Lenovo and Nutanix Partner on Converged Infrastructure Appliance
(Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Lenovo)

Lenovo and Nutanix Partner on Converged Infrastructure Appliance

Product to combine Nutanix software with x86 hardware from Lenovo’s IBM System x acquisition

Making yet another big step in its foray into the data center market, Chinese IT giant Lenovo has partnered with Nutanix to bring to market a Lenovo-branded converged infrastructure appliance that will compete against comparable solutions by HP, Cisco, Oracle, EMC, and NetApp, among others.

The companies are not revealing technical specs or pricing details of the solution until a full roll-out at Gartner’s data center trade show in Las Vegas next month. The hardware, however, will be based on System x, IBM’s commodity x86 server line Lenovo acquired last year, Brian Cox, director of product marketing at Nutanix, said.

Converged infrastructure, or full-package scale-out IT infrastructure solutions that combine servers, storage, and virtualization software, freeing users from the need to set up and operate separate Storage Area Network systems, is a growing and hotly contested market where San Jose, California-based Nutanix is a leader. Nutanix sells its own converged infrastructure appliances, and the only other hardware vendor it has a relationship with that’s similar to the one with Lenovo is Dell, which Gartner considers a “niche player” in the converged infrastructure market.

The deal with Lenovo is a broad partnership that includes collaboration on engineering, marketing, and sales. Lenovo’s global sales reach is the biggest reason the relationship was attractive to Nutanix, a six-year-old company whose product has only been on the market since 2011.

Nutanix currently sells in about 70 countries, Cox said, while Lenovo’s reach stretches across 160 countries, Cox explained. “It’s a big expansion for Nutanix.”

“Lenovo will be creating a dedicated sales force to sell this new product,” he said. When a lot of technology alliances are little more than “a handshake and a photograph,” the commitment of an entire sales team that will only sell the Nutanix-Lenovo solution makes the partnership stand out.

The companies expect the appliance to start shipping in the first quarter of 2016.

According to Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for integrated systems – which is Gartner-speak for converged infrastructure – Nutanix is the leader in the space in terms of completeness of vision. Cisco, while meaningfully behind Nutanix on vision, leads on the ability-to-execute axis of the quadrant.

Others in the “leaders” quadrant are NetApp, HP, Oracle, and EMC. Notably, Cisco has converged infrastructure partnerships with both NetApp and EMC.

Gartner puts Lenovo in the “challengers” category, which it shares with the Japanese IT giant Fujitsu.

The strength of Nutanix is in its software, which combines Nutanix OS and infrastructure management software that unifies management of storage, networking, and compute. It has built-in storage management features, such as deduplication, and compression, and strong availability, performance, and scalability attributes.

Nutanix has its own KVM-based hypervisor, called Acropolis, but also supports VMware and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

Cox said the companies will try to avoid direct competition between the Lenovo appliance, Dell’s XC appliance, and Nutanix’s own converged infrastructure product. The plan is to establish a “deal orchestration” process, where the three companies will avoid pursuing the same sales leads, he explained.

“This is a fast-growing market,” he said. “There’s enough opportunity for all the companies involved.”

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