Nutanix CIO On Joining Board Of Google Partner SADA Systems

Wendy Pfeiffer talks with CRN on how her experience as an enterprise buyer of IT for the hyper-converged computing giant will help guide the pioneering Los Angeles-based cloud consultancy looking to scale its leading Google Cloud practice into the next decade


As it looks to scale its award-winning Google practice over the next decade, pioneering cloud consultancy SADA Systems is diversifying a family-controlled board with industry experts, the latest being the CIO of Nutanix.

Newly appointed SADA director Wendy Pfeiffer told CRN she brings her experience as an enterprise IT buyer for the hyper-converged powerhouse, as well as CIO at GoPro before that, to the Los Angeles-based cloud reseller and managed services provider.

Enterprises IT teams "love the promise of public cloud in terms of being able to scale rapidly, manage resiliency, do incredible things with some of the edge services we want to deliver," Pfeiffer told CRN. "But we struggle on the business model side, and sometimes integration and implementation side, and this is where channel partners are essential to us."

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[Related: Google Channel Standout SADA Systems Introduces Four Innovative Flat-Rate Cloud Packages]

Pfeiffer understands those pain points intimately as a large consumer of Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services. She also has unique appreciation for solution providers as a C-suite executive at Nutanix, an important Google technology partner that exclusively goes to market through the channel.

With a seat on the board of SADA, the reigning Google Cloud Global Reseller Partner Of The Year, Pfeiffer sees an opportunity to help guide a consultancy that has earned a reputation as an "enabler, facilitator and accelerator of cloud transformation" by leveraging the unique technological capabilities of Google's cloud.

"GCP is purpose-built to enable a future of large-scale data consumption, edge transaction processing, software-defined everything, AI and ML," she said.

But Google hasn't always been quick to grasp the nuances of enterprise engagement, Pfeiffer said.

SADA, with its experience, scope, and reputation, has the ear of enterprise customers and GCP leadership, she said, putting the consultancy in a position of being a "much-needed translator" between the two.

The solution provider can help Google's cloud leaders better appreciate the potential market and how to engage enterprise buyers looking to consume GCP at scale while grappling with their purchasing and implementation models, as well as compliance and budget constraints.

Pfeiffer, who sits on the board of security vendor Qualys as well as some non-profits, was introduced to SADA founder and CEO Tony Safoian by Lusiné Yeghiazaryan, her former colleague who serves as GoPro's top auditor. They are the first two directors on the SADA board that aren't members of the Safoian clan.

Almost 20 years after founding SADA, Safoian sees the board expansion as central to his plan of taking his company to its next stage of global expansion. He's implemented important transitional steps in recent years to prepare for another decade of rapid growth, including building out SADA's executive team, expanding offices throughout the U.S. and into Canada, and divesting from a Microsoft business unit to focus solely on Google.

"With regards to forward-looking strategy, governance, and guidance, building an active, powerful board of independent members was a natural evolution of those steps," Safoian told CRN. Diversifying the board beyond owners "sets you up with the type of governance you need for the years to come."

In Pfeiffer, Safoian sees "someone who's extremely well-known in the technology world, in our space, in the world of cloud." The chemistry and fortuitous timing was evident on their first call, Safoian told CRN, and he awaited Pfeiffer's confirmation like an impatient teenager.

Pfeiffer's role as CIO at Nutanix has given her "a very unique and important lens on the market and the role of partners," he said. She can inform SADA's executive leadership team by bringing to the board "the voice of the customers."

Pfeiffer told CRN she believes SADA can play a large role in Google's success in the ultra-competitive cloud market—something many in the industry are rooting for.

"This is one of the public cloud plays that we want to see succeed to enable all of the functions and services that we want to deliver," she said.

For that to happen, Google, like its competitors, is going to have to deliver a true hybrid cloud platform, according to Pfeiffer.

"One of the things that's happening to enterprise IT companies over the last five to seven years is that finally the technology we need to consume hybrid cloud is available," she said.

That's a very attractive prospect to CIOs like herself who are thinking about cost, flexibility and scalability. But what hasn't caught up to the technology is awareness of how enterprise IT operates.

"We see vendors like GCP pivoting form having deep expertise about consumers, about companies born in public cloud, but not real expertise or finesse in dealing with enterprise IT," she said.

One thing those cloud vendors must appreciate is enterprise IT leaders tend to prefer purchasing cloud through trusted channel partners.

Consultancies like SADA "provide us with buffers and margins to absorb the vagaries of some of these technology companies that can be late on release dates, or struggle with shipping dates, or not having purchasing processes we need as we're managing the longer view of our budgets and business resiliencies," she said.

Previous rounds of management at Google Cloud have neglected that enterprise preference—and haven't done enough to offer a truly attractive model to partners.

That was a mistake, she said, as traditional large enterprises "are where significant budgets are available, significant market opportunity is available to them."

Through that learning curve, SADA has distinguished itself in that it has "stayed in trenches with Google," Pfeiffer said.

"I haven't seen or met another voice who's positioned the way SADA is and who truly has that understanding," she said.