New Nutanix Americas channel chief Chris Morgan lays out strategy

Morgan discusses his priorities in making sure that the strength of Nutanix’s channel infrastructure keeps up with the rapid growth of its sales.

Chris Morgan Headshot - 2015 300

Chris Morgan, Nutanix’s Vice President, Americas Channel and Distribution

This summer, Nutanix appointed Chris Morgan as Vice President, Americas Channel and Distribution, where he takes over responsibility for the company’s channel strategy and execution in North America. Recently, he talked with ChannelBuzz about where the company’s channel direction is headed.

The role Morgan assumes is a new one, but it was handled previously by Steve Kaplan, in the broader capacity of Nutanix’s Vice President of Channel and Strategic Sales. Kaplan became Vice President of Strategic Sales solely, with Morgan taking over the channel part of Kaplan’s old job.

“Steve has a deep background in business analysis around technology, and has been asked to apply it to disruptive technologies at Nutanix so we can sit down with strategic customers and explain how our technology will change things and disrupt the datacentre,” Morgan said.

Morgan reports to Craig Bumpus, Nutanix’s Vice President of the Americas.

“Nutanix has a theatre model, so we don’t have a true global channel chief,” he said.

Morgan spent the last seven years as senior director of worldwide service provider strategy and programs for storage vendor NetApp, but he indicated it was time to move on, and Nutanix was an attractive destination.

“I had eight really, really good years at NetApp, and was given a lot of flexibility to create a footprint around the service provider space,” he said. “But they are undergoing changes to their market that all legacy vendors are going through, so I jumped at the opportunity here. NetApp created a new go-to-market model, and with Nutanix, it’s the same. It’s more go-to-market model than technology model.”

In the two months since he was hired, Morgan has been learning the lay of the land at Nutanix.

“I have met with a lot of partners already, and we are putting together an operating plan for the new fiscal year, which will work for a company that is growing as fast as this,” he said. The focus has been on three things.

First, he said Nutanix needs to put better channel operations in place, because the company’s business has grown so fast that the channel infrastructure is facing a challenge to keep pace.

“We’ve only had distribution working directly with partners and us for two to three quarters, and there is so much more the distributors can do,” Morgan said. “We just have to sit down with them and determine what, particularly around all that back office stuff. We have had incredible customer and partner interest, but we are still a very young company. Partners have been incredibly gracious and patient with us, knowing we don’t yet have every t crossed and i dotted.”

Secondly, Morgan said Nutanix has to scale better with partners.

“We need to improve transaction volume, revenue dollars, and partner onboarding,” he said. “We have to determine how we can enable the partner to go deeper into the sales cycle.”

Third, Morgan says Nutanix needs to create new innovative go-to-market models

“We have a lot of business opportunities in terms of how we work with ISVs and with Dell, and we started building up an SI [systems integrator] group about a quarter ago,” he said. “Customers want to procure technology in many different ways. One of my jobs is to make sure we put our tech in the pathways that customers want to buy. I’m confident we can meet expectations here far better than legacy vendors.”

Morgan said this developing SI business is critical to Nutanix.

“Our technology is fundamentally going to change the data centre, and so you need the SIs to do that data centre transformation job,” he said. “We are teaming with large SIs in US, India, and Europe. They have the same requirements as resellers, and are looking for the next big thing, the next big architecture.”

Not surprisingly, given Morgan’s background, Nutanix is also now developing a team to support the service provider market.

“We are beginning a service provider team, with 15 people dedicated to working with them,” Morgan said. “We are also working on a program to roll up and support them. We see the service providers as a pathway to market for us, rather than a customer. What they want is a web-scale architecture, ease of management and horizontal scaling, and it all makes for a great discussion.”

Morgan said that while the channel routes to market are expanding, they don’t want to saturate any of them with too many partners, and need to make sure the ones they have are adapting their businesses to best sell Nutanix.

“There is an immense amount of channel enthusiasm for working with us and we don’t want to dampen that, but at the same time, as a fast-growing new company, focus is important,” he said. ‘We are working with our sales teams to enable a class of partners that impact customers, as well as to create a programmatic approach for partners who aren’t in a position to commit to new architectures. We have to do both of those things. Because it’s not our philosophy to build out a massive channel, we need to help partners transform their businesses to take advantage of what we can do.”

The new Acropolis hypervisor, which Nutanix introduced in June with a new app mobility fabric that decouples apps from their hypervisor, lets customers use the Nutanix hypervisor, and massively cuts their virtualization costs. Morgan sees it as an important tool for partners.

“Our partners don’t want to use this to ‘take on’ VMware and disrupt their relationships with VMware,” he said. “They want to represent new value propositions. For customers who have never virtualized – and virtualization is not universal – it lets our partners go to those customers, and tell them they can do it simply by cutting their hypervisor costs. That’s where Acropolis comes in – expanding the virtualization market.”

At its June event, Nutanix also introduced Elevate, an ISV alliances program, and while Morgan does not have responsibility for that – it belongs to the alliances team – he said that the channels group will be working closely with it.

“We will collaborate with Elevate on how we meet in the market,” he said. “We are going to meet in distribution and create a go-to-market methodology that no one else can do. We will work with them to create a programmatic approach to structure this.”