Nutanix CEO Pandey outlines future vision through patterns of the past

The Nutanix CEO laid out the trajectory for the company’s future going forward, by emphasizing how it fits into the decisions they have made in the past that built Nutanix to its present point.

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ANAHEIM – Nutanix celebrated ten years in business with CEO Dheeraj Pandey taking an unusual tack in his opening keynote at the Nutanix .NEXT event here. He looked at the company’s past, to set the stage for new product announcements which would be made by others. Later, he fleshed out his view of the company’s evolution with ChannelBuzz, to show the continuity of strategy, and where the company is likely to go as they move forward.

“I’m not going to be talking about vision and future, but about the past, about the last ten years. Pandey said, kicking off his keynote. “It’s about things that might look obvious now, but which were not back then. The idea is to learn some things about where we are and where we can take this bird in hand.”

Pandey began by restating a theme that he makes regularly at .NEXT and at other venues, that the company’s core objectives have been constant, even as the product set expands and shift in priority, from the original hardware hyperconverged infrastructure [HCI] appliances to today’s Xi cloud services.

“The mission of the company has been the same – making things invisible,” he told the audience, with over 7000 registered attendees by this year’s count. “We set out to make SAN invisible. Then it was making virtualization invisible, then making ourselves invisible, with software subscriptions and the cloud. We don’t fully understand everything, but the word invisible is so calm and peaceful.”

Pandey said that three Ds – Data, Design, and Delivery – represented Nutanix and its passion.

“With data, the idea was to have storage as a pure software and have it run as an app,” he said. “That was a very innovative way of delivering data – that was the first risk we took, making storage an app.” He showed an ad from early in the decade, asking if customers could imagine virtualizing without a SAN, with a target vSAN in the crosshairs peppered by bullet holes – and noted it would never get past the lawyers today.

“Data became an even deeper passion in the last couple of years with block storage, Files, and database storage – and it didn’t take us a decade because we leveraged the core,” Pandey added. “We made them apps like object storage, and AOS became the platform on which we deliver other data services.”

Pandey reviewed key design decisions.

“We knew we would not put a graphic tab in vCenter because we knew it was not the future,” he said. “This was from 2012. Then with delivery we raised the var with Version 4 and the one-click upgrade. It was a  very important innovation to give time back to customers.

“We also began delivering to OEMs,” he said. “Why would we compete with ourselves? We knew we had to deliver our technology through someone else’s flesh and blood. We also decided to deliver hyperconvergence through an invisible hypervisor. 99 per cent of people said we shouldn’t do it, because it’s commoditized. There is no place for another hypervisor. But it was no longer a thing any more. It’s part of the cloud experience, a means to an end.”

Moving to a subscription model has been a key recent part of the experience.

“Moving to a subscription model wouldn’t have happened without our becoming a software company,” Pandey said. “We are well underway on that transformation. Once we became a software company, we became able to deliver it in someone else’s shell, and now it can go directly to the customer – selling them ELAs, EPAs and subscription at scale. The last quarter, we were almost 57 per cent subscription, and we have a road map to get up to 75 per cent subscription.”

Some steps along the way would have been made differently, he acknowledged.

“We designed our Xi [Cloud Services] delivery for a little bit larger form factor than we should have,” he said. “We should have designed it for a half a million dollar partner, which would have been a smaller form factor. We are working on that correction now. Xi today starts at two rack. What about if we make it available at half a rack? That will let the midmarket channel partner become a Xi channel partner.”

Pandey noted the significance of Nutanix’s recent addition of HPE to their ranks of strategic partners, highlighted during the keynote by HPE’s Phil Davis, President of Hybrid IT and Chief Sales Officer, joining Pandey onstage.

“The core has always been important,” he told CHannelBuzz later, emphasizing that those who thought Nutanix was returning to its appliance past with this new alliance were missing the point. “Even our Xi Frame demo for on-prem desktops – it uses the core. They cannot survive without the core. It relates to many of our new partners not knowing the crawl-walk-run concept. You have to go after the core HCI and then you talk about the private cloud, and then a multi-cloud. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where you start with food shelter and clothing.”

Pandey also discussed the company’s move into secondary storage with Nutanix Mine, the major new announcement at .NEXT, and its impact on backup vendors. While traditional backup vendors should, he thinks, be delighted to be on the platform, with five initial vendor partners being announced, hyper-converged secondary specialists like Rubrik and Cohesity may not view Mine in quite the same way. He said they should, however.

“We are a platform company, and also an app company,” he said. “Good platform companies make every app work on top of them and good app companies run on all platforms. If we take sides about our app or a native app competing with a partner’s app, we aren’t doing justice to the platform. We have to look like a consumer grade company, with platforms and apps living independently of one another. Co-opetition can be broken down into platform and apps. Microsoft has thrived in the last 6-7 years because they have run apps on every platform and let platforms run with every app.”

Looking forward, Pandey said several other new capabilities can be expected from the Nutanix platform.

“One is Nutanix and Azure bare metal – doing it seamlessly,” he said. “We have Nutanix Frame on Azure already. We will be going deeper on Google with Kubernetes and containers and bare metal. With Google today we have good clarity on containers with Calm. The next phase is working with GKE and Anthos and also on Google bare metal which is not a fully blown product yet.”

While Nutanix only made one acquisition for most of its history, Pernix Data, which led to Nutanix Move, acquisitions have picked up over the last year or so to provide the backbone of separate Xi services, and that’s a trend Pandey said will continue.

“We will continue to acquire new technology capabilities that will become revenue streams over time,” he said. “We will also be talking a lot about databases, a lot about application mobility in the multi-cloud world, and a lot about Xi and partnerships around Xi with channel partners and service providers.”

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