Nutanix CMO After Risque Conference Stunt: I Will Resign If It Happens Again

Executives from hyper-convergence startup Nutanix have apologized for a marketing stunt widely criticized as sexist that took place at a company event last week, with its chief marketing officer vowing to resign in the event of a recurrence.

Last Tuesday evening at the Encore resort in Las Vegas, Nutanix held a poolside party for some 2,500 attendees of its second annual .NEXT customer conference. The party featured bikini-clad female Encore staff members waving light wands and greeting guests while sitting on a small Ferris wheel near the entrance.

The fact that the Ferris wheel was also adorned with the Nutanix .NEXT logo led some to call out the San Jose, Calif.-based startup for a display they deemed offensive and sexist after photos began circulating on Twitter.

[Related: Cisco Said To Be Talking With IPO-Bound Nutanix About Strategic Hyper-Convergence Partnership]

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Dave Wright, CEO of flash storage vendor Solidfire, now part of NetApp, tweeted a photo of the Ferris wheel and sarcastically noted that Nutanix was ’doing their part to elevate women in IT.’

Nutanix CMO Howard Ting apologized for the stunt in a Friday tweet and pledged to resign if anything similar happens again.

We are truly sorry. If something like this happens again, I will resign my position. Print that.

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In a blog post Friday, Julie O'Brien, vice president of corporate marketing at Nutanix, apologized for the stunt while also offering an explanation of what went wrong.

"Unfortunately, despite the best-laid plans, we messed up in not getting rid of the entrance-way greeting wheel that the club provides as entertainment," O’Brien said in the blog post. "You either use it or cordon it off during an event. We elected to use it, and that was a mistake that we deeply regret."

One solution provider who attended the event called the controversy "much ado about nothing," speaking on condition of anonymity. Several others declined to comment when contacted by CRN. A Nutanix spokeswoman also declined further comment.

This isn't the first time Ting has apologized for a marketing stunt gone awry. In June 2014, Nutanix pulled down a series of anti-VCE marketing videos featuring a female character named "Vicky Block" -- whose bizarre behavior was supposed to convey how VCE Vblocks are a jumbled and confusing amalgam of different technologies -- after an outcry from critics on Twitter.

Last week at the conference, Nutanix showed off new technology that it claims will help it be viewed in the marketplace as a full-blown enterprise cloud vendor. And a big part of that effort is focused on pulling customers away from VMware.

Nutanix, which already has technology that lets VMware customers switch to its own Acropolis hypervisor format, is also developing technology that admins can use to manage VMware-based virtual machines.