RESEARCH NOTE: Nutanix and Dell Partner for Hybrid Multi-Cloud Solutions

By Matt Kimball - May 22, 2024

It’s conference season in the tech industry, which inevitably means lots of announcements from companies. While some are grand pronouncements delivered during keynotes, others have a subtler effect as they hit the newswire. One example of the latter is the new partnership announced by Nutanix and Dell Technologies, whereby the companies will deliver two integrated hybrid multi-cloud solutions for enterprise IT.

In the following sections, I’ll recap what was announced and what it means for enterprise IT organizations. I’ll also explore some of the ripple effects on the competitive landscape.

A Little Nutanix-Dell History

Nutanix and Dell have had an interesting relationship over the years. While Dell was a champion of Nutanix in the early days of the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market, that relationship faded somewhat when Dell acquired VMware via its purchase of EMC in 2016.

After the spinout of VMware in 2021 and its eventual acquisition by Broadcom, which closed in 2023, the dynamics changed again. Uncertainty among downmarket customers has driven a renewed interest in Nutanix and its technology portfolio as a viable hybrid cloud alternative.

While Dell certainly still enjoys a strong relationship with VMware, it seems to have recognized this market opportunity as well. The result is a stronger reengagement with Nutanix—and a compelling joint offering.

What Nutanix and Dell Announced

The Nutanix-Dell partnership has two significant elements. First is the Nutanix Cloud Platform (NCP) for Dell PowerFlex, which enables customers to scale storage independent of compute. This software-defined storage solution is increasingly important for organizations on a digital transformation journey where data is being generated and stored at unprecedented rates. The second element is NCP running on Dell PowerEdge servers, which delivers a turnkey hybrid multi-cloud platform for enterprises embracing the cloud operating model.

In each case, the new joint offering must not merely run, but be tightly integrated and tuned for optimal performance. Indeed, the key to this partnership will be this integration and tuning. In line with how Nutanix has been approaching other partnerships, this is not about simply installing AHV and NCP on Dell servers and calling it a day. Rather, Nutanix and Dell are focused on co-engineering these solutions. While details weren’t disclosed, I suspect this will track to other Nutanix engagements, where the two organizations will focus on performance, stability, and integrated management.

What Does This Mean for Enterprise IT?

I see this partnership as a big win for enterprise IT organizations that are on the hybrid multi-cloud journey. Deploying an environment that can seamlessly transition from on-prem to off-prem is so important to achieving the operational agility that businesses need to survive in an ever-competitive market.

But reaching hybrid multi-cloud nirvana is hard to achieve for enterprise organizations that are already overwhelmed and resource-constrained. Evaluating, acquiring, deploying, and optimizing the right combination of hardware and software is equal parts rocket science and magic.

This partnership aims to remove that friction. Delivering what the companies call an appliance means co-engineering it to the point that it genuinely is as simple as plugging in the machine and point-and-clicking—and, just like that, the hybrid multi-cloud environment is deployed. Based on what I’ve seen from publicly available materials, it appears that the partnership will also deliver multiple configurations to support a wide range of applications.

What’s in This for Dell? And for Nutanix?

I see this partnership delivering positives for both companies. For Dell, this reestablishes the company with a Nutanix customer base that is among the most enthusiastic and loyal you’ll find in enterprise IT. During the Dell-VMware era, the Dell server and storage brands lost luster with this customer base, who perhaps felt that they were being nudged toward VMware. (It only makes sense that Dell’s sellers would be motivated to carry out a cross-selling strategy.) But with the new partnership articulated in this announcement, Dell is not merely supporting Nutanix from a selling perspective—it is putting engineering skin in the game to deliver that optimal experience and performance.

Dell’s biggest payoff here might come from recent moves by VMware in licensing and pricing. Anticipated attrition for VMware in the commercial enterprise and SMB market segments positions Nutanix as an attractive landing zone for those customers. By creating these bespoke Nutanix solutions, Dell positions itself quite well as the modernized infrastructure of choice. Further, delivering this solution as an appliance makes the migration to Nutanix/Dell that much easier. In fact, I would not be surprised to see Nutanix wrap its migration services around these platforms to make the process even more seamless.

From a Nutanix perspective, this partnership should be seen as a huge win. Dell is number one in server and storage shipments into the enterprise. Frankly, it’s not even close. Being able to leverage everything that comes with Dell’s market presence should pay plenty of dividends for Nutanix.

How Will This Impact the Nutanix-Cisco Relationship?

Very little. On the surface, the relationship between Nutanix and Dell seems quite similar to the Nutanix-Cisco partnership. And in some ways it genuinely is. However, the Nutanix-Dell partnership addresses a market segment where Cisco doesn’t play from a server perspective. Cisco UCS servers tend to be sold to large enterprise organizations that have invested heavily in Cisco for networking. Indeed, it’s an evolution of these enterprises’ Cisco investment.

While Dell competes with Cisco in large enterprises, I see the most significant market opportunity for Nutanix-Dell in segments where the company competes more with HPE and Lenovo. I think this partnership delivers a big differentiator against those competitors. However, I don’t see Cisco as a significant competitor in this more transactional segment.

With all of that said, Cisco could leverage Nutanix to come downmarket and make itself a far more consumable solution for these less technically equipped customers looking for a simple way to create a cloud environment.

Closing Thoughts

This Dell-Nutanix partnership was a surprise announcement for many, myself included. While details are still a little sparse, the potential upside is significant for both companies as the partnership addresses real (and large) challenges that enterprise IT organizations face around cloud migration and market dynamics in the virtualization/hybrid cloud space.

When more details are available, I’ll be sure to share. Stay tuned.

Matthew Kimball
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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.