This week Nutanix kicks off .NEXT, its annual user conference. I'm looking forward to it because it provides such a great opportunity to catch up with many Nutanix customers, partners, and executives in a very short time. I have to be careful not to get lost in the echo chamber though—when I attended my first .NEXT last year, it was a bit surreal. It was like being at a cult meeting—Nutanix users I spoke with were seriously enthusiastic about the Nutanix experience!
The most common mantra? I'm paraphrasing a bit, but it really was that Nutanix allowed IT managers to move from being in charge of managing infrastructure to enabling business. Numerous customer told stories about saving significant time on infrastructure management because they no longer have to manage storage hardware; maintain spreadsheets that show what VMs are mapped to what servers, SANs, and LUNS; or spend time on change management, patch management, regression testing, and all that time consuming "stuff" that goes into infrastructure management. Instead they can step back, look at IT holistically, and see where they can leverage technology to improve the business. I really heard digital transformation stories, before digital transformation was really in style. The stories were numerous and users enthusiastic.
I expect much of the same this year from customers. What do I expect (or at least hope) to hear from Nutanix executives? I want to know many things! But most importantly, I want to know how Nutanix can continue to add value by evolving the product to move further up the stack—tying tighter to application stacks and delivering on the enterprise cloud promise. They made some interesting acquisitions last year with Calm.IO and Pernix Data to start down that path—what's the report card there?
This is important—really important. With a much more competitive offering from VMware (vSAN has overcome its early challenges) that is being broadly leveraged by Dell EMC in VxRack and VxRail, a quietly successful and competitive Cisco Hyperflex, a strong and experienced team at Pivot3 that is leveraging the NexGen Storage tech it acquired last year to add additional value, HPE acquiring and putting some wood behind the SimpliVity arrow, and NetApp getting into the game, this market will be tough! And to address the elephant in the room, even though Dell EMC renewed its agreement (all the way out to 2021) before Dell closed the EMC deal, and even though Dell EMC sells a gazillion Nutanix-based solutions, Dell EMC is investing heavily in VxRail, which competes head to head with Nutanix in VMware environments.
Nutanix needs to differentiate. Its enterprise cloud vision is compelling, but to deliver on the agility and flexibility an enterprise cloud can provide, the solution needs to be application aware and deliver quality of service (QoS) guarantees to ensure important applications run at the right speed and in the right place. After all, an enterprise cloud encompasses on-prem, cloud services providers, and even the edge. I'm looking forward to hearing the story and the progress they've made.
It's not just about the product and the vision though. Given the significant revenue that comes from Dell EMC and the VxRail momentum, Nutanix needs to continue to broaden its relationships with other partners. It's been very successful with its other OEM partner, Lenovo—that business is healthy and growing. But I want to hear how Nutanix is investing in, growing, and enabling other partners to be successful.
All in all, I expect it to be a good few days in DC. If you're there, please reach out and say hi!