Pluribus Networks leveraging Dell, Nutanix connections to drive SDN solution

Pluribus partnered with both Dell and Nutanix a year ago, and is benefiting from being the software-defined networking element in joint deals. They also believe the upcoming Dell-EMC merger will help their business.

Pluribus Guy

Mark Harris, Pluribus’ VP of Marketing

Approximately a year ago, software-defined networking startup Pluribus Networks announced separate partnerships with both Dell and Nutanix. Now those relationships – sometimes coming together in the same solution – are an important part of Pluribus’ strategy going forward.

Founded six years ago, well-funded with VC money, and now with 120 employees, Pluribus has successfully ridden the software-defined networking wave.

“Facebook and Google built infrastructures with a lot more control and cost control than people had been getting, and private clouds became part of the story of SDN,” said Mark Harris, Pluribus Networks’ VP of Marketing. “It was commercially viable, you didn’t have to go to Amazon, and if you did it well, you basically wound up with a private cloud. Companies like Nutanix need a network that is agile and designed to be visible. You can’t build new stuff on top of a network that is 20 years old. The traditional networking companies were building the same type of networks, just making them faster, as opposed to making a network that is more agile and flexible.”

Harris said their solution is all about visibility and performance.

“The visibility is built in,” he said. “We convert the data packets into flows, so that admins can see that data is relocalized from this node to that node. That is tremendously helpful to admins to help them keep solutions like Nutanix up and running. It’s not about providing packets of data, but about providing the business flow of information. We also have a distributed controller, so there is no single point of failure.”

Harris described Pluribus’ sweet spot as not the top Fortune 50 companies, but everything down from that to the Fortune 2500.

“It’s guys who consider themselves enterprise, but who don’t have an unlimited budget,” he said. “It’s guys building new types of applications, which might look like an SMB one, but which have some Big Data elements. 100 node Nutanix clusters is our sweet spot. We also get into companies the same way Nutanix did. People won’t rip out Cisco high end gear on the backbone for us, but for new apps, we get considered.” Their main competitors are Cisco’s ACI solution and VMware NSX.

Pluribus has a hybrid go-to-market model. Harris said the direct part of their business is now around 40 per cent, and declining. The own channel component is a limited group – about 25 to 30 partners, not including transactional sales.

“Resellers like us, in part because there are far fewer of them than with competitors,” he said. “If you ride the horse with us, you cross the line with us. You don’t have to worry about losing a deal because a purchasing agent found a lower price.”

Harris said most of their channel business still goes through these regional resellers, but the Dell channel is becoming more significant. Dell partnered with Pluribus a year ago in June, as part of their recent strategy where their software-defined strategy is primarily dependent on partnering with them and other companies like VMware, Big Switch Networks, and Cumulus Networks.

“When we began working with Dell, we adopted some of their partners,” Harris stated. “Guys who just want to sell line items out of the Dell catalogue aren’t a fit for us, but the true value-add resellers, and those who play a systems integrator role are. Our goal is to connect with as many of those as we possibly can, and compensate reps with a premium if they go through channel partners.”

Harris is of the opinion that their business with Dell is likely to increase because of the EMC acquisition.

“Dell, in their software-defined approach, has to some degree suffered from their own strategy,” he said. “When Dell partnered with all these companies, they told their salesforce to let customers choose their own preference. The problem is that being neutral on the technology to get the sale quick is not a long term strategy. EMC has been focused on bringing the customer the best possible solution they can, and I think is helping Dell see the value in that. If your end game is delivering business services faster that the next guy, you have to look closely at what those services are and the respective value they provide.”

Adding Nutanix to the partnership, which happened last July, allows Pluribus to fill out a complete solution by adding software-defined networking to the stack, and enhancing the visibility of the Nutanix solution.

“This provides a lot of additional value to those Nutanix clusters,” Harris said.

He indicated as well that Nutanix’s more recent partnership with interconnect vendor Mellanox doesn’t hurt their Nutanix business.

“Mellanox doesn’t affect us,” he said. “While they do build an open switch, you can run Pluribus on Mellanox. We make a standardized image and the hardware vendors make boxes that use that.”

Harris said that their solution is significantly less complex than Nutanix’s solution, which still requires Nutanix to carry the ball on sales and installation with most partners. Nevertheless, he indicated Pluribus is willing to support partners here.

“We think most partners could sell it on their own, but we are more than happy to have partners call us for joint selling. We are staffed to do just that.”