Cisco And Nutanix Partnership Will Deliver More Than HCI

By Matt Kimball, Patrick Moorhead - October 4, 2023

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has matured from a technology that focused on provisioning compute and storage for virtual environments to a critical part of automating IT operations and establishing a hybrid multi-cloud environment. From the largest to the smallest of enterprises, HCI is now used to deliver a cloud operating model that accelerates business innovation. This is partly why some estimates project this already sizeable market to grow at a 28% CAGR over the next few years. The market’s growth prospects are a major impetus for the HCI partnership recently announced by Cisco and Nutanix.

Nutanix and Cisco as HCI market leaders

In the HCI space, Nutanix is an innovator and market leader. It was the first company to deliver an actual, off-the-shelf HCI product in the early 2010s, and it has continued to innovate. In fact, HCI has evolved beyond simply provisioning virtual machines in no small part thanks to the work of Nutanix in pushing itself (and its competitors) to maintain its relevance as cloud-native technologies, edge computing and new approaches to data have become focal points for digitally transformed businesses.

On the hardware side of the equation, Cisco makes an equally strong case for being the leader in converged infrastructure. It provides a hardware platform that tightly integrates compute, storage and networking to deliver the absolute best performance. The company’s Unified Computing System (UCS) has long been the leader in delivering independently scalable infrastructure to the enterprise.

With all of that said, it makes sense that Nutanix and Cisco could partner to deliver a best-in-class HCI platform designed to squeeze the best out of each company’s strengths—and delivered to the market as a plug-and-play solution. And that is in fact what the two companies have just announced.

How the Cisco-Nutanix partnership makes the most of each company’s strengths

Cisco and Nutanix are partnering to tightly integrate the Nutanix Cloud Platform with Cisco rack and blade servers to deliver a validated solution managed from Cisco’s SaaS-based Intersight platform

The Nutanix Cloud Platform comprises several Nutanix products designed to deliver all of the functionality for a secure multi-cloud environment, private and public. Any organization deploying applications in a hybrid multi-cloud environment must think through the requirements for hypervisors, containers, storage, compute etc. and all of the variations that can occur from one location to another. The Nutanix Cloud Platform is designed to support these complex requirements in a secure and resilient way.

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At launch, the integrated solution is deployed on three Cisco platforms:

  • Cisco Compute Hyperconverged C220 M6 All Flash Node
  • Cisco Compute Hyperconverged C220 M6 All NVMe Node
  • Cisco Compute Hyperconverged C240 M6 All Flash Node

The difference between the C220 and C240 comes down to acceleration. The 1U C220 is designed for compute density, while the 2U C240 is designed to enable more acceleration for data-centric workloads. These servers are both designed around Intel Xeon and are available with one or two processors.

The partnership announcement made by the two companies mentioned that the UCS X-Series servers would be supported in the future, but no timeline was provided. While the joint solution is also compelling on Cisco’s C-Series servers, I believe deploying Nutanix Cloud Platform on the X-Series is where the partnership will reach its full potential, given the expandability of this compute platform and its tight integration with Intersight.

It’s important to note that this partnership spans more than simply installing Nutanix software on Cisco servers and ensuring that nothing breaks. This offering integrates Cisco’s servers (UCS), networking and security (via the Application Centric Infrastructure, or ACI) and management (UCS Manager and Intersight) with Nutanix Cloud Platform to deliver a seamless HCI experience for IT. As the relationship continues to grow, we will no doubt see further integrations occur across the solution lifecycle.

Simplify IT operations and enable modernized applications

Both companies are activating their sales and marketing teams do drive Go-to-market (GTM) for this partnership and solution. Nutanix has been aggressive about driving joint value from its previous partnerships, and I expect the same here. In any case, this partnership can drive significant gains for both parties.

Why each company benefits from this partnership

While both companies have multiple successful partnerships, there’s a unique opportunity for this one to benefit them even more. I believe this because of the work that’s gone into delivering an integrated solution, along with the underlying quality of Cisco’s hardware and Nutanix’s software.

Cisco can expand its market if this partnership is driven correctly. The company is known for large enterprise networking, security and compute solutions. While its market domination (particularly in networking) has served the company well financially, Cisco has yet to see the same success for its compute portfolio in the enterprise to small-enterprise segment. An aggressive and enthusiastic seller community for Nutanix can help drive awareness, consideration and eventual adoption for Cisco compute products.

On the Nutanix side, the company has long sat as the second largest HCI player in the market. Activating Cisco’s legion of enterprise sellers to drive an integrated HCI solution can open many doors and initiate conversations within these organizations that weren’t happening previously.

Finally, remember that Cisco has a substantial customer base that deployed its vXBlock solution. For those unfamiliar, vXBlock was the first hardware – software integrated solution aimed at delivering converged infrastructure. If I were a Cisco seller, these would be my first prospects for the integrated HCI solution.

Will the market adopt this integrated HCI solution?

This is really the big question. Great technologies make a great solution, but even a great solution doesn’t always succeed in the marketplace for many reasons. So, will this joint solution find traction? And how can Cisco and Nutanix activate the market more effectively? Let’s address these separately.

First, market activation: The most challenging part of this partnership has already been achieved through the hard work of technology integration. And I suspect the integration will continue to deepen over time and drive greater value for IT organizations. In this context, Cisco and Nutanix must be coordinated in their GTM efforts. They need to clearly define shared goals, including target markets, verticals and regions. Establish a common messaging framework. Build complementary marketing assets. Show a unified front. In short, they need to make the market understand that this is a single solution born from two innovative companies—true market leaders.

Second, market adoption: If market activation is coordinated and patience is shown, I think we will see both companies—and their partnership—succeed. There is a real benefit to bringing Cisco’s enterprise-grade equipment down-market, and a real benefit to selling Nutanix’s unique solution stack up market segments. And once the business value of this combined solution is realized and success stories begin to be shared, I believe we will see this solution take off in the market.

Final thoughts

Cisco and Nutanix make for an interesting, even compelling, partnership. Each company has a unique value it brings to the market and already enjoys a dedicated and enthusiastic customer base.

While each company has other solutions in their portfolios that can be seen as similar to what UCS and Nutanix Cloud Platform can deliver, neither has a solution that is as complete and tightly integrated as this joint offering. Because of this, I believe the partnership is positioned for success. It’s just a matter of investing in the market appropriately, executing well and exercising patience until traction is achieved.

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Matt Kimball is a Moor Insights & Strategy senior datacenter analyst covering servers and storage. Matt’s 25 plus years of real-world experience in high tech spans from hardware to software as a product manager, product marketer, engineer and enterprise IT practitioner.  This experience has led to a firm conviction that the success of an offering lies, of course, in a profitable, unique and targeted offering, but most importantly in the ability to position and communicate it effectively to the target audience.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.