Lots has been written about the business side of the deal and some of the long term strategy on why an OEM deal with Dell is so big for Nutanix. I want to focus my thoughts on the technical side. For me the partnership with Dell is a signaling that the “start-up” phase is over when it comes to shipping Enterprise software. The Dell sales force is massive and would have had the potential to sink Engineering efforts on support and lower the rate of new features if it wasn’t the effort put into the Nutanix Software deployment tool called Foundation. Foundation is the automation tool the deploys and configures the Nutanix software along with your hypervisor of choice(ESXi, Hyper-V, KVM). Foundation gives a common starting point for all deployments: performance, capacity, support, consistency and cluster initialization. Within 45 minutes to 60 minutes, you can have a platform to deploy virtual workloads without worrying missed steps or stealing resources from other projects. This story is complete if it’s Dell box or a Nutanix model. Without this tool in place the Dell agreement could have never of happened.
In the Supermico only world Engineering could get away with hardcoding what type of SSD drive or RAID controller it was looking for. With the Dell coming onboard this really wasn’t going to scale. Foundation was really born out of the need to support multiple hypervisors and the Dell OEM agreement only increased its need.
Foundation and Nutanix has moved to be data driven vs being hard coded. Foundation has a built-in HCL to qualify all components, Hypervisor version, NICS, RAID controllers(Nutanix doesn’t use RAID), motherboards when the software is being laid down. Components are checked against a JSON file and life goes on. It doesn’t matter if it’s IPMI from Supermico or iDRAC from Dell. All alerts can be fired through SNMP or seen visual through the PRISM UI. The customer is the one who wins here.
Engineering has been hard at work for months with Dell before the announcement. The beauty of convergence is that you don’t have to worry about building the solution and find the breaking points, we do that for you. It’s also were software can provide a lot of value when you can understand the hardware you are working with. One HBA was that tabled to be used in some of the newer models had an issue of not turning on the LEDS when the drive went bad. I am sure it worked fine when RAID was involved but since we don’t use RAID it probably was never engineered for it. Nutanix Engineering was able to write the software to provide the serviceability needed. Imagine all the other nasty things that can happen with that one component alone. The adaptability of the NOS gives customers peace of mind as they scale out their environments.
If you believe in the Software-Defined Data Center(SDDC), choice of hypervisor, hardware vendor and networking should allow for VM mobility. While the SDDC might just being getting past 1.0, Nutanix is not sitting still to see what 2.0 will bring. The Dell OEM agreement is a great sling shot towards the future.