Nutanix’s audacious vision soars above appliances

The erstwhile datacentre disruptor is seeking to be the control point for future networks

A few years ago, Nutanix was the disruptive start-up that became the bane of the lives of the old refrigerator-sized storage array, three-tier merchants such as IBM, HPE, NetApp, EMC and HDS. But at its .NEXT conference in Europe earlier this month, the company showed that it has become something much bigger—a fixed point of the datacentre infrastructure landscape with a burgeoning infrastructure management software layer and an increasingly aggressive virtualisation hypervisor play.

The company can’t be called a startup any longer, even if it was only founded as recently as 2009. With a $4 billion-plus post-IPO valuation, 2,800 staff and 7,000 customers, it is the undisputed leader in the hyperconvergence market it did so much to create. But its ambitions expand beyond the ability to compress storage, compute and other tasks into server appliances. Way beyond.

As CEO Dheeraj Pandey put it, the company is “only scratching the surface” of making infrastructure invisible and seamless, and Nutanix wants to be the control plane of the new digitised, multicloud-spanning datacentres and even extend its purview to the edge of networks.

Nutanix has been talking about being at the front and centre of the management landscape for a few years now but some of us saw this more as side bet or a buttress to its core product line. We were wrong it seems: with OEMs including Dell, Lenovo and IBM, the company is becoming more software-centric and appears willing to cede appliance sales to partners except where customers explicitly call for it to participate.

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The triple punch of its Prism management suite, Acropolis virtualisation hypervisor and Calm development/provisioning plane is making it a serious challenge. It has moved from (hyperconvergence) “stack to PAC” and if it succeeds it will live up to the recent, bullish Goldman Sachs prognostication that it has a “once in a decade” infrastructure play.

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