Nutanix targets SMB hyper-converged space with Nutanix Xpress

Nutanix is making changes to its channel strategies around this product, including deal registration, to avoid channel confusion. Lenovo and its channel will also play a key role taking Xpress to market.

Sudheesh Nair300

Sudheesh Nair, Nutanix’s president

Hyper-converged vendor Nutanix, which started its original business selling to the mid-market and the lower end of the enterprise, has been heading steadily up-market over the last two years, increasingly defining itself as an enterprise player, and doing larger and larger deals. Today, however, the company is announcing a major new initiative to strengthen its presence down-market. Nutanix Xpress is a purpose-built solution for the SMB market – which Nutanix is defining here as 500 employees or less. They are emphasizing its manageability and data protection capabilities as key factors designed to appeal to this market.

“We see this as representing a process of maturing for the company,” said Sudheesh Nair, Nutanix’s president. “You can build either from the bottom up or the top down, and while both have advantages and disadvantages, we never had any doubts that we wanted to be primarily enterprise, because that’s where the technology appeals most, to the Global 2000.”

Nair acknowledged that Nutanix’s offerings to date have been priced out of the range of most SMBs.

“We want to democratize the process of computing so that it’s available to everybody,” he said. “We have been told that we have a premium product, but for the SMB, it’s also an expensive product. We wanted to be methodical about taking it down-market. As a result, Nutanix Xpress has been engineered from the ground up expressly for this market. It has been designed for companies who don’t have specialized IT staffs.”

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Nutanix Xpress

Nutanix Xpress provides the same benefits for SMB as traditional Nutanix solutions – the integration of server, storage and virtualization and radical simplification of the infrastructure stack – while also offering the capability of reducing or eliminating VMware licensing costs with the Nutanix AHV [Acropolis hypervisor]. However, Nair indicated that they are highlighting two aspects of Nutanix Xpress which they think will resonate with SMBs – simplicity and data protection capabilities

“This is extremely simple to manage, so that you can go in one click to backup and to the cloud,” he said. “It’s so simple, we don’t even plan to write a manual for it.”

Data protection capabilities are also made easy, to ensure simple backup of data to the public cloud.

“Data protection shouldn’t be cheaped out,” Nair said. “We seamlessly connect it to the public cloud. That’s how we have engineered this product.”

Pricing is also very much SMB-focused, starting in the $USD 25,000 range.

Nair said that the target market for this – nominally 500 employees or below – is pretty much a U.S. definition of SMB, and that it will encompass part of the mid-market in Canada and Europe.

“The market for this is really the level where IT budgeting priorities change, and organizations rely on generalists,” Nair said. “IT is just as important to them, but they don’t have the resources.”

Since Nutanix goes to market entirely through the channel, the channel strategy to go down-market will be critical, and Nair indicated that they will be modifying their channel strategies for the space.

“We have a broad spectrum of channel partners,” he said. “Some of them are boutique partners focused on use cases for large customers, and they won’t be interested in this at all. Others, like CDW, are more interested in mass market sales, and they will be interested in this, as will smaller partners who are more focused on that market.

“What we don’t want to do with this, is disrupt our existing channel partners and confuse them,” Nair added. “This is an augmentation play. We want to make sure there is zero friction, so we are modifying the deal registration process so it will be easier to conduct business with Nutanix. We are also modifying our support processes so customers get a one-click support experience. The next few releases of Xpress will make support easier and easier.”

Nair indicated that Xpress will be much easier for partners to sell and support out of the gate than their original product line, which typically required Nutanix’s own sales people to carry the ball early on. This is pretty much a plug-and-play product, where the software comes pre-installed and any virtualized application can be up and running in under an hour.

“Four years ago, our product was simple, but it was too new, so it required a lot of handholding by us,” he said. “Today, you can make an argument that hyper-converged has been mainstreamed, so partners will need less help, and it should take less direct touch. We are, however, amplifying our direct sales support to provide it when needed, as well as local field teams, even though we expect this will be a channel-led product.”

Lenovo, with whom Nutanix signed an alliance deal last fall, will also play a key role in taking Nutanix Xpress to market Concurrent with the Nutanix announcement, Lenovo announced its HX 2000 series of appliances, its version of the product.

“Lenovo has tremendous traction in the PC market, and SMB and midmarket players are intimately familiar with ThinkPad,” Nair said. “We expect the Xpress product will be a huge hit with both the Lenovo direct sales force and the Lenovo channel. Lenovo has been co-designing go-to-market strategy on this with us and has been very active.”

Nutanix Xpress and the Lenovo HX 2000 will be available in July 2016.