Nutanix holds tight at eye of hyperconvergence storm

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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“Hyperconverged infrastructure is where all the action is right now,” says Howard Ting, chief marketing officer at storage start-up

Nutanix

. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Five-year-old Nutanix is, after all, the pioneer of hyperconvergence and the company has much to gain by persuading enterprise customers that this new approach to data centre architecture is one they should try.

But, in fact, there’s a lot of truth in what Ting says: hyperconvergence is one of the hottest trends in data centre infrastructure and Nutanix is sitting at the very eye of the storm.

So why hyperconvergence - and why Nutanix?

In brief, hyperconvergence is really an extension of the ‘converged infrastructure’ idea that combines storage, compute and networking capabilities in a single box. Some vendors and analysts prefer the term ‘integrated systems’; others go with ‘unified computing’. Either way, with converged infrastructure, the customer gets the basic IT elements they need in a pre-integrated and pre-tested stack.

Beyond convergence lies hyperconvergence

Products in this category also include a hypervisor, so they are specifically engineered for virtualised data centre environments. They may also include back-up software, snapshot capabilities, data deduplication and WAN optimisation. The big difference is that all the elements in a hyperconverged system are designed for that system and built into it from the ground up. They’re not disparate, pre-existing elements, made to work together by an IT vendors’ team of engineers, as they are with converged infrastructure.

The benefits of hyperconvergence?

A simplified data centre architecture, simplified systems management, easier deployment and increased scalability. Nutanix was the earliest company to express this concept well and deliver the technology to support it. That means the company itself has attracted a lot of attention in the past year or so - in various forms.
First, it’s attracted a lot of venture capital funding: in late August, the company announced a $140 million Series E funding round, at a valuation of an eye-opening $2 billion. That brings funding to data to some £312 million.
The money, says Ting, will be spent on getting its rapidly expanding global sales team up to speed, as well as building out its engineering capabilities, with a new engineering base in Seattle planned, to complement the one it already has in Bangalore. It also gives Nutanix the luxury of being able to plan and execute its future IPO “very much on our own terms.”
Second, Nutanix is also attracting big-name partners, keen to get into the hyperconvergence game: in June, it announced an agreement with Dell, under which Dell will not only resell Nutanix appliances, but also combine Nutanix software with its own hardware, in a Dell-badged product.
Speaking to Technology.info in early October, Ting revealed that while it would still be around 2 months before the latter products began shipping, Dell had already made some sales of the Nutanix-badged appliances, “with a lot more in the pipeline.”

The hyperconverged competitive market heats up

Finally, Nutanix is attracting more competition, from more fearsome rivals. Rival start-ups Scale Computing and Simplivity also play in the hyperconvergence space, and have been close competitors for Nutanix over the past year or so - but virtualisation company VMware is now in the game, too, and that’s likely to change the market dynamics considerably.
At this year’s VMWorld, VMware announced EVO:RAIL, its own response to the hyperconverged, scale-out infrastructure opportunity. It’s a validation of the hyperconvergence concept, sure, but it’s likely to steal some of the limelight to which Nutanix has happily grown accustomed. Not only that, but Dell is also signed up as a partner for VMWare EVO:RAIL. In other words, Nutanix won’t be getting Dell’s full attention.
So how can Nutanix compete? Ting concedes it will be a challenge. VMware, he acknowledges, “has done more to disrupt the data centre space than any other company in the last two decades.”
It also has considerably more clout with enterprise IT buyers. “They [VMware] can outspend us, they can outhire us and they have a large installed base to sell on this new type of approach,” Ting concedes - so Nutanix will just have to fight the battle on different fronts. These, he says, will be its technological prowess and its multi-year head-start in hyperconvergence R&D.
To say Nutanix now finds itself in the eye of a storm is hardly an exaggeration. CEO Dheeraj Pandey, however, prefers to describe Nutanix as sitting at the “epicentre” of “one of the largest business opportunities in enterprise technology”.
Pandey says he’s confident on capitalising on that opportunity. Technology.info says that, for Nutanix, the next year to 18 months needs to be about carving out a secure foothold for itself, without once slipping - or looking down.

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