Nutanix, Mellanox partnership adds Mellanox Ethernet switch to Nutanix platform

Mellanox thinks the Nutanix partnership can let Mellanox do for networking what Nutanix has already done for storage and compute – make it invisible. They also think it can grow their Ethernet switch business from the single digits to the neighborhood of their market leadership in Ethernet adapters.

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Kevin Deierling, Mellanox’s VP of Marketing

Mellanox Technologies, which makes higher-end interconnect solutions for data centre servers and storage systems, has joined the Nutanix Elevate Technology Alliance Program to add a networking component as an option for the Nutanix platform. The Mellanox SX1012, a half rack width, top of rack 10/40 Gb/s Ethernet switch solution, has been validated as “Nutanix Ready for Networking” following functional and compatibility testing. The SX1012 supports up to 48 10Gb/s ports and provides a future proof path to 40Gb/s.

The announcement comes one day after the announcement of another hyperconverged partnership, with Scale Computing. While Scale is focused downmarket from the increasingly enterprise-oriented Nutanix, the two new relationships accentuate Mellanox’s view of the importance of hyperconverged.

“We think hyperconverged is a critical trend,” said Kevin Deierling, Mellanox’s VP of Marketing. “While Scale is targeting small and medium enterprises with a ROBO deployment model, Nutanix is really shifting their focus, and is now positioning themselves more as an enterprise cloud company. We participate in both markets.”

Deierling stressed that Mellanox thinks the Nutanix partnership can let Mellanox do for networking what Nutanix has already done for storage and compute.

“What’s nice is that the challenges of setting up virtual machines and compute infrastructure have been solved by Nutanix,” he said. “They have made this painful process invisible. The remaining task is setting up the whole network and that requires networking knowledge. Our goal here is to make the networking invisible too – to be able to support zero touch provisioning. For Nutanix partners, it means they no longer have to pull in their networking guy for a deployment.”

While the half-rack SX1012 switch validated by Nutanix is the same one being used in the Scale partnership, Deierling said it is extremely well suited for the larger enterprise customers Nutanix is now going after.

Mellanox SX1012

The half-rack SX1012 switch

“What’s nice about the SX1012 is that it is very cost effective,” he said. “Being half-rack width, you can fit two into 1U. That’s very attractive because you can have everything redundant, which is especially important because Nutanix is really pushing to larger deployments. Looking forward, you will also see our 25/50/100 switches impact this space as well, because the hyperconverged vendors are right behind the cloud guys.”

Deierling said in addition to bringing more simplicity to deployments, the SX1012’s validation for Nutanix will simplify the sales process for Nutanix and its partners.

“Before, if they needed an expensive switch from another vendor, that vendor might also have a hyperconverged offering and might wound up competing with them,” he said. “Similarly, a networking expert could become an advocate for someone else’s platform. This removes that possible friction in the sales process, in addition to providing great performance and ‘just working.’

Deierling said the Nutanix partnership came about as a gradual evolution.

“We were both on each other’s roadmap,” he said. “We have many of the same channel partners. We would meet at same events. We at Mellanox also believe we are seeing a shift from where before entire workloads were in the public cloud. You can save money — if you do it correctly — by hosting it on-prem, and Nutanix is at the heart of making that a reality. Nutanix is well positioned to take advantage of that.”

While future Mellanox hyperconverged partnerships are likely, Deierling indicated that no more are happening in the near term.

“We’ve picked some key partners in a category that is very interesting and will continue to support it,” he said. “We have it covered for now, but over time, you will see additional ones coming.” Deierling noted as well that Mellanox has strong related partnerships in the enterprise cloud space, including a major one with Microsoft for Azure Cloud and Azure Cloud for Enterprise.”

Deierling said that the Nutanix partnership in particular has the promise of great things.

“We started out as an HPC InfiniBand company, and just four years ago, that was 80 per cent of our business,” he said. “HPC is now less than 40 per cent – not because that business is shrinking but because our other businesses are growing much, much faster. Ethernet is driving them, particularly at speeds greater than 10 Gb. We have about 90 per cent of market share in Ethernet adapters in that above 10 Gb space, driven by the hyperscale business. On the Ethernet switch side though, we are in single digits. Nutanix opens up our ability to drive the Ethernet switch business to get the kind of growth we had with adapters. It’s a nice way for us to get in front of people we wouldn’t otherwise get in front of.”