New Nutanix announcements flesh out and extend broad strategic vision

Nutanix is making three major announcements at their event – Nutanix Flow, Nutanix Beam and Nutanix Era – which are directed to expanding their high-level vision above HCI of making life easy for customers in a multi-cloud world.

Sudheesh Nair, Nutanix’s President

NEW ORLEANS – Today at their 2018.NEXT event, Nutanix has made three major new announcements which complete some elements of their strategic vision, extend others, and set the company up for further innovation. First, with the introduction of Nutanix Flow, they have completed their original hyper-converged infrastructure-as-a-service [Iaas] offering, adding automated application-centric security and networking capabilities to their Acropolis software. Secondly, they have announced Nutanix Beam, a SaaS service based on the recent Minjar acquisition, which becomes a new element of the Nutanix Prism infrastructure management software that allows customers to reduce costs, Finally, they have announced Nutanix Era, a new PaaS [Platform-as-a-Service] capability that reduces the time needed to provision a fully-configured database service, enhancing their appeal to developers.

Throughout Nutanix’s evolution in the public eye, from, a hyperconverged [HCI] evangelist and innovator, through the broadening of their private cloud capabilities with the introduction of their Acropolis hypervisor and Prism, to their emphasis now on working easily with the hyperscaler clouds, the strategy has been constant, said Sudheesh Nair, Nutanix’s President.

“Our master plan – our true north – has never changed,” Nair told ChannelBuzz. “We have to deliver an Amazon-like experience, an Apple-like experience for customers, which includes a consumption model. Amazon and Azure have both realized that they have to have an answer inside the data centre, although they are taking different routes to do that. AWS is partnering with VMware. Azure is using Azure Stack. But they are both acknowledging that hybrid is the key. For our own part, we have perfected our technology inside the data centre, and now we are taking it outside.”

Nutanix got its start in HCI. That’s still how some of the market continues to perceive them, and they continue to innovate in the space. But its no longer what they emphasize in their driving vision. That’s why products like an SMB-focused appliance that they introduced three years ago aren’t a big part of their public story today, even though they continue to sell very well.

“HCI is the foundation, and we envisioned it as a way of building a lot of interesting things,” Nair said. “If it’s not built right, you can’t build anything else. HCI has become something of a fad in the industry. But ultimately, it’s just a foundation. Every house needs a good foundation, but no one wants to live in a foundation. It’s the things on top that matter. However, to pay the bills, at the start, we focused on these feeds and speeds.

“Three years ago, we announced the second level, with Acropolis and AHV,” Nair added. “AHV was when we started talking multi-cloud and container support. If our focus had just been on having the best HCI, we could have just partnered with VMware and focused on the foundation, because having that well-designed cloud-like foundation is important to deliver the hybrid cloud. But in our vision, that whole HCI level, of Acropolis and AHV, will become an invisible piece to the customer, as part of their easy and seamless experience. And that’s why we don’t talk about SMB boxes, even when they sell well.”

Nutanix’s Prism infrastructure management software is the highway to that seamless experience. Before this 2018 Nutanix .NEXT, its key element has been Nutanix Calm. Introduced at last year’s .NEXT event, it leverages technology from their acquisition to enhance Prism significantly, by providing application management and orchestration across different cloud environments, and recommending the right cloud for the right workload.

The two new elements being announced are Nutanix Beam and Nutanix Flow.

“Now we have three pieces of the Prism infrastructure,” Nair said.

Beam is a SaaS offering that delivers multi-cloud governance so organizations can manage their spending, security and regulatory compliance across nearly any cloud platform. Beam is based on technology Nutanix recently acquired with Minjar, and which will be critical in simplifying the divergent pricing of the multi-cloud world for the customer.

“In a multi-cloud world, all the pricing for things is different, and it is very complex,” Nair said. “We needed to simplify the pricing for multi-cloud, and that is how Beam will play a big part.”

Nair compared Beam to California’s FasTrak system that allows drivers to pay highway tolls electronically.

“In the same way that FasTrak streamlines tolls and make them invisible, Beam has the potential to FasTrak your cloud experience, so you can own or rent your cloud experience the way you want,” he said. “This simplifying pricing is extremely important for the customer experience.”

The other new part of Prism is Nutanix Flow, which automates the creation and management of application-centric security.

“Networking and virtualization are different inside and outside the data centre,” Nair said. “Security and networking should go with applications. You cannot protect your data with perimeter security any more because so much of computing is happening on the edge. Networking and virtualization have to travel with the application and the user to be effective, and Nutanix Flow does this.”

Nutanix Flow as it is being released today is the fruit of Nutanix’s own organic development, but during the year it will be supplemented with the integration of technology from their recently-closed acquisition of Netsil, which will facilitate application visibility across multiple clouds.

The other major new announcement, Nutanix Era, is a platform-as-a-service [PaaS] which simplifies the management of databases by providing agility to database management which lets you get things done with a couple of clicks.

At this point in time, there is a fourth element of Prism planned – Xi – which will be familiar to some Nutanix customers and partners, especially if they were at .NEXT a year ago. Xi was announced then, but has still not actually been launched.

“Xi will make Nutanix available as a service for the first time, providing Nutanix resources in the cloud that a customer can rent, and with that, everything under the hood will really become invisible,” Nair said. “Together, Calm, Beam, Flow and Xi will enable digital transformation for customers.”

Nair indicated that parts of Xi will become available this year, and other parts will require more time.

So what remains to be done? Nair said Nutanix will never try to build or acquire all the pieces itself, particularly around security.

“We don’t want to focus on 100 different things, and are not in the business of building everything ourselves,” he said “Within Calm, we already have tremendously important bidirectional relationships with companies like Splunk, Palo Alto, Veeam and Citrix NetScaler. We want to be able to focus on the things we do, to do them really well, and partner on the others. That is how you become a true platform.”

At the same time, Nair acknowledges that Nutanix still has a lot of building ahead.

“The building will never be done, because it is a virtuous circle,” he said. “It will take several years to fill the gaps. All of these boxes need to be done better, and we will use AI more to simplify the routine tasks. Freeing up IT from the clutches of the complex and the tyranny of the mundane – that’s where machine learning and AI will become really useful. In the next year and a half, we will do a whole lot more with AI, as well as with emerging technologies around hybrid cloud.”