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Nutanix Xpress Delivers Partner-Powered Hyperconvergence Tailored for SMBs

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Lorna GareyNutanix announced on Tuesday its new Xpress cloud platform, priced and architected for small and midsize businesses, as well as Nutanix InstantON VDI, to ease Citrix desktop virtualization for midmarket and larger shops.

Nutanix Xpress is a preassembled private cloud stack, available only through the channel, that bundles storage, compute and a hypervisor along with management software. Prebuilt Cloud Connect integrations allow for data backup to public cloud services, including AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Nutanix's Nikita MaheshwariNikita Maheshwari, senior product marketing manager at Nutanix, told Channel Partners that Xpress is tailored specifically for SMBs — it’s not a scaled-down version of the company’s Xtreme Computing Platform, even though the core technology principles are the same.

“Our CEO really advocated that he didn’t want to make this just a new platform in our enterprise portfolio,” said Maheshwari. “We really wanted to make a new product line, with dedicated engineering, a product road map and enablement.”

Maheshwari said Nutanix saw better-than-expected down-market adoption of the enterprise-class Xtreme product thanks to its simplicity of deployment and management and emphasis on a hybrid cloud architecture. Nutanix partners were asking for an SMB-focused system, and the company worked with the channel to get specs right.

“When we were developing the product, we did a lot of interviews,” she said.{ad}

Nutanix Xpress starts as low as $25,000 for a three-node system with three years of support. While hardly pocket change, it’s about half the cost of EMC’s recently announced VxRail product on a per-node basis — $8,300 vs. $15,000. A Nutanix node comprises a server with direct-attached storage able to support as many as 500 VMs, depending on size. The platform comes with Nutanix’s native AHV hypervisor and VM management software. While customers can run VMware or another hypervisor, AHV, which is based on a hardened version of KVM, is bundled and eliminates virtualization licensing costs — a big part of the value proposition.

Chris Morgan, vice president of Nutanix’s Americas channel and distribution program, previously told Channel Partners that the company sees “massive opportunity” for partners in transforming customer data centers.

“The margin on our product is very good and healthy, and we find our partners are doing just fine, thank you, on the front-end margin that they’re able to garner with our solution,” said Morgan in that interview.

Maheshwari says the enterprise Nutanix line spans verticals from health care to retail, SLED and financial services, and she expects a similar broad uptake with Xpress. One caveat is that a customer with many remote or branch offices that needs centralized management should look to the Xtreme offering versus Xpress.

For the new product, Nutanix cites the example of a midsize law firm with IT manpower and budget constraints, a five-year-old SAN approaching full capacity and end of support, and racks of older x86 servers that struggle to support the latest versions of critical applications. With Xpress, partners could gradually shift that customer, adding …

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… new nodes as needed, from a legacy environment to a hyperconverged stack.

For partners, all software is pre-installed, and systems can be up and running in less than 60 minutes.

“This is going to be a very channel-driven product,” Maheshwari said. “We are really working hard on empowering partners to sell this product independently.”

The new enablement initiative includes a set of videos spanning the life cycle from unpack to launch, to navigating the UI, to getting a VM running.

“One thing that our channel has done very well, and we hope to continue with this, is developing their own sets of services around Nutanix,” said Maheshwari, calling out data center design and migration. “We expect a similar story here.”

Fast Lane to VDI

Independent analyst Kurt Marko sees Nutanix Xpress as following an encouraging pattern in which vendors blend enterprise-class products and features with simplicity and usability.

“Hyperconverged infrastructure takes the pain out of integrating server and storage hardware with virtualization software,” says Marko. “Nutanix takes system integration to another level by incorporating a best-in-class VDI platform that offers organizations facing a client upgrade cycle an attractive, secure, scalable, centrally managed alternative to standalone PCs.”

He’s referring to the Nutanix InstantON VDI offering, which bundles Citrix XenDesktop VDI edition, the Nutanix Xtreme enterprise cloud platform and AHV hypervisor with Citrix Machine Creation Services integration, and three years of support for $415 per desktop.

Maheshwari says VDI has always been a popular application for Nutanix’s hyperconverged systems.

“Our product is pay as you grow,” she says. By acquiring one node at a time versus a forklift upgrade, customers can deal with uncertainty in terms how many, and what type of, end user devices they need to support. Companies that purchase low-cost thin endpoints may find total the cost of InstantON VDI less than a PC or desktop, though partners should help them do that math.

“This gives them a simple, packaged offering so they don’t have to go out and source everything independently,” she says.

Nutanix InstantON VDI for Citrix is aimed at sites with 300 users up to several thousand desktops that can support a hypervisor-agnostic environment. It will be available in June, while Nutanix Xpress will be available worldwide through authorized resellers and distributors in July. Watch for Xpress-based solutions from Nutanix OEM partners, including Lenovo. For distribution, Nutanix works with Arrow ECS, Avnet, Carahsoft, Immix Group and Promark Technology. 

Marko says partners may find the Citrix integration is a model for additional solutions.

“Nutanix provides partners with a turn-key VDI offering suitable for a variety of business scenarios that’s able to grow with their client’s needs,” said Marko. “Expect Nutanix to pursue this model with other software partners in the future by offering integrated appliances targeting different product categories.”

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.


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