Nutanix
Rendering of a data center filled with Nutanix appliances (Source: Nutanix video)

Will Nutanix Partnership Make Google Cloud a Contender?

Google Cloud Platform's new partnership with Nutanix, announced last week at the Nutanix .NEXT conference, at first glance seems to be a win for both companies. The agreement will see the companies’ enterprise cloud environments merged and will include a new edge-processing IoT platform from Nutanix, TensorFlow, for Google-based applications.

Google, of course, had built the largest cloud on the planet long before the word "cloud" was being bandied about. The trouble was, it was a custom private cloud built to meet the needs of only itself. By the time the search company decided to get in the public cloud game, Amazon had a six to eight year head start and had already built AWS into a company with a billion dollars of annual revenue in its sights -- if it hadn't reached that amount already.

And although Microsoft Azure started at about the same time as GCP, Redmond had an advantage in that it already had deep business relationships with the enterprise, and enough VAR partners to populate a small country.

To play catch-up, Google has spent billions of dollars annually to build its network of data centers, hardware, and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as laying a network of terrestrial and underwater fiber cables. According to an article published a couple of months back here on Data Center Knowledge, last year it shelled out $10.9 billion in capital expenditures, much if not most of which went to building its infrastructure.

But although Google has built its infrastructure enough to now effectively compete in most global markets, it's paying the price for being late to the game. As Gartner VP Michael Warrilow told Data Center Knowledge back in March, Google Cloud Platform is "the third horse in a two-horse race, but it could well become a three-horse race. They’re doing all the right things. They’re enterprise-scale, but are they enterprise-friendly? And the answer is, that’s still a work in progress."

The new partnership with Nutanix might be a key component -- if not the key component -- to making GCP "enterprise-friendly."

Like Google -- and everyone else for that matter -- San Jose-based Nutanix has its eyes on the enterprise and specifically the hybrid cloud. It's been an innovator in the data center arena, and a pioneer of both hyper-converged infrastructure and software defined storage. The company offers solutions like Calm, which allows for the easy shifting of workloads from on-prem to public clouds as needed.

"Hybrid Cloud needs be a two-way street,” said Sudheesh Nair, Nutanix's president in a day-of-announcement press release. "The strategic alliance with Google demonstrates our commitment to simplify operations for our customers with a single enterprise cloud OS across both private and public clouds – with ubiquity, extensibility and intuitive design."

Until Google, Nutanix's most important partnerships has been with Dell, (which now owns VMware, AWS's chief hybrid cloud partner) which distributes Nutanix's stack on its XC Series servers. Lenovo is also a partner, and introduced its ThinkAgile SX for Nutanix last week, also at the Nutanix .NEXT event.

The deal with GCP will fill a sweet spot and allow it's cloud OS to span private to public with the click of a mouse, employing Kubernetes on-prem and Google Container Engine in Google's cloud. Also, by utilizing it's Calm product for GCP, users will have a single control plane for managing applications between GCP and local cloud environments, and Nutanix Xi Cloud Services for GCP will allow for easy "lift-and-shift" operations to quickly move workloads from on-prem servers to the public cloud when needed.

"With this strategic alliance with Nutanix, Google is addressing one of the most pressing technology challenges faced by enterprises – the ability to manage hybrid cloud applications without sacrificing security or scalability," said Nan Boden, Google Cloud's head of global technology partners. "Partners like Nutanix are essential for us to build a thriving ecosystem and help enterprises innovate faster."

This partnership should bolster GCP by giving it something other than a "me too" hybrid cloud solution to go against the AWS/VMware partnership and Microsoft's Azure Stack -- as well as giving it a more solid presence on the edge.

How well it pans out might depend more on Nutanix's commitment than on anything Google does. Nutanix should have plenty of motivation, however. Although the company had a valuation of around $2 billion in 2014, that was primarily due to venture capital funding. Otherwise, it's been losing money. For the third quarter of fiscal 2017, the company showed a net loss of $112 million, compared to $46.8 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2016. That's not as bleak a picture as it might seem. Revenues for the quarter were up over 90 percent and deferred revenues showed a rise of over 160 percent year-over-year.

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