Nutanix Brings Its Hyper-converged Infrastructure Software To Cisco UCS Platform (Without Cisco)

Nutanix Thursday unveiled its hyper-converged infrastructure software stack for Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) C-series servers. Cisco,however, had no hand in bringing the offering to life.

The software is available on Cisco's C-series UCS servers, including the C220 and C240, said Howard Ting, chief marketing officer at Nutanix, San Jose, Calif. Those servers roughly map to Nutanix's own NX3000, NX6000, and NX8000 appliances, he said. Integration with Cisco's B-series blade servers, as well as servers from other vendors including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will be available in the future, he said.

The offering is not being sold by or in partnership with Cisco, Ting said.

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In fact, CRN reported Wednesday that Cisco privately disavowed the Nutanix UCS offering to channel partners, saying it would offer no advertising or joint technical support for it.

"This is a meet-in-the-field relationship," Ting told CRN. "There's no joint marketing. Cisco is not selling or reselling our solution. We're announcing a new route to market for Nutanix, meeting in the field on Cisco UCS."

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Indeed, Nutanix does not expect Cisco to want to support the Nutanix solution, Ting said.

"We don't expect endorsement from Cisco," he said. "In fact, we expect the opposite because they have their own solution and want to help it mature. But we understand customers want to get the best solution, and we feel Nutanix is the best solution."

The Cisco solution Ting referred to is Cisco HyperFlex, which Cisco introduced in March. HyperFlex combines Cisco UCS server and networking technology with software-defined storage technology from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SpringPath. Nutanix arch-rival SimpliVity also has a go-to-market relationship with Cisco.

Ting said he expects Cisco UCS partners to choose Nutanix over HyperFlex, which he called a relatively immature product.

"We don't think HyperFlex has the capabilities or robustness of Nutanix," he said. "If I had to name one glaring problem, it would be that HyperFlex is limited to eight nodes. Nutanix has no hard limit. We have customers with up to 1,600 nodes. We have a multi-year lead on the technology."

Cisco did not respond to a request for comment.

Nutanix is making a smart move in bringing its software to the Cisco UCS platform, said Tom Holt, vice president of sales at Bedrock Technology Partners, a San Diego-based solution provider and Cisco channel partner.

"Nutanix has had an awful lot of success in hyper-converged infrastructure," Holt told CRN. "But selling appliances can be hard. Working with Cisco and other server platforms gives it a wider route to market and scale faster."

There is demand from Cisco customers for hyper-converged infrastructure offerings like Nutanix, Holt said.

"The whole virtualization space still has opportunities and efficiencies that can be gained with hyper-converged infrastructure," he said. "UCS has been a big surprise to a lot of people in terms of how quickly it grew. Putting new solutions and pathways to market are good for both vendors. Cisco is putting a lot of eggs in its UCS basket. It's critical for it to have UCS more widely adopted."

One Cisco partner, who talked with CRN on condition of anonymity, said Nutanix needs Cisco more than Cisco needs Nutanix.

"Nutanix's largest reseller is Dell," the solution provider said. "If the Dell acquisition of EMC goes through, giving Dell EMC's hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, Nutanix will need a bigger pipe. And Cisco would cut their nose off to spite their face before doing a deal with Nutanix."

Nutanix already has several routes to market for its hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, including via its own integrated appliance, and via OEM deals with both Dell and Lenovo.

Nutanix in June of 2015 released a free Community Edition of its software targeting developers, and also is working with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ravello Systems to run that edition on Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform.

The solution will be marketed by Nutanix to its channel partners who also work with Cisco UCS, Ting said. Channel partners will place separate orders with the two vendors, and then work with Nutanix services to integrate the solution in the field, he said.

Nutanix’s Howard Ting

The integration includes Nutanix's Foundation tool that allows partners to use the Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure stack with the VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors, Ting said.

"We don't have a software agreement with Cisco," he said. "Dell and Lenovo can ship our software with VMware or Hyper-V, but Nutanix can't. So we ship the software naked. Foundation lets partners manage the server with the hypervisor of choice."

Nutanix has done all the work needed to certify its software stack with Cisco on the UCS platform, but Cisco has yet to approve it, Ting said. "We're just waiting for the sign-off," he said.

However, the VMware and Hyper-V hypervisors have already been certified by Cisco for its UCS platform, which means that the Nutanix stack will work on UCS, Ting said.

"Thousands of applications run on those hypervisors without the need for further certification," Ting said. "We are just taking the extra step of certifying our application. But if Cisco certified it, it would have a hard time turning away support because it already supports thousands of applications on VMware and Hyper-V.

The Nutanix software will be available for ordering by the end of August, although some large projects including a major insurance company have already been done with the Nutanix-Cisco combination, Ting said.