Nutanix CEO skewers box-based hyperconvergence rivals

Dheeraj Pandey says only Nutanix, VMware offer full convergence stack; labels Simplivity positioning ‘smoke and mirrors’, ‘baloney.’

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I’m sure there are two camps at Cisco. One says: Why can't we sell more hardware, even if it’s someone else’s software? And that’s basically the grassroots sellers because we have them, they're not supposed to compete with them. And then there are people at corporate who have a strategy around working with companies that they can eventually acquire as opposed to companies they need to be forced to OEM with. We are not looking for that strategy where the only way to work with Cisco would be to actually get acquired.

I also wanted to ask you about the new Dell Technologies now that the Dell/EMC deal is completed. Are you concerned that will significantly change or end your partnership with Dell? That’s a critical market for them and how long will they want to have a network of partners versus really owning that themselves?

I have a philosophical take on that. If you look at consumer companies, they are pretty comfortable having a cooperative relationship and basically being comfortable with competition. Think of Google Maps running on iOS, for example, or Microsoft Office tools running on iOS. Amazon lets its partners compete with Amazon itself and Amazon still makes money off of these reseller partners, the ecommerce, retail reseller partners. If you search for something on Amazon, you can buy from Amazon and they can fulfill it from their warehouse or you can buy it through their partner resellers and Amazon still makes money.

There is this whole network effect [from] letting competing partners actually play on their platform. That’s what builds real ubiquity in these platform companies, whether it’s iOS or whether it’s Amazon’s retail side. Some of that mentality will have to seep into the enterprise as we go. We are seeing some of that with Dell saying: Look, at the end of the day it’s not just about our brand but it’s also about market forces.

Computing in the last 10 years has become more of a buyers’ market, more so than a sellers’ market. Twenty years ago, it was absolutely a seller’s market because the only way you would know about a new technology in computing was when an IBM seller would come once a quarter to your office. There is a level playing field now where you can consume computing by swiping a credit card and that has changed the creation around what’s right for the buyer is what’s right for the seller.

I read an interview you did at your 2015 user conference and you said, “The good thing is that we’re ready for any form factor. We’re ready for an Amazon form factor, an Azure form factor.” Can you explain what you meant there and where you stand on those things?

We have dipped our toes with our software running on Amazon and Azure for backups and secondary storage like snapshots for archival purposes and things like that. The good thing is that we didn’t go too deep into building SVGA and ASICs. That helps us be more flexible in order to float on top of any hypervisor. We’re able to run on top of VMware. We’re able to run on top of our own hypervisor. We’re able to run on top of Microsoft and in the future you will see us run on top of bare metal with containers as well because again, the software that is written is not tied to any one kernel operating system.

Even when you do things on your own hypervisor, you’re doing things such that it’s secular and agnostic to the hypervisor itself. That gives us the freedom to run our software in, let’s say, a public cloud hypervisor. You’ll see us do more of this in the future. Now how much of the public cloud APIs will be open for us to make things really efficient? Time will tell whether Amazon and Azure open it up for the fastest and the most efficient way to manage data, to really automate containers, virtual machines, networking and security. Suffice to say that we have a lot of interest in making money in the OpEx model of rented computing as well. How it turns out, I think it’s still early days for us but we’ll keep at that for now.

What is the biggest obstacle to enterprise adoption of HCI? What is the issue that you face when you try to make a sale?

It’s very similar to any new paradigm shift. If you look at even the public cloud, there are a ton of naysayers. Think of the bell curve. The bell curve has innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Every new philosophy, every new paradigm shift, had to go through the bell curve. It’s the rite of passage. Whether it was VMware with virtualization, right now public cloud computing, 20 years ago it was Linux and Windows and Intel. You just have to go through a bell curve and there are chasms along the way, going from innovators to early adopters to early majority to late majority and laggards. You have to cross chasms and there are technologies and paradigm shifts that flatter to deceive. The idea that we are floating about this enterprise cloud operating system is probably in its early majority in the journey and we have to get to the late majority and the laggards, which is another five or 10 years’ worth of work.

I also wanted to make sure I talked to you about your acquisition of PernixData. Obviously you brought considerable talent into the business with that. I want readers to understand how that advances your strategy.

In a meaningful way around data movement and migration because they are in the path of I/O. Basically they see every I/O going to a three-tier stack and they can consistently move the data out into the new stack. Our goal is to actually meld our one-click philosophy and conviction with their ability to see every I/O on a consistent basis. The keyword is consistent. They are not a piece of software that sits out of band of the I/O itself and given that we can do online migrations across hypervisors makes it a unique technology.

What’s ahead in the coming year? What should people expect from Nutanix?

A big part of this would be, again, going from the early majority to the late majority and crossing that chasm. Making sure that the culture of the company is intact, where it continues to be known as a company that doesn’t just build its own software but also builds careers along the way. The kind of delight we’ve provided to our employees and customers and partners in the last five, six years, I think is the true challenge. I call it the paradox of growth because growth creates complexity of all kinds - product complexity, business complexity, organization complexity - and complexity kills growth. How do we make sure that as we grow, we continue to stay grounded? While we do understand the smoke and mirror competitors, how do we learn from companies like VMware, Amazon, Azure and grow for the next five years and beyond?

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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