Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates Keynotes Nutanix Now Partner Conference

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Gates also said his decision to remain as Secretary of Defense after Barack Obama was elected president was a difficult one, and came only after lengthy discussions and his "prequalification" with Obama in the form of written questions he had for the president-elect.

During the Q&A period following Gates' presentation, Keith Norbie, director of server, virtualization and storage for the Eastern U.S. for Technology Integration Group (TIG), a San Diego-based solution provider, asked Gates how the decision process used by government can provide insights into IT decision-making.

Gates responded that most IT decisions in government are made by people like him who do not really understand IT.

"We usually have two sets of advisers," he said. "On the one hand are the technical advisers, and on the other hand are the users."

The decision-making process can make it difficult to work in Washington, D.C., Gates said. "My first reaction when asked if I would handle the federal relations for Nutanix was, I expressed sympathy," he said.

Norbie later told CRN that he thought Gates' presentation was "stunning."

"Where have you ever seen the Secretary of Defense pre-question the president-elect," he said. "The fact that he pre-questioned President Obama to prequalify was never done before."

That prequalification process was a good analogy for the channel, Norbie said.

"In the channel, partners look at manufacturers as Gates looked at the president-elect, and decide how they qualify for the manufacturers," he said. "That's different from what I'm doing. I look at how the manufacturers qualify for me."

Gates' admission that he didn't receive respect when it came to IT is one that everyone experiences at some time or another, said Terry Buchanan, vice president of technology and general manager at Zycom Technology, a Kingston, Ontario-based cloud services provider and Nutanix partner.

That is a lesson Buchanan said he applies in his customer dealings. "If I have five minutes, there's no way I'll talk techno-babble," he said. "I'll say, I know your problem. I'll come back to you with a solution."

Tim Neary, president of Blue Collar Storage Solutions, an Allen, Texas-based solution provider and Nutanix partner, described as "awesome" Gates' insights into the decision-making process.

"A philosophy I've had all my life, and it was good to hear Gates talk about it, is that tenacity is important," Neary said. "How you handle it determines your success and failure."


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