On April 9th, 2019 Nutanix (NTNX) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced a global partnership to deliver the well know hybrid cloud as a service solution on HPE. It’s very well known that Nutanix has been a leader in this market space over the past half-decade or so, but this partnership is somewhat of a surprise to most existing customers. I can envision this will only further the on their relationship with Dell-EMC/VMWare
While Nutanix AOS (Acropolis) code and AHV (Acropolis Hypervisor) is already compatible as a third-party virtualization platform to the ProLiant series, this announcement is focused on the decision that Nutanix and HPE will allow channel partners to sell the Cloud OS software on select ProLiant and Apollo offerings as a newly offered integrated appliance. Right now, the only Nutanix appliance sold is based on SuperMicro (SMCI) hardware. In my experience, this has been an extremely beneficial partnership for both SuperMicro and Nutanix. My hope is that this move will not diminish their existing partnership but been seen as a hardware portfolio expansion. Over the past couple of years, as many existing customers already know, there has been some inconsistency on the part of Nutanix as to their direction in the HCI marketspace and hardware. They’re no stranger to going back and forth stating that they are a software and not hardware company. At it's core, they aren't a hardware company; however, their appliance offerings are what a lot of customers like about Nutanix. So the distancing of themselves from hardware in the past has been confusing to say the least. As an existing customer, I believe this new partnership with HPE is welcomed news, since this will now provide a non-commodity hardware-based offering. It also re-affirms the Nutanix desire to be hardware agnostic and commit to offering all in one solutions for customers.
I doubt that Nutanix is looking to seperate from the SuperMicro offering, but one does have to wonder how much their existing relationship took part in this decision. I think customers will look forward to having a choice in the datacenter, but I can understand if SuperMicro is frustrated. One of the questions that myself and others still have, is whether Nutanix will offer the same software/hardware support they currently offer with their existing appliances. I think it would be a poor decision if they didn't, but support is one of the shining stars of Nutanix and I can't see them changing their approach for appliance offerings. It's honestly one of the most attractive offerings that makes Nutanix a differentiator in the HCI market. Their unified software/hardware support makes it much easier ffor the customer. You make one call or submit one ticket and it’s the same folks all the way through. For me personally, this is extremely important. There is nothing more frustrating than the days where you had to call VMWare and explain your storage backend and "prove" that your storage wasn't the cause of the issues you see. This still exists today for those of you who are using Nutanix and running VMWare. I think that's why I haven’t felt comfortable exploring the Dell XC line or Cisco UCS for a hardware platform yet. I know for my folks we don't have time for split support between two entities for hardware/software. The fact that I must have additional coordination for software and hardware makes doesn’t bode very well and isn’t really an effective use of time. I have some friends that haven’t had issues with this approach, but as someone who has been used to the single threaded assistance for the past few years, I really don’t want that to change.
The HPE ProLiant and Apollo offerings should help Nutanix in the datacenter space where a lot of folks aren’t comfortable leveraging commodity-based components for production workloads. For many, existing appliances do the job just fine. Given the excellent support Nutanix has, I haven’t seen this as a problem, but parts do wear down faster as opposed to enterprise grade parts. It really depends on where you want to focus your spend. I believe that this partnership will allow Nutanix to focus SuperMicro appliances more for their remote office deployments and a cheaper VDI offering or environments where engineering time isn’t as constricted, and parts replacements aren’t a big deal. The flexibility SuperMicro provides for a cost-effective solution for either compute dense, storage dense, or a mixture of both, allows for users to have datacenter and remote office flexibility, scalability, and remain cost effective without sacrificing on performance. But the HPE partnership is definitely strategic for those with overseas datacenters where parts replacements take longer to arrive. Having enterprise grade hardware is worthwhile.
It will be interesting to see how the LCM upgrade approach does with consideration of more HPE hardware.While yes, proliants are currently availible for use under Nutanix code, I'm interested more in how the partnership will impact the approach LCM performs its driver/firmware upgrades. HPE is very well known for a seamless upgrades. For me, this would be a difficult item to not examine. There have been issues with LCM in the past, and having a company who has a long standing history of streamlining this process would be good to rack ideas off of.
All in all, we will see in the coming weeks how the new partnership unfolds with HPE and what the market response is. Overall, I’m optimistic and believe their partnership will be fruitful for Nutanix, HPE, and ultimatelt to existing and new customers.
Let me know your thoughts below!