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Nutanix enterprise cloud strategy envelopes HPE, Cisco blades

Nutanix took two steps today to paint itself as more of an enterprise cloud player.

First, it added Hewlett Packard Enterprise ProLiant rackmount servers and Cisco UCS B-Series blade servers to its list of supported hardware. Nutanix also adopted a new short-term licensing model allowing customers to consume its software in more of a cloud model.

The moves come as Nutanix tries to separate its software stack from its underlying hardware in an attempt to become an enterprise cloud platform. They also make it more competitive to VMware’s vSAN hyper-converged software, which also has partnerships with all major hardware vendors.

 Nutanix began supporting Cisco UCS C-Series servers in late 2016. The availability on HPE means Nutanix customers can run its hyper-converged software on servers from the four leading server vendors.

The Nutanix enterprise cloud stack consists of its Prism management software, and Acropolis services and hypervisor platform.

Nutanix does not sell servers, but it packages its software on Super Micro hardware for Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform NX branded appliances. It also has OEM deals with Dell EMC and Lenovo. Dell EMC sells Nutanix software on PowerEdge servers as the Dell EMC XC Series and Lenovo re-brands Nutanix software on its Converged HX appliances.

Greg Smith, Nutanix senior director of technical marketing, said the various software-hardware partnerships reflect the way hyper-converged infrastructure is purchased. He said organizations want to buy the HCI software stack of their choice and run it on their favored server hardware.

“We are a software company in our heart, so it’s a natural strategy for us to make our software available to run on as many platforms as possible,” Smith said. “The hyper-converged market is a software market. If I want to build out my infrastructure, it is a software-first strategy and the platform is second. Customers want to build what we call enterprise clouds by consuming software on the server of their choice

Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform software will be available on Cisco UCS B-Series by the end of June, and on HPE in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Unlike Dell EMC and Lenovo, HPE and Cisco have not reached out to Nutanix. Channel partners and integrators will bundle Nutanix software on HPE and Cisco hardware. HPE and Cisco sell their own branded hyper-converged platforms.

HPE spent $650 million to acquire former Nutanix rival Simplivity this year, and sells SimpliVity software on HPE ProLiant servers. Cisco sells a HyperFlex hyper-converged appliance built on software from SpringPath through an OEM partnership.

HPE responded to the Nutanix initiative with a statement urging organizations to buy HPE hyper-convergence. “While it’s nice that Nutanix recognizes our leadership in the server industry, there is no relationship between HPE and Nutanix,” an HPE spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. “Customers looking for a supported hyper-converged solution on our DL380 are better served using our HPE SimpliVity product.”

Nutanix also has coopetition relationships with Dell EMC and Lenovo. Dell EMC sells a VxRail appliance based on vSAN software that competes with its XC Series. Lenovo also partners with other hyper-converged software vendors.

Smith said Nutanix has customers running its software on clusters from several server vendors. The clusters can be managed centrally through Prism but customers cannot mix hardware vendors within the same cluster.

“We see a commoditization of the hardware layer,” Smith said. “The software provides the performance, capabilities and features. The x86 hardware is secondary.”

Smith said more Nutanix customers still run VMware hypervisors instead of the Acropolis hypervisor, but the multi-hypervisor option remains a big piece of Nutanix’s strategy.

Consumption-based pricing part of Nutanix enterprise cloud model

New Nutanix Go pricing allows customers to license its branded appliances for as short a time as six months. Nutanix has not disclosed exact Go pricing but Smith said it depends on the appliance model and length of the subscription. He said Nutanix recommends customers to buy the appliance if they expect to use it for more than three years while leasing makes sense for shorter-term implementations.

The pricing model is another piece of the Nutanix enterprise cloud strategy.

“We want the consumption model to closely match the public cloud model,” Smith said.

Nutanix’s steep price is often cited as a reason that organizations pick other hyper-converged systems, particularly small companies.

Nutanix and VMware both claim to be hyper-converged market leaders. Nutanix reported $525 million in revenue in 2016 and $182.2 million in the first calendar quarter of 2017. It claims more than 5,380 customers. VSAN revenue is harder to calculate because VMware does not sell it on branded appliances, but VMware claims more than 7,000 vSAN customers.

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