Nutanix’s New Dell, Nvidia Alliances Meant To Advance AI, Multicloud

‘This is materially different than the Dell model we had in the past. Previously we had a ‘meet in the channel’ model where Nutanix software and Dell hardware were brought together by a partner. This is different in the sense that Dell has now introduced a model that heretofore has only been reserved for [VMware] VxRail,’ says Nutanix’s Lee Caswell, senior vice president of product and solutions marketing.

Hyperconverged infrastructure and hybrid multicloud technology developer Nutanix Monday unveiled a couple of new technology partnerships, including one with Dell Technologies and one with Nvidia, aimed at expanding its enterprise reach.

Nutanix also used its .NEXT 2024 conference, held this week in Barcelona, Spain, to unveil relationships with other partners including Hugging Face to expand its hybrid cloud capabilities.

Going forward, Dell Technologies will add Nutanix software to its servers as part of a new offering sold by Dell via its own channels, said Lee Caswell, senior vice president of product and solutions marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based Nutanix.

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“This is materially different than the Dell model we had in the past,” Caswell told CRN. “Previously we had a ‘meet in the channel’ model where Nutanix software and Dell hardware were brought together by a partner. This is different in the sense that Dell has now introduced a model that heretofore has only been reserved for [VMware] VxRail.”

In the hyperconverged infrastructure business, VMware VxRail was the biggest competitor of Nutanix. VMware, which Broadcom acquired late last year from Dell, was Dell’s go-to technology for turnkey hyperconverged infrastructure appliances. However, Nutanix and its peers have been making inroads into VMware partners like Dell as Broadcom changes its VMware partner strategy.

Dell is the second OEM vendor with a deal to develop complete hardware systems with Nutanix technology built in, following a similar arrangement with Cisco Systems, Lee said. Other partnerships, such as Nutanix’s relationship with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, remain at the meet in the channel stage, he said.

Key to the expanded Dell relationship is the fact that this is the first time that Nutanix is supporting a disaggregated storage model, or a model in which storage resources are separate from compute resources, Lee said. Nutanix, with its hyperconverged infrastructure technology, has traditionally tied compute, storage and networking resources into a single integrated stack.

“We have had many customers talking to us about how we could support external storage,” he said. “What we're doing here is actually quite interesting in that we're supporting Dell PowerFlex. PowerFlex is a server-based software defined storage solution that has compute nodes and storage nodes. And in this case, we're replacing, replacing is a strong word, we're offering an alternative to VMware vSphere with our own hypervisor on the PowerFlex nodes so that they attach to the storage nodes.”

As such, this is the first time that Nutanix has extended its hypervisor along with its microsegmentation capabilities; its data services including snapshots, replication, and disaster recovery; and its management capabilities to an IP storage array, in this case delivered by PowerFlex, Lee said.

For customers, this is the very first expansion of the Nutanix vision to disaggregated storage, Lee said. “Dell and Nutanix together are bringing these server-based architectures as a way to offer more value to customers,” he said.

Lee declined to specifically state whether the Nutanix software will be offered to Dell’s server rivals as an integrated system. However, he said, Nutanix Rajiv Ramaswami during his .NEXT 2024 keynote Monday alluded to the fact that this was the first of Nutanix’s work in terms of providing access to disaggregated storage.

Nutanix Monday also unveiled a new strategic partnership with AI technology developer Nvidia. Nutanix previously supported the NVAIE, or Nvidia AI Enterprise, libraries, Caswell said.

“What's different here is now we're supporting NEM, or the new Nvidia inferencing microservices,” he said. “And by supporting this, it brings forward another announcement we had around what we call Nutanix Kubernetes Platform. This is the result of our D2iQ acquisition. We acquired that company to new value for containers. And these new libraries from Nvidia are containerized. So now we're basically blending the value of containers with the value of new AI applications and we're showing that you have a new ‘BYOL,’ or bring your own LLM, model.”

With that, customers can bring their own LLM, or use the open source LLM optimized for Nvidia, or the Hugging Face LLM, Caswell said.

“As part of this, we have a new API endpoint, which is essentially an API that gives access to all the models with a single integration,” he said. “This is really important for customers, because what's happening is the models are the fastest changing part of an AI ecosystem. So we're saying, ‘Hey, listen, the models may change at their own pace, but we'll go and bring those models to you. You pick the model, and we'll make sure that you can deploy it, but with enterprise resilience.’

While there is no lack of AI-related solutions or companies or issues, the challenge customers have is how to deploy AI applications they know are enterprise resilient and secure, Caswell said.

“We're helping customers deploy an application more quickly with this integrated middleware stack and working with leading partners to bring the latest LLMs,” he said. “Many customers are struggling to figure out how to get started. They could try and figure out how to deploy new container applications on new infrastructure. And most customers, by the way, from our surveys, believe they need new infrastructure for AI. We're simplifying that complete deployment so they can get started quickly, get a working model in production, and go scale it out over the next year.”

Dell was unavailable to talk with CRN about the news by press time.

However, Arthur Lewis, president, Infrastructure Solutions Group, Dell Technologies, said in a prepared statement, “Dell Technologies is committed to providing organizations with the choice and flexibility they need to adopt a multicloud approach on their own terms with their preferred cloud solution vendor. Our collaboration with Nutanix will enable our customers to benefit from the performance and resiliency of the Dell solutions along with the flexibility and ease of use of the Nutanix Cloud Platform.”

The joint Dell and Nutanix offerings are slated to be available to customers in early access later this year.

Nutanix used .NEXT 2024 to unveil several other additions to its multicloud infrastructure portfolio, including: