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Yes, we're the great contender, says Nutanix

Prabu Rambadran, Nutanix

Hyperconverged behemoth Nutanix says it has grown its local business 130% - and doubled its team size - in the past financial year. It has also doubled its team size since it entered the country two-and-a-half years ago.

Andrew Brinded, GM for Western Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, told The Margin this week that one of the company’s main focusses was around ‘invisible infrastructure’. This the company partially delivers with hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), and is also able to offer its customers a choice around hypervisors, which he believes are becoming commoditised.

Nutanix Acropolis HCI includes a license-free hypervisor, AHV.

“We’re finding it (Acropolis) to be incredibly disruptive in the market because it’s free. Anyone who has a (VMware) ESXi or a licensing agreement coming up, they might want to ask why they’re paying money”, says Brinded.

Nutanix is also just offering a purely software solution, and clients can use whatever appliance they please.

‘Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight’

Prabu Rambadran, director of product engineering, says there are a few other vendors trying to bring the cloud experience to an enterprise datacentre.

He adds: “We believe we’re a strong contender.”

“It’s very clear that people like the way the cloud is designed. You can deploy applications whenever you want, without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. Cloud has taught, or spoiled people. Instant gratification is what they’re looking for.”

“The way we think about it is, you can’t bring a knife to a gunfight. If you’re truly trying to provide the cloud fundamentals, the software you use needs to reflect that.”

He says Nutanix has tried to emulate how Google and Facebook build their datacentres, and how they provide services to the end-users.

“You need to build it on fully distributed systems that can start small and scale without limits. And you have to run on commodity hardware. The fundamental assumption is that hardware will fail over time and software will improve. You put all your intelligence in software, which includes managing the compute, storage, virtualisation and operations, and your application lifecycle in your multi-cloud software.”

Rambadran says IT today is broken into siloes of the storage group, networking, virtualisation, app owners and backup DR group. All these people have their budget and tools, and all report to the VP of infrastructure.

“When an app owner has a requirement; for instance they need to bring a service to market in the next three months, all these silos come up with their requirements, their specs and their budgets, and then make a joint decision.

“This process takes forever, and this is why IT plans for five years ahead, and then budgets for it and makes those decisions today.

“What we’re trying to do is break that apart. The IT department essentially makes decisions based on what it knows today, and can course-correct as they see a need. We’re trying to get to where storage, networking and virtualisation are all hidden and the end-user just sees an application-centric view.”

Since entering the country two-and-a-half years ago Nutanix now has about 40 enterprise scale customers, and as Paul Ruinaard, the sales manager for sub-Saharan Africa tells it, all are seeing ‘massive benefits’.

He says customers report they can upgrade their company’s infrastructure over a weekend - and do it from home.

“They tell us they’re getting their lives back,” Ruinaard says.

In Europe, Brinded says many of the FTSE companies are testing and deploying Nutanix and also report a reduction in IT staff as a result.

‘Can’t boil the ocean’

With its 100% channel programme, Ruinaard says the company couldn’t ‘boil the ocean’, and it had been a tactical decision to get focused, specialist partners.

“The drive is to put 80% of the business through three or four of the major channel partners that have invested. The channel brings scale. To break a product into a market, you’ve got to do a lot of the initial heavy lifting yourself, but you have to pivot to the point where the channel starts bringing in some of the revenue for you,” he says.

Ruinaard adds that Nutanix is currently working with Aptronics, TCM and Datacentrix.

He says the company will also be working on enabling its partners, including running hackathons, ‘beers-with-engineers’ sessions as well as training camps.

While it does have a channel certification programme, there weren’t any tiers currently.

“I think you’ll probably see us bringing more of that in. If you invest in these skills you get up to the next tier and get an additional discount.”

* An earlier version of this article said Nutanix had doubled the size of its team in South Africa since it entered the country two-and-a-half years ago. It has doubled the team size in a year.

* The earlier version also said Nutanix offers its own hypervisor Acropolis. The hypervisor is known as AHV, and the HCI solution is known as Acropolis.

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