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Microsoft Launches Partner Program To Protect Utilities

As evidence mounts that attackers are probing critical infrastructure worldwide, Microsoft is spinning up a new partner program for securing utility customers' operations through modernization.

Larry Cochrane, Azure Principal Program Manager, Energy, unveiled the Azure Certified Elite Partner Program for Cyber Analytics in Power and Utilities this month in a Microsoft blog. That post cited a flurry of recent attacks affecting the utilities industry, including devastating take-downs of the power grid in Ukraine, the WannaCry ransomware and a recent targeting of U.S. power firms, including the Wolf Creek nuclear facility in Kansas.

"Microsoft is deeply aware of the importance of cybersecurity for companies supporting the electric grid and is committed to helping partners and customers secure their nations' most critical of critical infrastructure," Cochrane wrote.

The program hinges on the Operations Management Suite (OMS), which is Microsoft's Software as a Service IT management platform for cloud and on-premises systems, and this new group of elite systems integrator partners with OMS deployment expertise. Starting in the United States with plans to expand worldwide, Microsoft aims to seed utility participation by covering the initial costs for deploying and running the Azure-based OMS, and will also include a limited Azure subscription to help with training, development and expediting projects.

The platform will be able to collect data from Windows agents, Linux agents, System Center Operations Manager, various Azure resources, Office 365 and custom logs. In response to an e-mailed question, Cochrane confirmed that the data sources go "way beyond just Microsoft systems," and noted that the platform offers several ways to capture data about the SCADA systems that are often targets in industrial attacks.

In addition to the management capabilities, another important component is anti-malware software built into OMS and extended for the utility solution.

"Initially this Azure Certified Elite Partner Program is all about securing our nation's power system," Cochrane said in the e-mail interview. "Utilities may potentially get immediate value about threat actors and malware that might be present in their networks."

Longer-term, Cochrane said he hopes the program will cause utility customers to see the value of OMS and sign up. "The power and utilities industry is undergoing the most fundamental change since its inception, driven in part by renewables and digital transformation," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 24, 2017 at 4:58 PM0 comments


Nachtrab Named CEO at eFolder

Five months after joining eFolder as chief strategy officer, LabTech founder Matt Nachtrab is now the MSP-focused company's CEO.

Kevin Hoffman, who has been CEO/CTO of eFolder for 10 years, is changing his title at the Denver-based private company to founder and CTO.

"Matt and I complement each other well," Hoffman said in a statement Thursday introducing Nachtrab as CEO. "We both share a passion for this channel community, our partners, our employees, and delivering exceptional, game changing products. This partnership with Matt allows me to focus on delivering the next wave of innovation and product excellence that will propel the company to new heights, allowing our partners to thrive in a changing IT services landscape."

Nachtrab, who was serving both as chief strategy officer and chief revenue officer prior to being elevated to CEO, started a Toledo, Ohio-based MSP called Nemsys in 1999 and then founded the remote monitoring and management (RMM) company LabTech Software in 2007, which he later sold to ConnectWise.

eFolder currently has 200 employees and 3,000 channel partners and a portfolio of products that includes Replibit for backup and disaster recovery; Anchor for file sync and sharing; and Cloudfinder for backup, search and eDiscovery of Office 365 and other SaaS services.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 21, 2017 at 8:58 AM0 comments


Dun & Bradstreet Coming to Dynamics 365

A new partnership will make Dun & Bradstreet's rich business data available in Microsoft Dynamics 365 sometime later this year.

The deal could create the potential for Microsoft partners to offer more actionable business information in Dynamics 365 solutions for customers. It could also present the opportunity for partners to use the data themselves to develop new business.

Much like data being brought into Dynamics 365 from Microsoft's LinkedIn acquisition, Dun & Bradstreet is another source of information on customers and potential customers that could be available through Dynamics 365 that comes from a source outside of a business' own customer and prospect database.

The headliner of the three-pronged partnership announcement between Dun & Bradstreet and Microsoft on Wednesday was the element of the Microsoft customer win. Essentially, it's another one of those deals where a customer declares Microsoft as its strategic cloud provider. In this case, Dun & Bradstreet plans to put core applications and new services on Microsoft Azure and has announced its intention to use Microsoft intelligent cloud services to modernize its applications.

Of most potential interest to partners is a plan to bring elements of Dun & Bradstreet's global business database of 265 million business records into Dynamics 365. The companies say Dun & Bradstreet will leverage Microsoft's Common Data Service to integrate its D-U-N-S Number and core business data.

The data would supposedly help Dynamics 365 customers qualify sales leads and stay synchronized with Dun & Bradstreet's global business database.

"The opportunity for mutual customers to thrive with rich data when you combine Dynamics 365 and Dun & Bradstreet is incredible," said Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Commercial Business, in a statement.

A third part of the deal is a joint, co-sell arrangement between Microsoft and Dun & Bradstreet focused on Dynamics 365, Dun & Bradstreet business data and D&B Hoovers. The companies billed that U.S. arrangement as offering Dun & Bradstreet sellers incremental opportunities to sell Dynamics 365, along with incremental Azure consumption for Microsoft.

Pricing, potential incentives for Microsoft partners and availability of the data to Microsoft partners for internal use were not part of the initial announcement.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 20, 2017 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Watson To Run the Microsoft U.S. SMC Business

A big part of the major sales and marketing reorganization at Microsoft earlier this month involved splitting the business into an enterprise operating unit (EOU) and a small medium and corporate (SMC) customers unit.

For years there was an Enterprise & Partner Group (EPG) and a Small and Midsize Solutions & Partners (SMS&P) organization. Broadly speaking, enterprise customers were handled through EPG, while corporate account managed (CAM), corporate territory managed (CTM) and SMB & Distribution (SMB&D) customers went through SMS&P. Now enterprise and CAM accounts are being moved up into the vertically organized EOU, and the rest are heading into SMC.

As details emerge, it looks like the new worldwide structure will be reflected in the U.S. subsidiary, as well, with a One Commercial Partner organization at both the worldwide level and in the U.S. subsidiary, and the SMC also having a counterpart in the United States.

Longtime Microsoft partners will have a familiar face running the SMC business in the United States. Corporate Vice President Allison Watson, a former long-serving leader of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group who has been running Marketing and Operations for the U.S. subsidiary, will, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, "expand her responsibilities to also lead the US SMC business."

The spokesperson also confirmed previous RCP reporting on the U.S. organization that another former Microsoft worldwide channel chief, Phil Sorgen, is corporate vice president for Enterprise-Commercial in the U.S. subsidiary, and that Corporate Vice President David Willis is leading the U.S. One Commercial Partner organization.

All of those U.S.-based executives will have a new boss on Sept. 8. Microsoft announced earlier this week that Kate Johnson, currently the chief commercial officer and executive vice president of GE Digital, will be the corporate vice president of Microsoft's U.S. operations. Earlier organizational charts had Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations, serving as acting president of Microsoft's U.S. subsidiary in lieu of a U.S. boss.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 19, 2017 at 2:56 PM0 comments


Microsoft Inspire 2017: The Twitter Recap

  • Complete Microsoft Inspire 2017 coverage here.

RCP Editor in Chief Scott Bekker upheld his yearly tradition this week of live-Tweeting his way through Microsoft's annual partner conference. Here are the highlights from this year's keynotes:

Presiding over the kickoff presentation was Ron Huddleston, head of Microsoft's One Commercial Partner business, which was created just this year. Huddleston shared Microsoft's vision for the new unit.

Up next was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who began with a sweeping overview of Microsoft's focus areas for the next year.

Nadella also announced the new Microsoft 365 solution, which had undergone two previous name changes.

Microsoft marketing executive Alysa Taylor took the stage to demo new Dynamics 365 apps, including a just-released sales solution that's integrated with LinkedIn.

Nadella also shared more details about the long-awaited Azure Stack, which is now in the preorder stage.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer, discussed Microsoft's place in today's era of nation-state attacks.

Smith noted that 90 percent of all security attacks start with an e-mail.

He also urged partners to wean their customers from the 16-year-old Windows XP for clear security reasons.

In discussing the rise of state-sponsored security and privacy incursions, Smith advocated for a "digital Geneva Convention" and made Microsoft's stance clear.

Gavriella Schuster, head of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, followed Smith onstage and described Microsoft's reasoning behind its recent sales reorg.

She then shared the top partner questions that Microsoft hopes to answer with the restructuring.

Microsoft provided some Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) stats:

Some key themes emerged over the week.

And finally:

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 14, 2017 at 6:29 AM0 comments


Partner-Facing Roles Shuffled in Microsoft Reorg

The leadership of the six-month-old One Commercial Partner (OCP) organization at Microsoft got a minor shuffle when the company's entire sales and marketing organization underwent major upheavals at the beginning of July.

Some of the biggest changes to Microsoft's global partner organization took effect well before the recent reorg. In January of this year, Executive Vice President of the Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff named Ron Huddleston corporate vice president of a new OCP organization that at the time folded in the Worldwide Partner Group (WPG) run by Gavriella Schuster, the Enterprise Partner team led by Victor Morales and the ISV Partner Business Evangelist/Go-To-Market team led by Kim Akers.

Akers, however, moved in mid-May to the role of Readiness lead, reporting to Althoff in the Worldwide Commercial Business, leaving Huddleston with an open spot on ISV.

Rather than a straight ISV replacement, Huddleston chose to create a combined systems integrator/ISV role, and named Corporate Vice President Michael Angiulo to that post this month. Reporting to Angiulo are Morales, Alex Payne and Bob Maher.

Of the OCP's three newly defined core functions -- Build-With, Go-To-Market and Sell-With -- Huddleston says Angiulo's team will qualify as Build-With, which includes partner management, recruiting and business development.

In an interview this week at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference, Huddleston said Angiulo's marketplace-building experience at Microsoft was an important reason he was chosen for the role. "He has experience with setting up ecosystems at Microsoft, where he started the ecosystems from scratch for Vista, Surface Hub and a couple others. We're bringing him on board to take all of his Microsoft knowledge and apply it to those two different organizations -- ISVs and SIs," said Huddleston, adding, "He has really strong leadership at his directs level. Really, really strong."

Huddleston said the ISVs and SIs share elements of their selling motions and combining their management in one organization could also drive partner-to-partner cooperation. "Those two partner types spend a lot of time co-selling. The connection between that and what we're doing on the co-sell side and with solution maps is really critical," Huddleston said.

A position for a Go-To-Market Lead remains open on Huddleston's immediate leadership team. Other members of Huddleston's team include Schuster, corporate vice president of Worldwide Channels & Programs (Microsoft's worldwide channel chief); Larry Orecklin, vice president of OCP Field and Operations (a key "Sell-With" role); Joel Borellis, general manager of Technical; Gavin Orleow, Strategy and Planning Lead; and Chief of Staff Todd Nelmes.

Meanwhile, the major July reorganization brought significant changes to the U.S. organization, as well, shifting some high-profile partner executives into different roles.

An organizational chart viewed by RCP showed Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations, serving for now as acting president of Microsoft's U.S. subsidiary. The chart showed that direct reports to Courtois in the U.S. organization included David Willis leading U.S. OCP, Phil Sorgen running Enterprise-Commercial, Allison Watson leading Marketing and Operations, and Gail Thomas leading Enterprise-Public Sector. Sorgen and Watson are both former Microsoft worldwide channel chiefs.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 14, 2017 at 2:55 PM0 comments


Tech Data Makes Play for Old Small Business Server Niche

  • Complete Microsoft Inspire 2017 coverage here.

There are few products remembered as fondly by as many Microsoft partners as Windows Small Business Server (SBS).

A foundational product consisting of Windows Server, Exchange Server and a rotating cast of supporting server products such as SQL Server, SharePoint Server and various specialized components, SBS spurred and supported an entire ecosystem of small partners serving small business customers. The product represents a moment in tech when infrastructure for even the smallest companies was primarily kept on-premises, and when small shops of technically oriented partners found a thriving market for their skills.

Since Microsoft announced five years ago this month that there would be no new versions of SBS, that partner community has fragmented technologically. Some have kept customers on Windows SBS 2011, most components of which are now in the extended support phase. Others made the shift to Microsoft's Windows Server Essentials, a hybrid approach with an on-premises Windows Server and with e-mail in the cloud. Many have moved their customers entirely to Office 365-based cloud environments. Those are only a handful of the available approaches involving Microsoft technologies, and partners have found ways to meet small business customers' needs with non-Microsoft approaches, as well.

This week at Microsoft Inspire, Tech Data highlighted a bundle of its own that represents another option -- a soup-to-nuts back-end offering aimed at the needs of small businesses and the partners who sell to them but one that is entirely in the cloud, addressing the increasing preference among smaller customers to not have to worry about infrastructure in a wiring closet.

The distributor is pulling together its recently launched Tech Data Small Business Cloud Server with the Microsoft 365 Business package unveiled by Microsoft this week to create an SBS alternative for the cloud.

"We anticipated a high demand because of the installed base of SBS. There's lots of excitement about it," said Stacy Nethercoat, vice president for Cloud, Americas, at Tech Data, in an interview this week at the Inspire conference. "Partners could have pulled the elements together, but it lets a partner take a solution to market as quickly as possible. We see this as a facilitation play for SMB, even up into the mid-tier."

The Tech Data Small Business Cloud Server (SBCS) was launched last month as a bundle that included an Azure virtual machine, Office 365, backup, storage and VPN, with remote desktop as an option. Originally available in three sizes -- one to six users, seven to 20 users, and a package for larger customers -- the SBCS offering is configurable by Tech Data partners through its StreamOne platform, allowing partners to provision, bill and manage customers and their users. Tech Data is also building in such small business-friendly options as being able to set pre-determined usage thresholds and limits, allowing cost-conscious customers to avoid being caught by surprise with an unexpectedly large Azure usage bill.

With the announcement of Microsoft 365 Business this week at Inspire, Tech Data will upgrading its offering to include that subscription when Microsoft makes it fully available this fall. A public preview of Microsoft 365 Business is planned for Aug. 2. Microsoft 365 Business includes Office 365 Business Premium, along with security and management features for Office applications and for Windows 10 devices. The suite also features centralized console management for deploying and securing devices and users.

While SBCS currently includes Office 365, the Microsoft 365 Business version will be more robust in its security and management capabilities, especially for Windows 10 devices a customer owns.

Aside from its benefit for customers, Microsoft partners using the Tech Data approach could find themselves getting positive attention and help from their Microsoft contacts, given Microsoft's new fiscal year 2018 focus on Azure consumption.

Although interest is high, Nethercoat expects the ramp-up to take a little time, in addition to the wait for the full release of Microsoft 365. "We have to go build a market together," she said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 13, 2017 at 10:12 AM0 comments


AgileThought Wins 2017 RCP Rocket Award

AgileThought, a Tampa, Fla.-based custom software solution and development consulting specialist, is the 2017 winner of the RCP Rocket Award.

The RCP Rocket Award is a joint award of Redmond Channel Partner magazine and Revenue Rocket Consulting Group to recognize IT services companies with unique business strategies that are resulting in sustained growth. This is the fifth year for the RCP Rocket Award.

AgileThought won the 2017 RCP Rocket Award based on its excellence in implementation of its optimized growth strategy that netted significant tangible financial results in a very short time.

Watch the September/October issue of Redmond Channel Partner magazine for a full profile of AgileThought's nimble business moves and its inspiring growth story, as well as tips and lessons learned from their success.

Congratulations to CEO and President David Romine and the entire AgileThought team.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 13, 2017 at 10:43 AM0 comments


Layoffs Under Way at Microsoft

The other shoe is dropping in the major sales and marketing reorganization that Microsoft began implementing earlier this week: The company started notifying employees of massive layoffs on Thursday.

Layoffs numbering in the thousands had been rumored and widely reported over the last few weeks, but leaked versions of companywide memos about the restructuring on Monday made no mention of layoffs.

CNBC reported on Thursday that Microsoft was cutting up to 3,000 jobs, with about 75 percent of them coming from offices out of the United States. For context, Microsoft has about 121,000 employees worldwide, 71,000 employees in the United States and about 52,000 employees in the affected global sales, marketing and worldwide business unit.

Thursday morning, Business Insider reported about Microsoft employees posting on the anonymous chat app, Blind, which is in use by about 25,000 of the company's workers, that they had been scheduled for 15-minute meetings where they expected to be laid off or transferred to new roles.

Microsoft confirmed cuts, but not numbers, in a statement to CNBC: "Today, we are taking steps to notify some employees that their jobs are under consideration or that their positions will be eliminated. Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time-to-time, re-deployment in others."

The layoffs are hitting just as Microsoft's fiscal year is beginning and as the company prepares for two of its most important business-related gatherings -- the partner conference, Inspire, next week, and the internal sales meeting the following week.

Related:

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 06, 2017 at 12:20 PM0 comments


Microsoft's Pre-Inspire Reorg Raises 7 Big Questions for Partners

Many of Microsoft's most committed partners will be mostly stumbling in the dark on the basic facts of the company's massive sales and marketing reorganization as they arrive next week at Inspire, the Microsoft partner conference where they're supposed to get their marching orders and work out concrete business plans for a fiscal year that started July 1.

RCP asked Microsoft for a number of partner-related clarifications about the reorganization, but got only the canned response of the week from a Microsoft spokesperson: "Microsoft is implementing changes to better serve our customers and partners."

Here are some of the big partner questions RCP will be asking about at Inspire, the show formerly known as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), in Washington, D.C.:

Are partner categories and classifications changing related to the sales and marketing restructuring?
There are rumors of changes to the basic ways that Microsoft classifies partners and plans to go to market with them in fiscal year 2018. Some possibilities include no longer looking at partners as LSPs, VARs or CSPs, and instead viewing them by the categories of solutions they sell: Modern Workplace, Business Applications, Applications & Infrastructure, and Data & Artificial Intelligence.

The last time Microsoft substantially overhauled the competencies and other structures was a long time ago with the Microsoft Partner Network launch, so a big change is overdue. Yet, when that happened, Microsoft telegraphed the changes for several years in advance. With its increasing operational tempo, Microsoft spends a lot less time preparing partners for changes before springing new programs on them, so it's hard to say how major any changes to the partner program might be.

Did Microsoft settle the partner-facing employee structure with the One Commercial Partner in February or are there more changes to Microsoft's partner organization in the latest reorganization?
Effective Feb. 1, Microsoft consolidated its partner organization with the creation of the One Commercial Partner business within Judson Althoff's Worldwide Commercial Business Group. Althoff put former Salesforce.com executive Ron Huddleston in charge of One Commercial Partner, and had Worldwide Partner Group leader Gavriella Schuster, Enterprise Partner team leader Victor Morales and ISV team leader Kim Akers all report to Huddleston.

In some ways, the move telegraphed the larger restructuring that followed this week. In other ways, it seems to run counter to it (see the next item). The big question is whether the February round of partner-facing team reorganizations was a setup for the new reorganization, or whether that partner team is now in for another big shuffle. Let's hope Microsoft did the One Commercial Partner changes in February partly to provide some stability for partner engagement at Inspire. After all, partners are Microsoft's key route to market, and every partner who goes to Inspire is making a substantial investment in their Microsoft partnership by attending the conference. Having Microsoft employees with no choice but to shrug and tell those partners, "Things are up in the air," would be very damaging.

How should enterprise partners engage?
There are always jagged edges within Microsoft's organizational chart, given the company's size and complexity. One manifestation of that right now, should the One Commercial Partner organization that was spun up on Feb. 1 survive the new reorganization, is whether enterprise partners deal with the enterprise operating unit or with the small, medium and corporate (SMC) customers unit. The enterprise unit, which we're hearing will also include the former corporate account managed (CAM) accounts, is being run separately. Yet in the Feb. 1 partner reorganization, enterprise partners were moved into One Commercial Partner, which we're hearing is going to be part of SMC.

Can partners who formerly played in the CAM and EPG categories still conduct business seamlessly while being managed in a different organization? The answer is probably yes. Dotted lines are nothing new in a Microsoft organizational chart, but the lines of authority need to be worked out.

What about partners who focus on the enterprise but aren't in one of the six categories?
A detail emerging about the reorganization is that the enterprise operating unit will be organized around six key vertical industries. They are manufacturing, financial services, retail, health, education and government. That's all well and good for partners who work in the enterprise and are in those six categories. What about all the other verticals? Meanwhile, are all education and government sales classified as enterprise now, or do government departments, state and local or individual school deals also fall under SMC?

Where does Microsoft Consulting Services fit in now?
Unmentioned in the reporting about Microsoft's internal memos laying out the changes is the role of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS). Long a source of channel conflict and suspicion between Microsoft and its partners, the future of MCS is a key detail of the reorganization.

How fast will Microsoft settle the internal churn?
Although Microsoft hasn't confirmed anything, sources tell RCP that thousands of job roles will be eliminated, with others getting created and filled. (Update, 7/6: Microsoft reportedly began the process of laying off about 3,000 people on Thursday. Read about it here.) That's a tough situation for all of those employees at Microsoft, stressful even for those who will land new roles, and many Microsoft partners are expressing concern and empathy for their friends in the organization.

It also means the Microsoft field will start fiscal year 2018 completely flat-footed, focused internally on getting and filling the new positions rather than on winning deals with its partners. A key question for Inspire will be how long partners can realistically expect Microsoft to be absent as a force to drive business while they're getting their new house in order.

Is this the last time for this rodeo?
One curious thing about Microsoft is its continuing focus on the fourth quarter. Since 2010, Microsoft has been urging partners to go "all in" with the cloud. Yet, seven years later, Microsoft itself is reorganizing its sales and marketing structure at the beginning of the fiscal year, the same way it used to a decade ago. Q4 was sacrosanct, that period when Microsoft needed all hands on deck to close the year with a strong quarter of SQL Server 2005 or Windows Server 2003 R2.

In a cloud era, Q1 sales are four times as valuable as Q4 deals. Yet once again, Microsoft's big reorg will freeze the company and its partner ecosystem in Q1. It's forgivable if this is the big move that finally aligns Microsoft to a cloud-based, recurring-revenue orientation. If Microsoft needs another massive Q1 shuffle in a couple of years, though...

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 05, 2017 at 12:41 PM0 comments


DXC Technology Buys Tribridge

DXC Technology, the IT services giant formed by the April merger of CSC with HPE's services arm, bought one of Microsoft's biggest Dynamics partners, Tribridge, on Wednesday in a move to strengthen the DXC Dynamics 365 business.

Terms of Tyson's Corner, Va.-based DXC's first acquisition were not disclosed. The deal included Concerto Cloud Services, a Tribridge-affiliated company that provides advisory and managed services to the mid-market. DXC will rebrand the companies as Tribridge, a DXC Technology Company, and DXC Concerto.

Tribridge is a 19-year-old company based in Tampa, Fla., with 740 employees. A strategic ERP and CRM partner of Microsoft's since 2004, Tribridge has won several global and national Partner of the Year awards from Microsoft.

Tony DiBenedetto, co-founder and CEO of Tribridge, will continue to lead the business, a spokesperson said. He will report into a new business unit led by Troy Richardson, DXC senior vice president and general manager of Enterprise & Cloud Applications, that will combine Tribridge with DXC Eclipse, DXC's existing Dynamics-based business unit.

"The combination of Tribridge with DXC Eclipse significantly strengthens DXC's role as a leading Microsoft Dynamics 365 systems integrator, greatly enhancing our ability to address client needs," said Mike Lawrie, DXC chairman, president and CEO, in a statement.

DXC positioned the Tribridge acquisition as enhancing its business geographically in the Americas and vertically in health care, state and local government, consumer packaged goods and professional services.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 05, 2017 at 12:51 PM0 comments


Next for Nutanix: Applications, Public Cloud Support, Google Partnership

Nutanix plans to pull applications into its hyperconverged infrastructure platform and make it possible to extend that platform to all three major public clouds, the company revealed this week at its .NEXT conference in Washington, D.C.

The additions to the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform will include the new products Nutanix Calm, for application management, and Nutanix Xi Cloud Services, which will allow Nutanix software to be consumed as a service by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure.

Although Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey presided over Calm and Xi demos on the conference stage, neither product will be available for a while. Calm is slated for availability in the fourth quarter of this year. Xi is only planned to be available initially as a specific application for disaster recovery, with an "early access" technology release set for early 2018.

Pandey positioned the melding of Xi with Nutanix's on-premises products as the path that the company is following toward hybrid computing. "That's the big announcement of this conference, but obviously it's a multi-year journey for us," he said during a conference kickoff keynote Wednesday night.

While all three major public clouds are part of the Xi plan, most emphasis at .NEXT on Wednesday was on GCP because Nutanix and Alphabet, Google's parent company, announced a strategic alliance. Diane Greene, senior vice president of Google Cloud, took the stage to discuss the three components of the deal, which are GCP integration with Calm and Xi and a joint solution for Kubernetes, Google Container Engine and Nutanix's Acropolis Container Services.

Shares of Nutanix jumped more than 7 percent Wednesday on news of the Alphabet partnership. Nutanix, founded in 2009, went public last September. Fruits of that alliance aren't expected to arrive until the first quarter of calendar 2018, with planned availability of the integration of Nutanix Calm with GCP as the first deliverable.

Calm and Xi would extend Nutanix's current offering, which is like operating system software for a software-defined datacenter that brings together server, storage, virtualization and networking resources on integrated hardware. Nutanix currently delivers its on-premises-only hyperconverged infrastructure offerings in three ways: as its own, branded dedicated appliances, such as the NX-1000; as dedicated partner appliances from Dell and Lenovo; or as software running on approved Cisco UCS or HPE ProLiant hardware. On Tuesday, Nutanix and IBM also announced that Nutanix would be coming to IBM OpenPOWER LC Systems.

What Xi would do is allow users to take existing Cloud OS constructs from within the current Nutanix environment and use them in AWS, GCP and Azure. The company contends that the approach will eventually allow for rapid movement of traditional enterprise applications -- think SQL Server or Oracle database deployments -- from Nutanix private clouds into the public clouds, and back as needed.

"What if we could help enterprises move to the public cloud but preserve the tooling, preserve the economics, preserve the SLAs?" said Nutanix Chief Product Officer Sunil Potti in a Tuesday morning keynote.

Potti called disaster recovery the biggest use case for the approach and said it will improve the process of testing disaster recovery for enterprises and reduce the need for secondary datacenters. "You shouldn't have to worry about your secondary datacenters going forward. In the next few years, frankly, you should be out of the secondary datacenter business," he predicted.

Potti also focused on Calm during his keynote, calling it Nutanix's "first strategic product beyond Acropolis and Prism," which are the company's operating system and its management technologies, respectively.

"Every portion of our workflows are now coming top-down from an apps-down perspective," he said in describing Calm, which starts with a marketplace interface showing a menu of applications users can start with. Among the applications in demos and slides were numerous Microsoft applications, Aviatrix, AWS, Citrix, Hadoop, Docker, Cassandra, MySQL and MondoDB.

Organizations would use a visual UI to create app blueprints that capture elements of an application, including virtual machines, related binaries, a sequence of operations and configurations. Then the blueprint could be deployed on any supported platform, be it within a Nutanix private cloud using Nutanix AHV Virtualization or on a public cloud platform.

According to Potti, the portability will create the ability to compare pricing, service levels and scalability among deployment targets. "Imagine your CIO going to your business and saying, look, you can go to whatever [platform]. Tell us your [scalability requirements], SLA and cost and let the system tell us AHV, Azure, AWS, Google," he said. If the user is considering AWS, he explained, "You'll be able to log into Calm, log into AWS, into that account, and it will scrape AWS usage, model the workload with heuristics around workload and cost, [and say] 'This is what it would cost. Do you want to migrate?'"

That ability to make a runtime decision based on scale and cost about what platform to deploy on, Potti argued, "is the real power of Calm."

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 29, 2017 at 9:09 AM0 comments