Nutanix moves strongly into enterprise in Canada with new sales strategy

Robert Yelenich, Nutanix country manager in Canada, talks with ChannelBuzz about the measures he has taken over the past year in pursuit of the aggressive growth strategy he laid out a year ago.

Robert Yelenich, Nutanix country manager in Canada

Nutanix has announced that its Canadian business has increased significantly in both scale and scope, with significantly more customers, and a significant proportion of those being larger deals. Over the last twelve months, from the end of Nutanix’s Q3 2016 to the end of Q3 2017, Nutanix has increased from 179 Canadian customers to 313 – a 75 per cent increase. More of these are also larger deals, over a million dollars in size.

When Robert Yelenich took the helm as Canadian country manager for Nutanix a little over a year ago, he told ChannelBuzz then that he was putting an aggressive growth strategy in place to drive the company’s business.

“One of the big parts of our success is our sales strategy, and how we approached the market geographically,” Yelenich said. “Between 90 to 95 per cent of the market in Canada is commercial, and then on top of that, you have 25 ‘needle movers.’ We wanted to grow our share of wallet with the needle movers, and I retooled the Canadian team with this in mind. We also emphasized getting new logos inside major cities, and we almost doubled the number we acquired in just one year.”

Yelenich stressed that the growth in larger customers is significant because it defies the messaging of their competitors that Nutanix isn’t an appropriate play in that market.

“Our competitors have told customers that we are a VDI and remote office space player,” he said. “However, we have had significant sales in the data centre around large enterprise applications. These aren’t small appliance sales either. These enterprise customers we are onboarding are significant deployments.” Approximately half of Nutanix’s Q3 new customer workloads are considered Tier-1 business-critical applications.

Yelenich noted that these wins are even more significant given the conservative nature of the Canadian market.

“It’s because Canadians typically don’t jump on the latest and greatest, that being able to see who has jumped into the deep end with us is important,” he said. “In addition to our mature platform, we now have a lot of very powerful customers providing us with references.” The new logos include Nexen Energy ULC, Empire Life, First Nations Health Authority, AccorHotels, North York General Hospital, Transat A.T., Subaru Canada, Agropur, GardaWorld, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Onta

Yelenich also maintained that Nutanix’s platform, with its own cloud capability and its own operating system, is better suited to enterprises than competitor offerings.

“Our competitors say differently, but they are still in front of customers today talking about whose memory and hard drives are bigger,” he stated. “In contrast, we talk about the option of providing the right hypervisor or the right cloud for a specific enterprise workload. The messaging is that the new Xi will let you work in cloud and on-prem with the same system. The belief is there won’t be a one-size fits all, whether in the public or private cloud, and customers are identifying with that.”

Yelenich indicated that Nutanix’s vendor alliances with Dell EMC, Lenovo, and now IBM, have also been instrumental to success in Canada.

“There is some degree of co-opetition with Dell,” he said. “There are scenarios where we work well with them, and there are scenarios where we compete. They have their own strategies and we align with those. However, we have been successful in winning some very substantial customers. That has made them more open in wanting to partner with us. We are getting calls from them and I just had a very good meeting with their hyper-converged team.”

Yelenich said that while Lenovo has developed quite a large portfolio, opening up opportunities for multi-year partnerings, IBM is more interested in services and software.

“I’ve been meeting with IBM executives in the last year, having discussions even before the partnership was formalized,” he said. “They had a lot of interest in working with us, and there has been quite a bit of activity, including joint meetings and collaboration. They have identified folks internally to drive this. They are important for us, because they have footprints with substantial enterprise customers that we need.”

Much as he did in his previous role as Commvault’s Canadian country manager, Yelenich has strengthened the channel operationally by reducing the size of Nutanix’s channel to create a smaller number of strong partners, both regional and national ones.

“We identified the strategic partners we wanted to go to market with over the past year, and haven’t had to make any changes since then,” he said. “We concentrated our focus on a smaller number of partners, because it’s not feasible to support a larger number of partners. We focused on committed partners with repeated sales, and not on partners doing one-offs.”

While in North America as a whole, Nutanix has begun training partners up to do their own installations, Yelenich said that process is already well under way in Canada.

“While not all of the partners are evolving as we would like, ramping partners up continues to be a high priority for us,” he said. “The model we see is a partner having success selling the platform, and then making investments in professional services. It creates more stickiness for the partner when they have staff trained to deploy Nutanix themselves. The number of partners capable of doing this today has shifted, and the majority are now installing themselves.”

Nutanix grew its presence in Canada by 40 per cent over the last year and increased its investment in the Canadian channel, hiring addition sales teams and resources to help support growth. In Q3 2017, Aleem Nathwani was promoted to lead the western Canadian channel, joining Karen Doerrie, Nutanix’s manager of the eastern Canadian channel.