Nutanix welcomes VMware to hyper-converged fray

With new funding and new markets to tap, Nutanix sees the debut of VMware’s Evo family of products as evidence for further convergence of infrastructure.

Greg Smith, senior director of product and technical marketing at Nutanix.

Greg Smith, senior director of product and technical marketing at Nutanix.

VMware turned a lot of heads with its introduction of the first member of its Evo family of hyper-converged infrastructure at its VMworld event in San Francisco last week. Some of those heads, no doubt, belonged to VMware technology partner Nutanix, a pioneer of the hyper-converged infrastructure industry, which suddenly finds its relationship with the virtualization giant being re-classified as co-opetition. Nevertheless, Nutanix – itself a major presence at VMworld – welcomes its longtime ally, and now sometimes rival, into the game.

“I think it’s a tremendous endorsement of where data centre architecture is headed. It’s a clear signal that we’re moving away from building around centralized storage and building in a software-defined way around x86 servers,” said Greg Smith, senior director of product and technical marketing at Nutanix.

The company has a lot of reasons to be confident, including an additional $140 million (U.S.) in funding that it announced at the same time as VMworld. That additional funding brings the hyper-converged vendor’s total funding to $312 million, and places its valuation at over $2 billion, a significant milestone for the rapidly growing company. Much of that funding, Smith said, will be put towards advancing the company’s marketing story. VMworld attendees got a good look at the company, with a large presence on the show floor and even taking up a billboard that took up the better part of 10 stories of a building just down the road from the Moscone Center in San Francisco. But Smith said that as a 100 per cent channel company, much of that funding will go towards its marketing efforts to and through channel partners. “We will invest in programs to make them successful and in incentives for them to grow their customer base,” Smith said.

The additional funding will also help the company expand in new directions. Over the last year, the company has invested heavily in its management and analytics offerings on top of the infrastructure, and Smith said that investment will expand with the new funding in place.

“We’ve done well on providing a storage fabric on the data plane, and we want to do the same thing in terms of simplicity on the control plane, to extend beyond hyper-convergence to data centre management and analytics,” Smith said.

The first offering in that field will debut later this month, when the company introduces its Cloud Connect software, its first foray into offering connectivity between its private cloud infrastructure stronghold and public cloud infrastructures.

“It will allow the 700-plus customers who’ve bought Nutanix over the last two years and may not have a hybrid cloud strategy to protect their data within Amazon Web Services without any additional third-party software or plugins,” Smith said. “That’s the benefit of being software-defined – there’s no forklifts, it just rolls out with the next software update.”

Cloud Connect for AWS will debut later this month, and although it’s a free upgrade for the company’s customers, the ability to connect Nutanix environments to the public cloud represents services opportunities for the company’s channel partners, Smith noted. Although the company will just support AWS initially, Smith said the company will extend support to all the major public cloud infrastructure players over the coming months.

“The path forward is based upon not just hyper-converged, but the incorporation of Web-scale technology to make sure infrastructure is as simple and scalable as only public cloud and Internet companies have now,” Smith said.

And there’s one place where Nutanix and VMware may differ on their view of the market. While VMware’s message at VMworld was that there are three main paths for the data centre to take – build your own, converged infrastructure, and hyper-converged, for Nutanix, it’s not an issue of if there will be convergence, but simply a matter of how much there will be.

“For the first time in the last decade, you see corporations are earnestly re-visiting how they design, build, and manage data centres, and we’re at the forefront of that,” Smith said.

Although its expanding in terms of customers and markets served, Smith said Nutanix is primarily focused on sticking with its channel. New opportunities may mean new types of partners will make sense for Nutanix, but for now, the company is focusing on its base – which has recently expanded with its wares being available both through its own channel and that of its partner Dell. As it continues to grow, and an IPO becomes closer to reality, Smith pledged that focus would remain.

“We have hundreds of partners today, and our focus is on making them successful. We’ve got a good, solid set of channel partners across the areas where we compete,” Smith said. “It’s only because of partners’ commitment to Nutanix that we’ve been able to reach these heights, and we’re 100 per cent channel and always will be, whether public or private.”