Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey On Beating VMware With ‘Openness’

“What VMware is going down the path of is what Microsoft went down the path of before [Microsoft CEO] Satya [Nadella] – all Windows, nothing but Windows and the fact that Microsoft apps are the only apps that matter,” said Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey in an interview with CRN.


Pandey On The Record

Nutanix founder and CEO Dheeraj Pandey believes VMware’s technology roadmap is similar to Microsoft’s years ago in terms of openness and interoperability.

“What VMware is going down the path of is what Microsoft went down the path of before [Microsoft CEO] Satya [Nadella] – all Windows, nothing but Windows and the fact that Microsoft apps are the only apps that matter,” said Pandey in an interview with CRN. “That’s the mistake that we don’t want to make.”

At Nutanix .NEXT last week, the San Jose, Calif.-based hyper-converged infrastructure pioneer propelled itself into the secondary storage market with Nutanix Mine as well as a slew of enhancement features to its cloud services capabilities, including allowing Xi Leap to provide disaster recovery services for workloads running VMware’s ESXi hypervisor.

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In the interview, Pandey also talks about competition with VMware, Nutanix’s new AWS and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) partnerships and his message to channel partners.

You just created partnerships with HPE, AWS and Veeam. What’s the strategy there against your competitor, VMware?

For us, we know that software is all about keeping it open. When the software starts to become closed, it’s hardware. It’s now boxes. So the idea that we are going for partnerships with an open ecosystem, APIs and such, really lends itself well in the future for us to become a pure software company that is a platform that runs all apps, but also our apps can run in multiple platforms. We’ve built a hyper-converged platform, but now we have all these apps which are control plane apps – like Calm, Beam, like Frame – they should run on multiple platforms. We can’t have them only run on our platform. So case in point is VMware Horizon only runs on VMware’s platform. Nutanix Frame is going to run everywhere.

Why should VMware partners now take a look at Nutanix now?

Look, a lot of our customers are VMware customers too. They should look at us because our customers are looking at us. There’s joint business to be had. SAP and Oracle fought a lot, but Oracle and SAP were made for each other. I mean Apple and Samsung fought a lot, but they’re made for each other. So cooperation doesn’t mean it’s a zero-sum game.

You just made Xi Leap services available on VMware ESXi. Talk about Nutanix’s open strategy here?

You basically can have a vSphere on-premise and Xi Leap off-premise. So the fact that we can do hybrid cloud with different hypervisors on both sides is growing our market in Xi Leap. We don’t expect people to have AHV on-premise and that’s the only way to do disaster recovery off-premise or something like that. So what we are really saying is, ‘Look, these are pieces of the puzzle and they all need to fit together.’ As oppose to us having this single stack, no one else’s apps work here and we don’t support anyone else’s apps -- that’s what we don’t want. What VMware is going down the path of is what Microsoft went down the path of before [Microsoft CEO] Satya [Nadella] – all Windows, nothing but Windows and the fact that Microsoft apps are the only apps that matter. What Microsoft has done in the last five or seven years is completely reverse that strategy because their apps work on everybody’s platform and their platform runs everybody’s apps and Linux and all the SaaS and PaaS platforms are open source. They’re all running on Microsoft Azure – not the Microsoft of ten years ago. In the past, Microsoft would only run their middleware, their databases, their operating systems and their software as a single stack. That’s the mistake that we don’t want to make. The [biggest difference between us and VMware] is openness and interoperability.

How big is the partnership you’ve made with HPE in terms of channel partners?

It’s the best of both worlds with our software and HPE’s hardware. The fact that we are driving business for HPE and HPE is driving business for us becomes a very mutually symbiosis that any partners would love to talk about as a win-win situation – that’s what HPE and Nutanix is. The fact that we also get deeper in subscription, bringing subscription on-premise with HPE’s GreenLake is great because now it’s future proof. People really want to do subscription on-premise. They have a partnership and a stack with HPE and Nutanix that makes it possible for people to do things like burst capacity on-premise, the kind of things that you saw with AWS -- the fact that you can do those things on-premise as well is great for channel partners.

Talk about your new partnership with Nutanix on AWS?

We’re doing our AWS partnership differently [than others]. We are truly hyper-converging within the customers’ current environment in AWS. So it’s their account and their network. Everything is going as pure software running inside the customers’ account as oppose to other approaches where they’re trying to do what converged infrastructure did in terms of separate compute, separate networks and separate storage. Remember VBlock and FlexPod? Those are similar metaphors in software running on public cloud where you can actually run it in two different environments and then you have to really make them connected -- it’s just much harder to really integrate them seamlessly. We’ve done a really good job at making our software run inside the customers environment – it’s true hyper-convergence. We can create hybrid clouds in one or two clicks inside an AWS environment, meaning, in less than half an hour, you have a hybrid cloud running.

How can Nutanix partner benefit from this new AWS partnership?

They can take Nutanix software and the money they make on Nutanix software, and now make it possible for it to be utilized in the customer’s Amazon account, which is now best of both worlds. You bought Amazon credits and you have Nutanix credits – which is ELAs – you can utilize both of those credits together. So there’s no wastage for the customer and there’s value for the partner also in implementation. So now you really get into true hybrid cloud implementation for networking and migration and disaster recovery --- all these things become possible with one click. So it’s not like they have to set up an environment for hybrid cloud over multiple months and struggle with it before they even get to the true customer use case like business continuity or security in all environments and things like that. Those things are possible on day zero with Nutanix because of all the one-click delight that we brought to this idea of hybrid cloud.

How much of Nutanix’s overall sales come indirect versus direct?

Ninety-nine percent of all our transactions go through the channel -- 99.7 percent maybe. That’s loyalty. You have to realize that when we design something, we don’t hack it up. We don’t hack it up because hacking something would make it extremely diluted. What I mean by ‘hack up’ is, you can write software that is completely buggy and keep patching it and patching it – that’s not a good design. We are certainly going after the channel as part of our go-to-market. It’s a clear design. We will never bypass the channel, that’s the strategy we took. That’s what we adhere to because it makes us clean and simple with extreme loyalty from the partners. They don’t have to look behind us to see if we’re doing anything goofy.

What’s your message to partners?

It’s for them to transform themselves to cloud partners, delivering cloud services in a multi-cloud world that includes the private cloud. This is their one chance to really transform themselves beyond selling boxes. Nutanix is one of those unique companies to help them do that.

What is Nutanix’s roadmap over the next few years?

What we’re already really good at which is data, design and delivery. These are the three D’s that other companies are not that good at in really hunkering down and making all different kinds of data protocols work and all different kinds of application workloads work on the most mission critical applications to things like remote office/branch office, testing and development. You need different kinds of data engines and we’ve built all those data engines. The most reliable, most available, most secure data engine which is software-defined. Our second [strategy] is around design and simplicity and different kind of control planes that make one-click a reality, not just a buzzword. Finally, with customer service, customer support and professional services, we’re helping channel partners really transform their own businesses through delivery. We’re one of those unique companies that nobody can touch us on.

What is one famous quote that defines Nutanix future?

I’m a big fan of the Winston Churchill movie ‘Darkest Hour’. In the next ten years, I believe in staying power. So Winston Churchill said, ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ That’s what the next ten years will define for us.