Edmonton partner Reliant Technologies happy with all-in bet on Nutanix

Reliant Technologies Solutions Group talked with ChannelBuzz about the development of their Nutanix business and their experience at last week’s .NEXT event.

(L to R) Karen Doerrie, Nutanix National Channel Manager, Canada, Wendy Pfeiffer, Nutanix CIO, Dan Anderson, Reliant President, Sandy Kohler, Reliant CEO.

In the last several years, Nutanix has made a concerted effort both to move upmarket in the enterprise, from their initial base in the midmarket and the SMB, and to extend their solution deployments from on-prem appliances to cloud services. Last year, they reworked their channel program to nudge partners in this direction, making the move beyond traditional appliances essential to advance beyond the first level of the program, no matter how large the appliance business. That appliance business continues to attract some partners to Nutanix, however, including Edmonton-based Reliant Technologies Solutions Group, which has made Nutanix – specifically Nutanix appliances – the focus of their hyperconverged infrastructure [HCI] business.

Reliant’s journey as a company is somewhat antithetical to Nutanix’s – as far as the cloud is concerned.

“We started Reliant as a cloud-only company in 2012, with that message that the cloud is coming,” said Dan Anderson, Reliant’s President and co-founder.

The timing was not good.

“We were too early with that message – especially in Edmonton,” said Sandy Kohler, Reliant’s CEO and other co-founder. Data sovereignty at that time, before the Microsoft and AWS data centres were established in Canada, was an issue.

The company’s philosophy remained the same despite the shift from the cloud focus, and they have grown their Edmonton office to 16 staff plus 14 contractors, and just opened a small office in Calgary.”

“The goal was to simplify IT,” Kohler said, who had been working at Long View Systems before founding Reliant. “We started Reliant with that mandate, in order to do the right thing for the customer. We realized that not every application was made for the cloud, but we wanted to offer cloud-like functionality on-premise. That naturally drew us to HCI. We looked at Nutanix, VxRail and SimpliVity, and Nutanix stood up faster.”

“We were initially not sure we believed we could set it up in a day or two either, but we could,” Anderson said.

“Nutanix has the same idea of simplification around taking the product to market as us – and the same tagline,” Kohler indicated. “Not all vendors are the same here. When I, as a non-IT person tried to demo some of our other products, I needed someone to help me. With this, I did it myself. So it’s also something that generalists can maintain.”

Today, Nutanix is the only HCI vendor that Reliant carries, and the appliances are 100 per cent of their HCI business, although they are looking closely at some of the new cloud services. They have mainly been using HYCU for their Nutanix backup.

“Reliant has been a fantastic partner,” said Subbiah Sundaram, VP Products at HYCU. “We have a lot going on with them.”

With their current focus on Nutanix appliances, Reliant is limited to the first tier of the Nutanix partner program.

“We are a Pioneer partner, but are looking to become a Scaler partner,” Anderson said. “The deals are there. The issue is getting the certifications. But with the simplicity of the appliances you don’t need a large team. We could have a tiny professional services team supporting a business of a hundred million a month.”

The Reliant executives were highly pleased with the .NEXT event.

“There were some very exciting sessions, including one on Xi IoT, even though this kind of event is more about reconnecting with the channel and executives,” Kohler noted. “Karen Doerrie, the National Channel Manager for Canada, is part of the reason we went all in with Nutanix. Betting your company on a single vendor is risky. She made commitments to training and co-marketing, and they delivered on all those.”

Reliance heard about the new Nutanix Mine announcement around the hyper-converged secondary storage service for the first time at the event.

“Our exposure to it has been very brief, but it continues with their theme of simplified operations,” Anderson said. “By bringing primary and secondary storage all together, it allows one owner to be accountable for the complete life cycle.”

The expansion of the Xi IoT service, whose general availability was announced late last year at the London .NEXT, was particularly significant for Reliant. It now offers new capabilities to develop and deploy IoT and AI applications in the cloud or at the edge, and Nutanix unveiled a free trial of the service.

“Xi IoT is the announcement that piqued our interest from a strategy perspective,” Anderson said. “Edmonton is a hotbed of IoT research, and we are starting to see a lot of conversations in enterprises around machine learning. This provides us with a cohesive message about how this can transform their environments.” He referred to its suitability for one prospect in particular, a recreation health company that can benefit from the way that Xi IoT optimizes measurement and planning of agricultural conditions.

“We also see lots of interesting use cases for this around oilfields,” he said. “There’s an opportunity with this to transform their infrastructure.”