In my previous post ‘Nutanix NOS v4.0: a technical preview‘ on Nutanix NOS v4, I left out a huge change in the product portfolio: software editions. I wanted to wait until I got my facts straight and be able to give you the full story.

Instead of a single SKU for hardware + software, Nutanix is going to take a first step to a software-only portfolio by decoupling the software features from the underlying hardware appliance using different software editions.

Software Editions

Instead of creating a SKU for every (new) feature, Nutanix has launched three Software Editions as of May 19th (with a grace period until the end of June):

  • Starter
  • Pro
  • Ultimate

This clearly confirms that the one-size-fits-all model Nutanix had adopted until now is becoming a constraint for the growing diversity of customer profiles. I think for a company that really is all about software, evolving their portfolio to differentiate among various software features is a smart move.

The ‘Starter’ edition will be included with every appliance.
The other two editions, Pro and Ultimate, will be sold as an additional SKU on top of the base platform SKU. The Pro edition is aimed at mainstream enterprise customers, while the Ultimate edition is aimed at Global 2000 customers and security conscious customers.

In addition, a ‘VDI’ Software Edition will be offered for the VDI-per-Desktop program customers. This VDI edition is comparable to the Pro edition (but excluding the Availability Domains and TimeStream features). Read up on the VDI-per-Desktop program here.

Licensing the software

Each individual node needs to be licensed with a consistent software edition; i.e. all nodes in a cluster must be licensed at the same level. Applying the licenses is done via the PRISM UI.

When translating the software editions into actual licenses, the story gets a bit more complex: the Pro and Ultimate licenses are being offered as both perpetual and term-based license models.

Perpetual licenses are tied to each individual node. This means that perpetual Pro or Ultimate licenses still have an end-of-life expiration date (aligned with the underlying hardware platform). Whether that’s a problem really depends on the innovation in the software layer; who’d want to run 5-year old software on 5-year old hardware?
The term-based licenses are available in two terms: 1 year and 3 year terms. Also, 1 year renewal licenses will also be available.

Although introducing two forms of licensing might seem complex, especially coming from the very simple current model, I think Nutanix is actually adding flexibility to the product by letting customers choose between term-based and perpetual licensing. This will also align better with different business models, like the service provider model (who’ll probably prefer the term-based model) and the enterprise model (who’ll probably prefer the perpetual model). On top of that, customers now have the option to pick and choose features they actually want or need with the three different software editions.

The current DR and Compression licenses will disappear in the end of June, when edition-based pricing takes effect. This should simplify the selection and purchasing process. Also, no customers currently using these licenses will lose the functionality and won’t be incurred additional cost.

What about pricing?

The Starter edition (which includes the hardware) is priced at roughly the same price point as the current product. I haven’t seen any public list prices of Pro or Ultimate license SKUs, but as expected, Nutanix will charge a premium on top of the Starter Edition.

As far as support goes, there is no support price uplift for a Pro or Ultimate license. In other words, a Pro or Ultimate edition appliance has the same support cost compared to a Starter edition appliance. Since the support cost is a percentage of the product list price, a 3450 block will have a higher support cost compared to a 1450 block.

The price per license will differ between different hardware platforms. For example, a NX-3450-Pro will be more expensive than a NX-1450-Pro. This is no different than today’s model, by the way.

Finally, partners with NFR blocks are eligible for the Ultimate software edition so they can continue to demonstrate all the Nutanix features.

Existing Customers & Partners

Existing customers will be grandfathered into the Pro software edition, so they shouldn’t lose any features or functionality as compared to today’s feature list. Also, existing customers are eligible for Pro licenses at no additional cost for new nodes that go into existing clusters. That means that it might be beneficial for customers to create new clusters now (using existing nodes) if you’re planning to do so in the near future to take advantage of this free upgrade.

Nutanix is already reaching out to existing customers to explain their design rationale, grant entitlements and offer training and documentation around these changes.

Feature Comparison Matrix

Currently, the differences between Pro and Ultimate aren’t very large. With NOS v4.1, more advanced (and security-focussed) features will be introduced in the Ultimate edition.

For an explanation on the different features, please see my previous article ‘Nutanix NOS v4.0: a technical preview‘.

Concluding

Any change in software editions and licensing is susceptible to great debate. Who doesn’t remember the VMware vTax debacle nearly 2 years ago? Luckily, these changes won’t impact existing Nutanix customers or prospects negatively; they won’t be incurred additional license cost or be forced to take a step back feature-wise. Nutanix has done a good job taking care of the interests of existing customers here.

I like the license model flexibility aligning with the different business models (perpetual vs. term-based) and functionality (software editions), although I’m not sure I like the fact that the perpetual licenses are tied to physical hardware; I might prefer paying slightly more for a license that I can make use of independent of the physical layer. Also, I like the fact that the old ‘feature’ software SKUs (DR and compression) will be integrated in the different software editions.

All in all, I am anticipating the NOS v4 release and am curious to see how existing customers will receive these changes. If you’re a customer or prospect, please leave a comment below!