For many large enterprises, deploying a large-scale cloud platform is both a necessity these days and something that is relatively easy to handle with a large IT team. Yet for a small business, getting the same kind of benefits with a small IT staff is a high hurdle. Nutanix aims to change the equation for small and midsize businesses with the release of its Nutanix Xpress software, which promises to deliver the company’s enterprise cloud platform to SMBs in a package that a single IT staff member can install and manage.
While larger organizations can replace and upgrade their data center infrastructure fairly easily to gain more capacity or ensure ongoing support for business applications, small businesses face challenges in doing so because of limited budgets and staff resources.
Over the past four and a half years, Nutanix has focused on selling its cloud products to large and midsize enterprises. However, the company wants to start addressing the SMB market, which Nutanix officials say has been clamoring for similar solutions at more affordable prices.
“The time had come to democratize our technology, and make it available to small businesses around the world,” wrote Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey and Nikita Maheshwari, product lead for Nutanix Xpress, in a company blog post. “Small companies have predictable and elastic workloads, and would either own or rent computing, based on their spend patterns and data safe harbor needs. In this coming decade, the SMB world will be in need of the public cloud as well as an enterprise cloud that mimics its public counterpart — with virtues of pay-as-you-grow, invisible operations, and consumer-grade consumption of IT infrastructure. ‘An army of one’ IT department needs a break from disparate components, boxes, and multiple panes of glass. They need an experience that avoids the tax of a separate storage device, an expensive hypervisor license, and a complex array of management consoles to manage their infrastructure.”
Addressing the SMB Market
Prabu Rambadran, senior director of product and technical marketing at Nutanix, says that that the company’s existing platforms and the hardware provided through OEM partners like Lenovo have been built for different use cases. For example, in many cases, the products Nutanix was selling to SMBs were lower-end platforms built for remote branches of a business, Rambadran says.
“What we wanted to do is provide something that they could use for mission-critical SQL and Oracle deployments,” he says. “The entry point for that was slightly higher than what they were looking at.”
Maheshwari notes that in small businesses there is typically only one person, and perhaps as many as five, who are handling the business’s IT needs. That involves not just managing infrastructure, but also onboarding new employees, managing printers and all manner of technology tasks. Unlike at large enterprises, where there may be IT staff members who specialize in virtualization, storage or networking, small businesses don’t have that luxury, she says.
The benefit of Nutanix Xpress, Maheshwari says, is that it’s “really more of a plug-and-play appliance and software offering” and that managing and upgrading it is not complex. That means that small business owners and their IT staffs can focus on other things, she says. “They can really focus on tasks that are going to move the needle for their businesses, versus operational tasks, and that’s what we really wanted to solve with this product.”
The Benefits of Nutanix Xpress
Nutanix says the Xpress platform is a complete hyperconverged offering that natively integrates server, storage and virtualization and harmonizes a company’s infrastructure stack in a single platform that can power between five and 500 virtual machines. All of the Xpress software is factory-preinstalled and ready to run practically any virtualized application for small and medium businesses in less than 60 minutes, according to Nutanix. The Xpress platform includes a built-in Nutanix AHV hypervisor and virtual machine management that the firm claims can can eliminate expensive virtualization licensing costs.
The platform also offers easy data backup to public cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure, and up to three years of support from Nutanix technical teams and the Nutanix NEXT community of IT experts.
Maheshwari says Nutanix plans to work with companies like CDW to distribute Xpress and target the small business community. “CDW has traditionally been, even for our enterprise offering, a top partner. We’ve worked strategically with them,” she says. “This product line is really going to be one that involves our channel partners.”
Nutanix Xpress will be available via all worldwide Nutanix authorized resellers and distributors starting in July, and Xpress-based solutions will be made available by Nutanix OEM partners such as Lenovo. According to Nutanix, final customer pricing is expected to be as low as $25,000.