Enterprise cloud computing company Nutanix announced last month that it has been named as a leader in Forrester’s Research recent ‘Hyperconverged Infrastructure’ report which evaluated 11 vendors across strategy, market presence and current offering.
According to Forrester, Nutanix has maintained its position atop the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market through innovation, R&D investment, strong sales momentum, partnerships, and the acquisition of new customers.
Put simply, HCI is an all-in-one solution for network, storage and computing controlled by a single interface.
To find out more about the state of cloud computing and its uptake in Australia, Fifth Quadrant recently sat down with Nutanix’s Global Director of Technology Justin Hurst and Systems Engineering Director for Australia and New Zealand Carlo Nizeti.
Fifth Quadrant: Nutanix says that it has been focusing on reducing IT budgets and retaining people which seems to run counter to the idea in which new tech often leads to reduction in people resources. How has this approach been working?
Justin Hurst: As companies have been undergoing digital transformations, they are realising that IT can drive forward their business, make it more competitive and improve customer experience (CX). You can’t do that with ‘business as usual’ IT.
The biggest friction we found with people adopting our technology was that it did break down silos between different groups in IT because we are taking all those things that were separate disciplines and collapsing and automating them.
That was a big shift and I think people were scared about how it was going to impact their livelihoods. But really what we have seen is the opposite: people can become generalists and they are able to take their careers up a level and explore how they can impact the business rather than just "keeping the lights on".
Fifth Quadrant: We’ve seen something similar in our own research on contact centres, where the machines are augmenting rather than replacing human capital. Workers are being retrained and upskilled for higher level tasks while the machines take care of the easy stuff.
Justin Hurst: Precisely. The history of technology has always been one of taking manual processes and automating them. Letting the machine take over and allowing the human to work on something more valuable and more interesting.
Fifth Quadrant: Nutanix says that the cost of traditional data centres weren't designed with energy in mind. How is Nutanix tackling this?
Justin Hurst: Very simply by collapsing what was three separate physical devices into software running on generic servers, we can drastically lower the amount of space taken up, power consumed and cooling required.
Add into that things were doing in software and data efficiency and workload placement and we can really squeeze out the maximum amount of performance from our equipment. We’ve had customers tell us they have reduced their footprint by 60 or 70 per cent in the data – those are dramatic transformations.
Fifth Quadrant: You’ve said that there is an accelerating issue of ‘cloud lock-in’ as Australian businesses realise the immense cost of relying too much on public cloud. Can you explain this a bit more?
Justin Hurst: The public cloud is a great tool but what it is not good at is lifting and shifting traditional enterprise applications. It is hideously cost inefficient, it is not designed for that operationally and the knowledge that teams have do not transfer to the public cloud. It is a fundamentally different architecture and if your applications haven't been built for that, you are going to suffer large surprises.
Fifth Quadrant: Are you finding that it’s an old way of thinking that’s preventing some businesses and organisations from progressing or where, in your experience, is the log jam occurring- the board, the C-suite or upper management?
Carlo Nizeti: We’re seeing executives now more willing to experiment. This has been a good way for Nutanix to start working with companies. Change is hard when you are a big organisation and when you are a bank, for instance, you’ve got regulations, reporting, risk analysis and security teams to worry about. Those things take a while to influence and change but our platform allows them to potentially try something new very fast.
Fifth Quadrant: Do you feel Australia is ahead or at par with the rest of the world?
Carlo Nizeti: Australia is a very heavily virtualised country. We adopt a lot of technologies very fast so in that regard we’re in a good position. But on the flip-side, there isn’t as much competition driving that. We are smaller economy and smaller country. In some areas we are ahead of the curve but in others we just don’t have the risk of disruption driving our industries.
Justin Hurst: People here do embrace disruption. I think it is part of the culture of synthesising multiple outside influences and coming up with something stronger and better. I see the same in technology.
Fifth Quadrant: The technology is moving really fast, are there any specific challenges you are facing?
Justin Hurst: Technology is always changing. It is like we are coming out of an ice age into a Cambrian explosion.
Much like evolution, there are a lot of dead ends, there is a lot of technology that will fizzle out very quickly. It is important for us as a platform to keep ourselves generalised enough that businesses can adopt these new technologies very quickly while still keeping the same operational framework they understand and not having to reinvent the wheel every time.
If you look at how we have designed our systems, it is really a core platform and everything else we plug in on top is simply another way to interact with that. By building that kind of architecture, we can respond very quickly as new trends emerge.
I think CX is one of the things that really differentiates Nutanix. From day one we’ve said design is key to what we do. In the enterprise space that is typically an afterthought but we think that using this enterprise software should be as easy as interacting with an iPhone. By holding ourselves to that same standard, I think we drive a lot of user delight which is why we see our repeat purchase multiple so high.
Fifth Quadrant: Finally, on technology, how are you using Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Justin Hurst: We adopted AI a few years ago. Our core management and analytics platform is built around machine learning.
For example, we look at how a business consumes it resources over time and we can project with accuracy when it will exhaust those recourses. So users can run “what if” scenarios based on machine learning and gain actionable insights from that.
We have done the same thing for anomaly detection. The system is smart enough to know when something is aberrant behaviour that is truly causing an issue. We’re taking a lot of that mundane, static thinking and fully automating it. The AI is working behind the scenes to make things work better.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity