Hyper convergence leads to humanless datacenters: Nutanix CEO Pandey

The hardware components in modern datacenters can be pure software and infra is eminently programmable, says Dheeraj Pandey, Co-founder CEO, Nutanix

An enterprise cloud platform company, Nutanix helps companies thread the path of hyper converged infra. ComputerWorld India had an extensive chat with Dheeraj Pandey, Co-founder CEO, Nutanix on hyper convergence, IPO debut, and competitive landscape. "Hyper convergence is a pit stop in the true journey towards an invisible infrastructure for companies. One can spin up a firewall or storage array through a written code than buy the hardware for the humans to rack and stack it," said Pandey during his recent India visit.

Edited Excerpts:

Tech OEMs, big or small, end-to-end or niche, are all hitching a ride on the hyper converged Infra bandwagon. How do you demystify `hyper converged' for enterprises?

Half a decade ago, tech OEMs jumped onto mobile world introducing tablets and phones to beat Apple. HP bought Palm, Cisco launched tablets to name a few. They couldn't fathom Apple dominating enterprise mobile space. OEMs have the tendency to jump onto the next big paradigm shift. Within a few years; HP, Dell, Cisco exited mobile device domain. Three years ago, all OEMs latched to cloud but many also shut their cloud business a year ago.

Hyper converged today is hype as the word by itself means nothing. Organizations want to elevate themselves away from infra silos to make multiple components of a datacentre invisible to an extent.

There is an undeniable shift in the datacentre because all hardware components can be pure software and the infra is eminently programmable. You can spin up a firewall or storage array by writing a piece of code as opposed to buying hardware for humans to 'rack and stack' it. This leads to a humanless datacentre in some sense. The silos managed by different teams -- storage, networking, virtualization - will converge into the cloud team.

Increase of automated processes in datacentre means more job losses in the tech industry.

No. With virtualization, the industry expected sale of fewer servers but that didn't happen. That was because people had more expectations which they could execute at a faster rate.

With digitization in the nineties and even today one expects same kind of automation from the workforce. The velocity and agility with this kind of efficiency creates more demand and much more is possible with a '40 hour per week' employee than in the past.

Tech Industry has been a hunting ground for MA and PE firms in 2016. Did Nutanix choose the alternate IPO route to create bigger expectations for its shareholders?

IPO is a milestone in the journey of any growing company. There are hardly one or two very successful private technology companies today. All of them went public at some stage. Many went private because they stopped innovating and instead acquired companies. The dearth of innovation invokes the public investors to question a company's top line, fast growth, and profitability.

It was a natural course for Nutanix to go deeper in Global 2000 which calls for fast evolving brands and transparent financial books. I like the quote 'Stock market in short term is a voting machine but a weighing machine in the long term'. The stock market does reward good companies that continue to innovate, disrupt, cannibalize themselves and be at the leading edge of the tech curve to dominate the market.

Nutanix going public means more acquisitions would be on the radar.

We will always look at smaller acquisitions and not the big ones. A great company needs to innovate continuously which is not about acquiring customer base, but acquiring great teams and great technology to build great products. We would introspect meaningful acquisition of great teams which unfortunately could not find a great target market.

Do you seriously believe the days of silos in IT infra are numbered for companies to pursue a platform approach?

The most successful platform companies had a single code base for all workloads - be it Linux, VMware, Oracle, Windows. Rather than one box for one workload that creates silos, we are aiming for all the components in DC or cloud environment that can be addressed with a single OS and one code base for that OS. Consumption of Apps does not mean just compute and storage. OS should cater to the capabilities of every service in DC whether it is containers, virtual machines on compute side, storage, or networking or security.

Nutanix competes and co-operates with infra and cloud providers like VMware, AWS which often weighs heavy on CIOs and their legacy infra. Is co-opetition the way to go moving forward?

It's always been the case. Apple competes with Microsoft and Google, but all MS products and Google Apps are available on App Store. Oracle and Microsoft compete in various ways but they have shaken hands. Similarly for many enterprise tech OEMs too.

One of the advisors said -- 'Beyond a certain scale, you have to act like a country which has no perfect friends and there are no perfect enemies. You always deal with frenemies.' With all our technology partners, we maximize the overlap of interest and that potential minimizes the conflict of interest.

Have CIOs lost their influencing power to chief digital officer, chief cloud evangelist, CMO and other C-Suite peers in digital era?

Most CIOs focus on keeping the lights on and hence have little time to innovate and be at pace with the demands from LOBs. They need to focus on net promoter score to charm their end users. Most IT leaders have never treated the LOB as their customer. Once IT team realize that the company's different departments expect value and delight from the shared service called IT, I think good things can happen to reinvigorate CIO's positon.

What would be your tech bets for 2017 and beyond?

Hype convergence by itself will turn into this froth wherein a lot of consolidation will happen over the next 18 months. Many of 'me-too' hyper converged companies will be forced to sell as they failed to build sustainable independent business with customers over time.

There will be the emergence of one or two platform companies that would have to be honest about networking, security, identity management. The reality of On-Prem vMotion needs to happen between clouds in the next three to five years. App mobility will become very common with tons of opportunities for companies focusing on mobility.

Any change of goals - personal and professional - since Nutanix's NASDAQ debut on 30th September 2016?

Not really. It is business as usual at Nutanix. We were acting as a kind of a public company though not listed. If people look at post-public life differently then it starts to get into your head. I have always believed the public market investor is taken care of if you take care of employees, customers and partners.

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