The Tesla of the Datacenter

A few months ago I was in the market for a new car.  I have three children so safety features were an important thing to consider.  I also live in California so fuel economy was an important factor as well.

There were lots of different models to choose from: sedan, fullsize, SUV as well as a variety of manufacturers … which one met my requirements?

The engineer in me built an internal capabilities matrix:

Wheels Model A Model B
Seat Capacity 5 8
MPG 30 18
Brakes Drum Disc
Entertainment System No Yes
Price $ $$$

No one really buys a car based on a capabilities matrix.  Also, I would argue that while price is an important factor people don’t buy cars primarily based on price.  People buy cars based on overall value, utility, and the quality of the product.

If I was trying to satisfy my basic requirement of mobility I could buy any vehicle with 4 wheels.  However, since I wanted to transport my kids I considered a vehicle with a built in entertainment system.  The entertainment system had nothing to do with the mobility requirement, but has everything to do with the quality of the mobility.  The entertainment system makes transporting kids easier and makes the ride a much better experience for everyone.

I could have bought a basic vehicle and added an aftermarket entertainment system.  However I would then need to install the system, run wires, mount some kind of awkward interface, etc.  To me, the integrated entertainment system provides value because it comes ready at time of purchase and with one button I can get the kids quiet and enjoy the drive.  It also saves me the time and cost of integrating the aftermarket solution.

Tesla of the Datacenter

Tesla is without a doubt revolutionizing the automobile industry.  Tesla’s competitors are behemoths.  They are saying that Tesla is just another me-too alternative vehicle that has no future, while internally they are desperately trying to figure out how to develop products that match the capabilities of the Tesla.  Nutanix is trying to revolutionize the enterprise datacenter the same way that Tesla is trying to revolutionize the automobile.

Neither Tesla nor Nutanix are able to compete with the bare bones economy product of their competitors.  It’s expensive to hire rock star engineers to develop a product, amazing marketing people to advertise, veteran support engineers… it would be impossible to compete with an automated factory churning out economy products.

In order to compete with the existing behemoths in their marketplace Tesla and Nutanix must accomplish both of these things:

1. Create a product that is unique and provides value in their market
2. Provide insane customer service and support

Unique in the market
Nutanix found its foothold in the VDI market by providing storage that delivered the needed performance, granular scalability and was bound only by the physical constraints of the datacenter.  The early VDI users soon realized that it was so much more efficient than SAN that they started to run server workloads on Nutanix.  The Nutanix operating system then evolved.  Now in addition to the initial storage product it includes integrated management, global management, file management, VM snapshots, backups, analytics, security, REST API, hardware monitoring, alerting, Disaster Recovery, one click firmware and software upgrades, application mobility, cloud migration, capacity planning, and multiple hypervisor support.  This is what makes Nutanix unique and valuable… This isn’t a suite of products or virtual appliances marketed as a single product, all of the features are actually all integrated in the same software!  Nutanix has true feature integration, not just marketing integration.

As a Nutanix customer this integration provided real value to me since I didn’t have to spend my time trying to get the multiple components of a software suite to try to talk together.  It’s the same reason you buy the car with all the features already integrated, that value is that you drive it off the lot and have everything work at the touch of a button.

Insane customer service and support
Nutanix invited their first customer on stage at their .NEXT to kick off the event.  Nutanix really sees their customers as partners… more than just a pile of dollar bills that is up for grabs every time they come into the dealership.  The customers are really what drives the product development.  More than one of the features that I listed above was a request that I had as a customer.

I would love to say that Nutanix is all unicorns and rainbows and makes you toast with orange marmalade, but the reality is that it is a software product, and software will always need maintenance.  As a customer I was impressed by the agility of Nutanix to quickly come up with a workaround and be respond to eliminate bugs and release fixes within a week or two.

Sometimes people forget that support is part of the product too, but it shows up as a line item on the PO!  Nutanix believes that you should actually get great service with that line item, instead of just forking over money so you can download the next software update.

Nutanix also has very experienced support engineers that are not only able to diagnose software issues, but all of the other vendor’s hypervisor platforms that we support as well.

Nutanix has follow the sun support.  As a customer I was impressed when I called at midnight… the guys in Australia that answered was just as capable and knowledgeable as his US counterparts to help me resolve the issue I was having.

Why do I have to pay for it?
I understand why a college kid would want to drive a Tesla, but the reality is that is probably not in their budget, nor will be in their budget for a few more years.  Tesla can’t afford to sell their current product to college kids, they need to pay their engineers, marketing, support, etc.

Nutanix is an enterprise product, targeting mission critical enterprise workloads that need the automation, security and all the other integrated features of Nutanix… way too many features to use simply as a storage platform.  Would you buy all the upgraded features for a vehicle and then never use them?

I understand why a small business would want all of the features that Nutanix provides, but we can’t play in that space and afford to pay our engineers either.  And in reality, a small business’s primary IT infrastructure need is storage.  There are other virtual san storage platforms that would be a great fit these small workloads.

With hard work, however, and the support of our customers, one day we will reach critical mass, scale up production and that college kid can buy a economy version Tesla and the SMB can get small business sized Nutanix. It is only a matter of time.

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