Nutanix .NEXT 2024: Interview with CEO Rajiv Ramaswami

Michaël Renotte I 4:18 pm, 28th May

During an exclusive interview at Nutanix .NEXT 2024 annual conference, held in Barcelona from May 21 to 23, Rajiv Ramaswami, Nutanix CEO, answered some key questions about the company's strategy and response to the VMware acquisition by Broadcom. He also clarified the scope of the announcements issued throughout the convention.

The completion of Broadcom acquisition of VMware last November has raised significant concerns across the market. However, Rajiv Ramaswami believes Nutanix can help customers navigate this storm by prioritizing engineering and customer needs, two of the pillars of the company's culture.

"At our core, we are an infrastructure software company, but we aim to evolve into a platform for modern applications", said Ramaswami. "That's why we acquired D2IQ and are expanding our platform offerings, including cloud-native containerized workloads. We believe we are well-positioned to help our customers transition to building and running modern applications. For example, Wells Fargo mentioned on stage that they are using our products to support their 30,000 developers building modern applications."

Favouring a longer-term outlook

Although he remains very cautious about the emotion raised by the Broadcom-VMware deal, Rajiv Ramaswami presented Nutanix as a viable alternative for VMware customers affected by Broadcom's policy changes, especially for companies who want to move to an HCI architecture or those interested in just replacing their hypervisor. However, as underlined by Nutanix SVP Product and Solutions Marketing Lee Caswell, new customers from VMware will need to adapt to some differences with Nutanix. "It's true that our tools and processes are different from VMware's", Ramaswami acknowledged. "We spend considerable time training our customers, especially larger ones, to familiarize them with Nutanix tools. While the learning curve is not steep, it is different, and we focus on data-centric features more than VMware."

If there is an opportunity for Nutanix to grow its market share, it will be in the long run. "VMware customers need time to transition", he said. "While the immediate impact has been more customer engagement rather than increased sales, we expect this to be a multi-year journey. Customers need time to plan and execute their transitions, and we are here to support them. We encourage customers to move to HCI eventually as it offers a simpler architecture and we plan to support multiple storage arrays over the next few years."

When asked if Nutanix may suffer the same fate as its competitor, he replied "We focus on continuous innovation and long-term customer relationships. Broadcom targets mature companies - with little potential for growth in terms of market shares - for acquisition and then optimization. We don't fit the Broadcom acquisition model as we are still in a growth phase."

Back to first love

Commenting on the collaboration with Dell on two new joint solutions, an integrated hyperconverged appliance combining Nutanix Cloud Platform with Dell servers and the new Nutanix Cloud Platform for Dell PowerFlex, Rajiv Ramaswami said "We are just starting this journey, focusing on IP storage. Over time, we will expand to other third-party storage platforms, but our initial focus is on IP-based storage like PowerFlex."

Staying true to open source

Nutanix is not an open source company, but the company loves open source and leverages a community supported model. This was discussed during the .NEXT conference, especially by Thomas Cornely, SVP of product management, and Tobi Knaup, General Manager of cloud native and father of Nutanix Data Services for Kubernetes (NDK), a product built on 30 open source components. Here too, the CEO of Nutanix remains cautious : "The open source community is a great community. But unless you yourself invest as a company in having a suite of developers to maintain and support it, you can't rely on the open source community for enterprise-grade support. You can rely on the open source community for getting pieces, but you have to take on that enterprise support yourself or rely on a third-party vendor to do that for you. That's typically how it works. That's Red Hat's model. And that's our model with NKP, for example."

Hyperscalers dual perspective

The stated intention of Nutanix is to "break down the barriers between on-prem, cloud, and edge, with a single, unified platform for managing apps and data anywhere". This vision could, however, collide with the hyperscalers differing views, as they might prefer to keep their own services exclusive and maintain customer lock-in.

"Of course, public cloud providers want to maintain lock-in", said Rajiv Ramaswami. "They'd prefer all services to run within their cloud. However, they also see the value in collaboration. This dual perspective is why companies like Snowflake have thrived despite competing with Amazon's own services. Snowflake still uses a lot of Amazon's infrastructure, generating revenue for Amazon."

"While public cloud providers prefer exclusivity, they also partner with us because we bring additional workloads to their platforms. For instance, a large US-based financial services company adopted a cloud-first strategy five years ago, signing multi-year agreements with AWS and Azure. Despite their efforts, they struggled to refactor their applications to be cloud-native and were not meeting their cloud commitments and freeing up datacenter space. At a critical point, they realized our platform could facilitate an easy transition to the Cloud. They purchased more of our services through the Azure marketplace, helping them fulfil their Azure commitments and quickly migrate workloads from their datacenters to Azure. This satisfied their need to free up datacenter space and meet Azure commitments. Azure benefited because their metrics are based on consumption, and our platform drove more usage of Azure infrastructure. The customer was happy, Azure was happy, and we were happy. This explains why public cloud providers are willing to work with us."

Interview by Michael renotte

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