Some Thoughts on the Nutanix May 24 .NEXT Dell/PowerFlex Announcements

As an employee of Dell Technologies, part of my remit is to understand what is happening outside the cozy confines of Dell. While it is very easy to get caught up in all of the hype and razzamatazz of huge events such as Dell Technologies World 2024, which was held in Las Vegas last week, it would be very one-eyed of me not to keep tabs on events happening elsewhere, because sometimes, it is the news that you hear from outside Dell that makes you sit up and take notice. Which is precisely what happened last week, during the week of DTW24!

While DTW24 was happening over in the USA, Nutanix were running their .NEXT2024 conference over in Barcelona. During the .NEXT conference, they made an announcement (link here ) of an extended collaboration with Dell that will result in the delivery of two new solutions that will combine Dell’s leading server and storage offerings with Nutanix’s Cloud solution. If you read the announcement, you can see that Dell PowerFlex is named in one of these new solutions. Needless to say, this news went viral instantly, and myself & my colleagues have been inundated with questions from customers as well as partners.

It became blindingly obvious that this announcement had, unintentionally, caused many people to interpret this news in multiple ways, most of which were wide of the mark! With this in mind, I thought it prudent to clarify what was announced, with a focus on what this means with regards to Dell PowerFlex.

So let me start by clarifying what the two announcements were. The first announcement was for an “Integrated HCI Appliance”; think of this as a turnkey HCI appliance running Nutanix Cloud Software on Dell servers. What I expect this to mean is a tighter coupling between our existing XC Core servers & the Nutanix Cloud Stack, but be aware that this is just my view – we are yet to hear the actual details.

The second – and personally for me, the far more interesting announcement that generated the deluge of questions – was the combination of Nutanix Cloud Platform software with Dell PowerFlex. This announcement is truly transformational, as this means that Dell PowerFlex will become the first third-party supported storage within their AHV ecosystem. Clearly, doing this allows Nutanix customers to scale compute & storage independently of each other in a way that had previously not been possible.

Let me make it absolutely clear here – there has been no official announcement as yet regarding any “productised version” of the Nutanix Cloud Platform + Dell PowerFlex. Neither have any dates been discussed for when anything will be released!! I need to call this out, simply to ensure that there is no misunderstanding here made on my part. So, having said all of that, let me move onto talking about what I *do* know.

What I find particularly interesting & revealing, is the level of Engineering effort being made by both Dell and Nutanix here. I am aware of the Team who have been involved from Dell, these are basically the best of the best from PowerFlex Engineering. They have been working with equally talented members from the Nutanix Engineering Team. It is abundantly clear to me that both companies have invested lots of time and resources on the collaborative work & testing that has been done thus far, and this has been done in order to get this right. Rest assured that both companies are now working behind the scenes to ensure that they can bring this joint effort to market, hence why no committed timescales have been announced yet.

Clearly, any joint solution gives customers more choice, which is always a good thing! I have lost count of the number of customers who have mentioned that they are looking at changing their choice of hypervisor over the past 18 months, this move appears to be partly driven by the changes made by Broadcom to VMware licensing, but is also partly driven by a desire for customers to go to the market and to see how mature other hypervisors are in 2024. Likewise, I can see this offering being of interest to xSPs who are being asked pretty much the same questions by their customers that I am!

With this announcement, AHV will shortly be added to the list of hypervisors that is supported by PowerFlex. Remember that PowerFlex is already a single storage platform for ESXi, Hyper-V, most of the KVM variants, as well as bare-metal and containerised platforms. The addition of support for AHV simply increases this range. PowerFlex really does allow the consolidation of multiple operating environments onto a single storage infrastructure platform. Plus, PowerFlex performance scales linearly to provide differentiated performance to such consolidated workloads.

I would hope that we will eventually see the provisioning of PowerFlex volumes directly from PRISM, as doing this would make sense and give the most value to Nutanix AOS users. Likewise, I would also hope to see a solution that can easily be driven via APIs, because doing so would make sense for customers who are heavily dependent on API-driven automation, CI/DC pipelines etc. It would then be easy to integrate such a joint solution into any existing cloud infrastructures. Adding AHV into the list of supported compute platforms will also mean that customers who are running VMware on PowerFlex today and are (or have been) considering moving to Acropolis, now have an easier on-ramp for such migration options, using the Nutanix VM migration tooling. This then would de-risk any platform migrations, seeing as the VM data can remain on the same storage platform.

In my opinion, this truly is a great announcement, which clearly gives both our customers and our partners even more choice going forwards. As I stated earlier on – choice is a good thing! This announcement opens the door for allowing PowerFlex to underpin even more Cloud environments than before, both on-prem and in the public clouds. Perhaps we might even see PowerFlex Compute Nodes come to market that are tweaked specifically to benefit Nutanix AOS.

I will be watching these developments closely and will keep on top of the announcements when they are made. It is difficult to say much more for now, other than to watch this space and announcements via the usual Dell and Nutanix channels.