Solution provider secrets of growing with Nutanix

Two of Nutanix’s top Canadian partners discuss the evolution of their companies’ relationship with Nutanix, from early days to the present and how they have become successful partnering with the company, while taking somewhat different strategies.

Nutanix has had a fairly short existence to date, But over the three plus years the company has been in Canada, the extent and nature of its business has changed tremendously, Senior execs from two of their top Canadian partners, Terry Buchanan, Vice President Technology & General Manager, at Zycom Technology, and Michael Rustom, Director, Sales – Ontario & Quebec, at Scalar Decisions, sat down with ChannelBuzz and talked about how their companies had successfully built a strong Nutanix practice.

Scalar and Zycom, which both have a broad range of customers extending from the enterprise to SMB, were pretty much partners from the very beginning in Canada.

Michael Rustom Scalar

Michael Rustom, Director, Sales – Ontario & Quebec, at Scalar Decisions

“We were pretty much a Day One partner,” Rustom said of Scalar. “We come from the datacentre infrastructure space, and have added cloud and security, so hyperconverged was an obvious choice, which meant that Nutanix was on the radar.”

“We were one of their first handful of partners, said Zycom’s Buchanan. “We became completely focused on them in hyper-converged because EVO:RAIL and vSAN failed our tests. We soon became inventing how to deploy Nutanix before Nutanix GSO [their global services organization] was even off the ground.”

Both Zycom and Scalar started out doing mainly VDI with Nutanix, although both have moved well beyond that.

“We started with VDI, but now use Nutanix in every use case, and now cover a broad range of data centre applications, including mainframe conversion, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Oracle,” Buchanan said.

“VDI was our big popular use case initially, but we have broadened it well beyond that specific use case,” Rustom said. “VDI was a path of least resistance, and where there was an opportunity for net new with it, Nutanix asked us to consider them. Now we have moved beyond VDI tremendously with Nutanix.”

Terry Buchanan Zycom 300

Terry Buchanan, Vice President Technology & General Manager, at Zycom Technology

“Nutanix has so many use cases,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been involved in 37 Nutanix deals in the last 2 1/2 years. We are landing a new customer logo every month because of Nutanix. They are now our number one strategic partner. We also sell the most Dell XC systems” [with the Nutanix software].

“We used to have to sell them in the early days, because customers were concerned if they were going to be around,” Buchanan added. “It’s not even a question that gets asked any more. Canada is by nature slower to adopt new technology than our U.S. counterparts, but our revenue with Nutanix has doubled year over year, and is now almost 35 per cent of our total revenue.”

“We are starting to see a key interest among customers in minimizing the infrastructure footprint, especially in the branch office,” Rustom stated. “For busting to the back office or to a public or private cloud, Nutanix is well equipped, and offers an elegant way to do that.”

Nutanix has been a key element in Zycom’s transition from being an eastern Ontario based solution provider to moving successfully into the Toronto market, including relocating their head office from Kingston to Toronto.

“Five years ago, when I joined the company, the greater Toronto area and southwestern Ontario was probably five per cent of our total revenue,” Buchanan said. “Now it’s 39 per cent, and 80 to 90 per cent of that is Nutanix.”

While Zycom has had problems over the years in their relationship with legacy vendors because of their close connections with Nutanix, Rustom said there wasn’t an issue when Scalar started with Nutanix at all, because their key legacy vendors who sell into the space, EMC and Cisco, didn’t have truly competitive products.

“With Vblock, something the size of a Coke machine, that wasn’t really competitive with Nutanix at first, and it was pretty much the same with Cisco,” Rustom said. “Now we are in a situation where we do have real competition between three of our biggest partners, and we have to look at all three and make a decision.”

Zycom has been successful consistently leading with Nutanix, which displaced HP as their most significant strategic partner.

“Nutanix has been a strategic wedge for multiple use cases to help us expand and drive business value and articulate that value of business transformation,” Buchanan said. “This has been especially the case in the SMB and mid-market, which are a little quicker to adopt new technology than the enterprise.”

Buchanan indicated that while leading with Nutanix has cost them business with some vendors, it has opened doors to others – as well as to relationships with other Nutanix solution providers.

“We are the only global authorized consulting partner for the Nutanix GSO global services organization, which led to us being grandfathered into Dell’s program,” he indicated. “We are also in negotiations with Lenovo to do that there as well. Among solution providers, it’s a very select group of us in Canada who are Nutanix-enabled. As a result, there is co-opetition between us, and partnering among us when certain things happen.”

When Nutanix announced their Express SMB-focused product several weeks back, Canada seemed to be a logically strong market for it, and early demand seems to bear that out.

“We already have 18 clients identified for Express, and we expect to do $1.8 million US on Express over the next twelve months,” Buchanan said.

“Express is picking up traction with us very quickly and gaining momentum rapidly,” Rustom noted.

This year, Nutanix has strongly stressed their larger vision beyond the cost savings from hyper-converged, emphasizing that it is only one part of Nutanix’s broader vision to redefine the data centre and turn it into a private cloud that’s as easy on the customer as AWS. Ruston said that Scalar customers are interested in hearing both the big picture and smaller picture value propositions.

“They want to hear both,” he stated. “They always like to hear that hyper-converged can save them money. Today, however, hyperscale environments are becoming feasible for 100-200 million shops. They now have the ability to have web scale capabilities without needing PhDs to run them, and while also leveraging a long term play. The ability to do what used to take weeks or months in days is more precious now even then a strong ROI case, especially with IT teams getting smaller and smaller.”

Zycom is eagerly embracing the larger vision.

“We stopped being a ‘me too’ player five years ago,” Buchanan said. “We wanted to challenge the status quo. We wanted to be disruptive, not just provide what the client wanted. This big picture gives us the ability to have more meaningful conversations with our customers.”

Looking forward, both Ruston and Buchanan indicated they had things on their wish list they would like to see from Nutanix.

“As a sales guy, I’m very encouraged with the direction they are taking from a business perspective,” Ruston said. “It makes them easier to introduce to clients. They line up strongly with our infrastructure and cloud go-to-markets. If they had a good security story, that would be ideal. As a partner, there is that great opportunity for us to add that value, as it’s that piece we can bring to the equation to make us more relevant. For Nutanix, however, it seems like an obvious area to address.”

Buchanan said the 4.7 and Asterix road maps outlined at the event already took care of much of his wish list.

“Asterix will soon be able to let Nutanix manage third party hypervisors with Prism,” he said. “This will enable my managed services team to provision workloads for customers without having to know VMware. From a training cost point of view, that’s brilliant.”

Buchanan also indicated that they are looking for more Nutanix GUI for OpenStack.

“The more automation they put into automating OpenStack for Prism will be critical for us,” he said. “We can destroy the ISP/CSP market if we have that going forward. OpenStack is complex and Nutanix has already dumbed much of it down, but the further they take that, the better it will get.”