Speaking at Nutanix's .NEXT conference in Nice, one Leeds-based reseller was cautious about how enterprise cloud vendor Nutanix fits into the channel, citing a lack of communication on strategy.
When asked to rate his experience as a Nutanix partner, technical director of Leeds-based MSP Firstnet Solutions Asif Malik was candid with CRN that he has concerns.
"I don't think they have a clear channel strategy yet. I've not seen that. We've had no communication from them at all on channel strategy," he said.
"The portal looks like it's there, all the data and information is there, the marketing material, the deal reg platform, but how does it work in reality? What are the incentives for us, what are the price points and the break points? We don't know.
"There's nothing about rebates or deal reg exact details. We've been pushing the deal reg scenario, because obviously we're going to make contact with customers, and we don't want them to go over to the back door, and there's been no mention of what the plan is on deal reg, which has made us think a little bit ‘What's actually going on?'"
Firstnet Solutions has been partnered with Nutanix since May. Despite the uncertainty, Malik was quick to sing the praises of Nutanix's full-stack cloud service itself: a 'one-click, one-OS, any-cloud offering', with the ability to virtualise compute and storage across multiple cloud environments.
"In the market, the main differentiator for us is that that we wanted to give our customers the look and feel of a public cloud technology like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure, but have it in your own private cloud. In the past if you wanted to do that you'd build it around VMware or Microsoft tools - and you would have had to be quite advanced in your technical knowledge. What Nutanix has given is that simplicity, that single plane of glass, so you can look at everything from the virtual machine, the performance and the history. You can scale up and you can scale out, and protect everything.
"You can also push the virtual machine back into the pubic cloud - say Azure or AWS - all from the same screen. That was very exciting for us because what it typically meant before is that we had to bolt on separate applications. We'd have our platform, and we'd have to say 'Do you want monitoring, Mr Customer? Well, we'll have to buy you a monitoring tool.' 'Did you want disaster recovery and protect? Well, we'll give you this tool or that with additional cost.' Now, we can wrap all that into one console and the price point is fantastic."
When comparing Nutanix with its competitors, Malik added that the California-based vendor has an edge in its flexible compatibility with a wide range of hardware.
"We looked at a couple of hyperconverged infrastructure providers, like SimpliVity, but the reason we didn't go with them is that they were not using generic hardware. I've come from a hardware background, and the first thing I realised about their partners is that they were using an accelerator card, so in every server that you purchased you'd have to buy more of their equipment to make the technology work. However, with Nutanix it's generic - it's all software."
Throughout Nutanix's conference this week, from dance videos to keynotes and expo sessions, Nutanix execs trumpeted the message: 'We are a disruptor.'
Malik agreed that Nutanix's self-styled moniker is deserved. However, it's something that he has mixed feelings about it.
"The way I describe it to customers is, if you imagine Microsoft or AWS, you've got to be labelled at intermediate to advanced to use those platforms. You can come into Nutanix being an apprentice, because I've trained apprentices straight from school. You give them just one-hour trainings and they can spin up virtual machines. It's that easy.
"I spent six years learning VMware and I know every tick box and check box, and what I've now found is that my skill set is diminished. I no longer need to know all that because Nutanix is saying the hypervisor is free, and we'll give you a single pane of glass and we'll do all of that. That's why they're a disruptor, they're disrupting my job!"
Another downside from Nutanix's "disruptor" role, Malik claimed, is that other vendors are struggling to keep pace with Nutanix's development.
"The other thing that's frustrating is that in terms of vendors support, if you look at Veeam, they only just announced [this week] that they're bringing out a Nutanix AHV compatible product. And it's not available now, even though they're the market leader in backup. So we've got technology and we can't back it up, apart from going with another provider, Rubrik, which now has market dominance because it's the only one that works with Nutanix, so we have no option but to use Rubrik. I've always used Veeam…Been using it for the past five years: it's the best product on the market," Malik said.
"My problem is, how do we get all this technology integrated? How do we tell the customer how good it is? As we can only backup with one provider, they can charge what they want… At the moment, our backup product that we're offering our customers on price point is not competitive, which means we reduce our margin until Veeam is available."
AT Nutanix.NEXT, reseller giants such as Softcat (which recently posted revenues in excess of £800m) and CDW (whose Q3 2017 revenue was over $4bn) expressed a markedly more positive experience of partnering with Nutanix, which CRN will publish shortly.
However, for smaller MSPs such as Firstnet - a firm with revenue ambitions to hit a far more modest £10m by next year - Malik says that establishing a reseller partnership with Nutanix was more down to luck than strategy, explaining that it was a matter of sales staff in both companies having worked with each other in the past.
Malik did concede that Firstnet Solutions has an unusual relationship with Nutanix, being both a customer and a reseller, indirectly through Irish distributor Data Solutions, and a reseller directly with Nutanix.
Nonetheless, he said he has seen Nutanix deliver an increasingly more focused message on what its solution is capable of, during its six-month relationship with Firstnet. He added that he hopes the next six months will see a similar tightening of focus on channel partner strategy.
"I think with these .NEXT events, their focus is now clear, which should help the channel market emerge," Malik said.
"We're hoping that they will deliver."
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