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Google Cloud Platform's new partnership with Nutanix, announced last week at the Nutanix .NEXT conference, at first glance seems to be a win for both companies. The agreement promises seamless integration between customers' environments in Google's cloud and Nutanix infrastructure in their own data centers. It also promises a new Internet of Things platform that combines machine learning-enabled Nutanix boxes at the edge with core data infrastructure in the cloud using Google's open source machine learning software library TensorFlow.
Google, now a unit of Alphabet, had built the largest cloud on the planet long before the word "cloud" was being bandied about. The trouble was, it was a custom private cloud built to meet the needs of Google and Google only. By the time the search company decided to get in the public cloud game, Amazon had a six to eight year head start and had already built Amazon Web Services into a company with a billion dollars of annual revenue in its sights.
And although Microsoft Azure started at about the same time as GCP, Redmond had an advantage in that it already had deep business relationships with the enterprise and enough VAR partners to populate a small country.
Playing catch-up, Google has spent billions of dollars annually to build its network of data centers and telecommunications infrastructure. As we reported a few months back here on Data Center Knowledge, last year it shelled out $10.9 billion in capital expenditures, much if not most of it on this cloud infrastructure.
But although the company has built enough to now compete effectively in most global markets, it's still paying the price for being late to the game. As Gartner VP Michael Warrilow told Data Center Knowledge back in March, Google Cloud Platform is "the third horse in a two-horse race, but it could well become a three-horse race. They’re doing all the right things. They’re enterprise-scale, but are they enterprise-friendly? And the answer is, that’s still a work in progress."
Partnerships like the one with Nutanix are key to continue making progress.
Like Google -- and everyone else for that matter -- San Jose-based Nutanix has its eyes on the enterprise and specifically the hybrid cloud. It's been an innovator in the data center arena, a pioneer of both hyper-converged infrastructure and software-defined storage. Among other things the company offers solutions like Calm, which allows for easy shifting of workloads from on-premises to public cloud as needed.
"Hybrid Cloud needs to be a two-way street,” Nutanix president Sudheesh Nair said in a statement. "The strategic alliance with Google demonstrates our commitment to simplify operations for our customers with a single enterprise cloud OS across both private and public clouds – with ubiquity, extensibility, and intuitive design."
Until Google, Nutanix's most important partnership has been with Dell, which distributes its stack on its XC Series servers and which also now owns VMware, AWS's chief hybrid cloud partner. Lenovo is also a partner, which introduced its ThinkAgile SX for Nutanix last week, also at the .NEXT event.
The deal with GCP will fill a sweet spot and allow Nutanix's cloud OS to span private to public with the click of a mouse, employing Kubernetes on-prem and Google Container Engine in Google's cloud. Also, by utilizing Calm for GCP users will have a single control plane for managing applications between GCP and local cloud environments, and Nutanix Xi Cloud Services for GCP will allow for easy "lift-and-shift" operations to quickly move workloads from on-prem servers to the public cloud when needed.
"With this strategic alliance with Nutanix, Google is addressing one of the most pressing technology challenges faced by enterprises – the ability to manage hybrid cloud applications without sacrificing security or scalability," Nan Boden, Google Cloud's head of global technology partners, said in a statement. "Partners like Nutanix are essential for us to build a thriving ecosystem and help enterprises innovate faster."
This partnership should bolster GCP by giving it something other than a me-too hybrid cloud solution to go against the AWS-VMware partnership and Microsoft's Azure Stack, and eventually giving it a more solid presence on the edge.
How well it pans out might depend more on Nutanix's commitment than on anything Google does. Nutanix should have plenty of motivation, however. Although the company had a valuation of around $2 billion in 2014, that was primarily due to venture capital funding. Otherwise, it's been losing money. For the third quarter of fiscal 2017, the company showed a net loss of $112 million, compared to $46.8 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2016. That's not as bleak a picture as it might seem. Revenues for the quarter were up over 90 percent and deferred revenues showed a rise of over 160 percent year-over-year.