2013 acquisition of ScaleIO went nowhere, the company now is counting on subsidiary VMware’s EVO:Rail. HP has resurrected its Left Hand Networks product as StoreVirtual with EVO:Rail positioned as a back-up in situations where it can’t sell its own product. Even the leading all-flash array start-up, Pure Storage, has announced it will be coming out with a hyper-converged offering.

Dell, however, took a different tact. It took a look at all the potential hyper-converged products, including one that already utilized its hardware, and quickly realized that Nutanix’s innovative vision, enterprise capabilities and exceptional support could enable it to make the same type of inroads into enterprise storage that it already holds with servers.

Dell’s recognition of the huge opportunity Nutanix presented led to an OEM agreement signing that is reportedly the fastest that the company has ever done. The OEM agreement includes unique terms that ensure Dell will not have a price advantage over other partners selling Nutanix-branded appliances. And Dell is subject to the same stringent rules as all of Nutanix partners in terms of forecasting and registering opportunities.

Synergies with Nutanix Channel Partners

Dell partners cannot sell Nutanix without first meeting the requirements of, and enrolling in, the Nutanix Partner Network. And Nutanix-only partners cannot sell the Dell XC Series. But partners of both companies can sell either product depending upon customer technical, environmental and purchasing requirements.

Dell brings a great deal to the table. Customers have a lot of trust in the Dell brand, and Dell already has a pervasive footprint in datacenters across the globe. Its extensive purchasing agreements and contracts with both governmental and commercial entities make procurement much easier. And Dell Financial Services can significantly shorten sales cycles.

It’s already been established that once Nutanix gets a foot in the door for a particular use case, customers quickly come to love the simplicity and elegance of the solution. As a result, Nutanix becomes an almost annuity-like business for partners as customers, now unencumbered by the cost and difficulty of scaling arrays, expand their environments.

But beyond increased revenues and shortened sales cycles, partners of both Nutanix and Dell also benefit from the tendency of web-scale to expand to more specialized use cases such as VDI, private and hybrid cloud, big data, disaster recovery and remote branch infrastructure. Partners consequently have an opportunity to increase their services business, and to provide more specialized services at higher rates.

Datacenter Infrastructure Under Seige

Between web-scale and public cloud, the $73 billion annual server and storage business is under siege for the first time. As Choice Solutions and other Nutanix partners are already learning, working together with Dell enables them to grow their businesses by grabbing a piece of the massive low-hanging status quo fruit.

“Choice Solutions has already had a great experience with the Dell team even before the XC Series has shipped. We have seen first-hand that the partnership will amplify Nutanix’s footprint in the Data Center. Being Part of the Nutanix Channel Advisory Council, I have seen the commitment from Nutanix to protect the interest of the channel, and know that Nutanix has been diligent about the joint opportunity registration program. We already had our first Nutanix/Dell marketing event in Dallas, and the Dell team was both enthusiastic and successful in helping drive attendance to the event. Similar events in other cities are already planned.”    

                Jim Steinlage, President and CEO, Choice Solutions

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*The Data Domain acquisition did not go uncontested. NetApp still has a press release on its Web site proclaiming its acquisition of the same company.