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Exclusive: Nutanix and IBM Team Up on Data Center Hardware for Artificial Intelligence

May 15, 2017

Nutanix, a former tech unicorn that says it can streamline computing operations with its all-in-one data center appliances, is adding IBM to its list of hardware partners.

The upcoming products, incorporating IBM Power Systems servers for business apps, will be Nutanix's first systems that will not rely on Intel (intc)-based servers.

San Jose-based Nutanix (ntnx), which went public in September, helped pioneer a generation of data center hardware bundles that cram computing power, storage, and networking into one package—all managed by the company's own software. The theory is these hardware bundles–described as "hyperconverged" by techies—save space and energy while also speeding up operations.

Bottom line: Corporate customers could now use a single, more efficient machine to do what many devices had done in the past.

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For non-techies, Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey explains these new data center products are like smartphones in that they have integrated a raft of once-separate devices into one attractive package. Just as today's smartphones incorporate a phone, GPS, calendars, and a camera into one slick device, these new data center appliances put together server, networking, and storage hardware into one package all run by the same software.

Related: Why Big Data Kills Businesses

Nutanix already offers a choice of Intel-based servers from Dell, Supermicro, Lenovo (lnvgy), and Cisco (csco) as part of its overall package. IBM's Power Systems run a non-Intel Power chip that IBM says is well-suited for the advanced data crunching needs of artificial intelligence and data analytics tasks.

Related: Nutanix Shows the Risk of Unicorn Valuations

The upcoming IBM Power-based Nutanix appliances will suit a different set of jobs than their Intel-based cousins, Pandey tells Fortune. This version of the Nutanix appliance should appeal to customers requiring machine learning tasks, adds Stefanie Chiras, vice president of Power Systems for IBM.

Some of the targeted customers include financial services firms needing to do fraud detection, big retailers that need ensure to their customers have the best shopping experience, and healthcare providers needing to scrutinize images such as those for MRIs for diagnostic purposes, Chiras says. All of these jobs require computing fire power that can take in reams of data fast, and then search through it for patterns, and return results quickly.

Related: Nutanix CEO Talks IPO

While Intel chips dominate in PCs and general-purpose servers, IBM and its allies in the Power Open Foundation are pushing IBM's Power chips for the massive number crunching jobs mentioned above. Other members of the foundation include Google (googl), Mellanox (mlnx), Nvidia (nvda), Red Hat (rht), and Micron (mu).

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