Nutanix adds another big strategic partnership with Lenovo deal

Nutanix sees the Lenovo deal as equal in importance to the Dell one inked last year and said its announcement shortly after Dell’s purchase of EMC is a coincidence. The plan is to get jointly branded products to market through Lenovo in Q1 of 2016.

Sunil Potti

Sunil Potti, SVP, Engineering and Products at Nutanix

Nutanix and Lenovo have signed a new strategic partnership, though which they will develop, market and sell a new family of Lenovo hyperconverged appliances powered by Nutanix software. The first products are scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2016.

For Nutanix, the deal adds a second major partnership, complementing the one they signed with Dell in 2014.

“Having relationships where system hardware co-operates with our system software is critical,” said Sunil Potti, SVP, Engineering and Products at Nutanix. “We started here with a relationship with Dell, and for several reasons, we considered Lenovo the best partner for several reasons to bring this type of architecture to the next level.”

First, Potti said that Lenovo was a very strong fit from a product engineering perspective.

“Their IBM heritage really helped them emerge on top here,” he said.

A second positive factor was the absence of other products or partnering agreements which would conflict with the Nutanix relationship.

“With Lenovo, this is a frictionless partnership where there was no legacy partnership to worry about,” Potts said. “Lenovo has a very clean slate on storage. We didn’t want to bring conflict into the channel, and at the end of the day, the channel wins with this.”

The deal is equally important to Lenovo, said Tom Shell, a longtime Lenovo exec who was recently appointed Lenovo Enterprise Business Group Vice President.

Tom Shell Lenovo

Tom Shell, Lenovo Enterprise Business Group Vice President

“Our overall strategy is to become a market leader in x86 servers, and to do that we need to invest,” he said. “This deal enables us to break down siloes of server storage and virtualization in data centres and take advantage of the server becoming a huge central hub there.”

The plan is for the two companies to introduce a new family of hyperconverged appliances built on Lenovo’s systems, and branded as Powered by Nutanix software. The joint solution will run nearly all workloads, including enterprise applications, databases, virtualized desktops, and big data analytics.

“We have a full portfolio from SMB to large enterprise and all those are important to us,” Shell said. “System x lends itself to all this. We understand mission-critical and what this means to customers. This partnership gives us the opportunity to go beyond SMB over time, although the SMB may be the initial focus.”

Potti said that even through Nutanix’s own market share is more upmarket, with around 50 per cent of their lifetime unit sales coming from larger enterprise and government, they see Lenovo having the ability to get there as well.

“Lenovo is an ascendant company, in both PC and mobile,” Potti said. “We believe the market opportunity for Nutanix with Lenovo, even though it might take longer to get to mass, will be stronger in the long term because it isn’t shrouded with conflict with legacy products.”

While the Dell-EMC announcement occurred only three weeks ago, Potts stressed that it was a coincidence and that the Lenovo deal was in the works before Dell’s purchase of EMC was made. EMC of course, comes with its VCE portfolio, which one might reasonably assume to be shrouded in conflict with Nutanix, although Michael Dell has strongly pledged their Nutanix relationship will not be affected.

“The Lenovo deal is part of our normal expansion, and as it stands, both relationships are on an equal footing and being aggressively pursued,” Potti said. “It remains to be seen whether Dell on its side will continue in a year or two.”

Both Lenovo and Nutanix are making substantial investments in the partnership.

“From the get-go, both companies are committing to a large go-to-market investment,” Potti said. “This includes global dedicated sales teams, with Lenovo making a sizable commitment here since hyperconverged is a new area for them. Both companies are planning substantial investments in the joint platform engineering and development, as well as aggressive go-to-market initiatives.

“We are also looking at new form factors beyond what Lenovo offers today, including things like blade fabric,” Potti said.

The offering will be sold through Lenovo channel partners, as well as by Lenovo’s broader enterprise sales teams.

So when will the products be known, and when will they be available?

“The current plan is to have product available for announcement at the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management Conference in December, and to be shipping in Q1 2016,” Shell said.