Founded in 2009 by Dheeraj Pandey, Mohit Aron and Ajeet Singh, Nutanix is a cloud computing software company that is considered a leader in the space of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). In a free-wheeling chat with Muqbil Ahmar, Executive Editor, dynamicCIO (DC), Sunil Mahale (SM), VP and MD, Nutanix Indiaspeaks about how the company is making the lives of enterprises and IT professionals less complex and easier. He emphasizes on how hyper-converged infrastructure will be the mainstay of a modern data center.
DC: What are the top points that organizations should consider while choosing the right technology for digital transformation?
SM: Digital transformation is not an end in itself. It is the means to an end. Customers today want to adopt technologies that can help them deploy their applications and help them digitize much faster. One of the things that they should definitely consider is the agility of technology that would enable them to deploy and digitize their end-user experience better. The first key factor that organizations should consider while choosing the right technology is whether the technology is fast and agile enough for them to deploy and go to market faster? Digital infrastructure that is agile, fast and quick to deploy is super critical. The number one criterion is to have the best digital infrastructure with agility and speed of deployment.
The second key factor is end-user experience. While having digital technology is the baseline, the main question is – are you providing the digital experience to users to help them adopt the platform sooner than they would have otherwise done? Digital infrastructure and digital user experience, basically consumerization of IT, will drive digital transformation.
DC: Enterprises are opting for hyper-efficient infrastructure with the power and flexibility of cloud and the control of on-premise. How do you deal with those demands?
SM: Cloud has enabled digital transformation at a very fast pace. Customers love cloud for the agility, invisibility and experience. The reason is that cloud makes infrastructure invisible to an end-user and makes the complexity go away. You don’t touch and feel cloud. This is what has enabled enterprises to adopt cloud. They want to experience the same in their private data centers as well. However, today, a data center is like a zoo of hardware. Moreover, enterprises have to deal with people issues and siloed infrastructure, which they don’t like. They are looking for a solution that will bring the experience and invisibility of cloud to their own data center while retaining the control of governance, compliance and security.
Nutanix enables them to have a cloud experience in their data center. Hyper-convergence is just a building block. The larger problem that we have solved is to give them a true cloud experience but within their data center. We make the complexity invisible to the end-user. That is what we now call enterprise cloud.
Software-defined infrastructure necessary for a truly digital experience
DC: As enterprises move towards a hyper-converged infrastructure, how do you think it will help enterprises as well as their CIOs focus on innovation and growth?
SM: The idea of hyper-convergence is not new. It has been used by the consumer industry for a long time. In the 90s, the first hyper-converged machine was launched by Canon, which had a printer, scanner and a photocopier machine, all rolled into one. That was the first idea of hyper-convergence – bringing everything into one single device. For example, look at the mobile phones of today, whether it is Apple or any Android phone – be it camera, recorder or music player – everything has become software defined. The same thing goes for today’s data center as well. Data centers today house an array of hardware such as storage, server, computing, load balancing, networking, switching, routing, etc., making it complex and difficult to manage. Hyper-convergence, at the root, eliminates complexity in data centers and makes them transform from hardware-defined to software-defined. We converge everything to software so that it is easy to manage and can scale when you grow. That is the idea. Nutanix led the way when it was launched in 2009. Our vision is simple: Can we eliminate the complexity in the data center by hyper-converging every single piece of hardware into software? We believe that this will enable you to have a true digital infrastructure to facilitate a truly digital experience.
DC: With digital transformation, there will also be the challenge of managing huge volumes of data and making them readily available to organizations. How are technology providers aligning themselves to solve these new, unique challenges facing businesses?
SM: Data is permeable. It is everywhere and its growth is exponential. The challenge is that earlier the data was residing in data centers, but today with the advent of IoT, Edge Computing, etc. data can be anywhere and everywhere. In fact, the growth of data has made infrastructure a lot more critical than it was ever before, be it the media or manufacturing or telecom industry. The challenge is how to make sense of that data from various sources and crunching and analyzing it to get valuable insights. Big Data without big insights is useless. Data has to be consolidated and brought to a common platform. We as technology providers have to provide that as well.
DC: With advancing technology comes the challenge of the availability of an equally skilled staff. How do enterprises cultivate hyper-converged human resources?
SM: Hyper-convergence of human resources is a key part of digital transformation. If technology is hyper-converged, why can’t there be hyper-convergence of skills in people as well? A few people should be able to carry out end-to-end management. You no longer need special skill sets to manage and administer a Nutanix hyper-converged cloud platform. All you need is somebody who knows how to manage servers. Due to reduction in hardware, you should naturally need lesser number of people to manage and with fewer skill sets. When you don’t need a manual to operate an iPhone then why should you need one to operate a data center?
Automation needs to be built into a data center
DC: Enterprises of today have extreme automation as well as workloads. What is the best strategy that they should adopt to leverage the power and convenience of cloud to their advantage?
SM: Automation has to be built in into the infrastructure. Tomorrow’s infrastructure has to be smart and equipped with machine learning capabilities. In fact, automation is crucial so that the end-user doesn’t get involved. The infrastructure needs to manage itself. That is the gold standard of automation. We don’t need too many people. How many people does Google have to manage its data center? I don’t think it would be in hundreds or thousands, probably very few. A data center has to be self-healing, self-managing as well as self-scaling when the need arises. That is what the customer needs. If we are able to provide that, then the customers would not go on public cloud and would rather have hybrid environments. This is the industry trend that I see. You can’t stay in a hotel forever.
DC: In today’s age of data security and privacy issues, there are enterprises that are reluctant to host their data on the cloud. How do you bring about cloud adoption for them?
SM: Most banking and financial customers have adopted cloud, but it is more like a crawl, walk and run. They want to first understand and experience it. There are regulations which are prohibiting them from adopting cloud. But cloud is here to stay because there will be workloads that would make a lot of sense to go on public cloud. And, we support that. Our acquisition of Beam helps our customers understand cloud governance and optimization. We are seeing adoption across the board.
DC: How is Nutanix helping organizations in adopting digital initiatives?
SM: We provide two classes of services for customers to adopt digital initiatives. Nutanix provides digital infrastructure as well as digital end-user experience. At the end of the day, digital initiatives are meaningless if the end-user experience is not digital. It has to be consumerized.