That rowdy hyperconverged startup, Nutanix, recently held .NEXT Conference, their inaugural customer event in Miami. I’ve been watching this space for a number of years, having first witnessed Nutanix at Tech Field Day 8 back in 2011. More recently, I gave a presentation at Interop entitled A No-Nonsense Approach to Hyperconvergence (slides). And Ethan and I chatted on hyperconvergence with Scott D Lowe in our first Datanauts show.
I was pretty jazzed up to get an invitation to attend the Nutanix event – as a matter of disclosure, they covered my T&E. After letting the events of those three fast-paced days marinate a bit, I’ve come up with some thoughts on their event and recently announced features that I’ll share here. Interested in video interviews? Watch them on SiliconANGLE TV. I thought that Binny Gill, Dheeraj Pandey, Alex Polvi, and Bipul Sinha did an especially good interview.
Putting the Customer First
The Standard Event Keynote Operating Manual clearly states that the first person up for your keynote speech should be an internal employee or high priced speaker to jazz up the audience. Nutanix tossed that manual in the bin. A pair of engineers from Nutanix’s first customer walked up on stage to talk about their journey with the platform over the past several years. One of them forgot his lines, and said “I guess that’s why you don’t let engineers up on stage” to the accompaniment of a heart warming round of encouragement and applause from the audience. He gracefully recovered from the slip, completed his shtick, and introduced Nutanix’s CEO, Dheeraj Pandey, up onto the stage.
I was so fired up and emotional when I saw this – it takes a ton of guts to walk up when there are a thousand people watching you, and to see the room explode with cheers was inspirational. Other events, take note.
The immersion of customers into the event was non-stop. I heard from folks at St. Luke’s Health System, Sligro Food Group, Empire Life, Fitness First, and more. They all had a story to tell, and their story revolved around saving time, money, and frustration with Nutanix. The internal employees were around to facilitate. Bravo.
Spicing Up the Sessions
Days of marketing Kool-aid is boring. Nutanix added other ingredients to their conference menu. I attended two that really stood out.
The first was from Deepak Malhotra, Eli Goldston Professor, Harvard Business School, entitled Negotiating Success. I should have been charged admission to see Deepak: he was that good. The entire room was furiously taking notes and stayed late – well into lunch – so that he could tell some additional stories on negotiation. I mention one of them in my interview on theCUBE above.
The other notable session was presented by Binny Gill, Chief Architect, Nutanix, and Kelsey Hightower, Product Manager & Chief Advocate, CoreOS, entitled Containers—What They Mean for the Future of Application Deployment. Kelsey made an offering to the demo deities and spent his entire time slot on a slick Tectonic demo. I’ve been wanting to hear a session presented by Kelsey for quite some time, and was really glad I made it over. He crafted a great visual where we could watch a swarm of database servers migrate themselves from version 1.0 to version 2.0 with just a few commands. Impressive stuff.
I’ll also given an honorable mention to Steve Kaplan, VP of Channel and Strategic Sales, Nutanix, for his moderated panel entitled Building a Bullet Proof ROI. It featured five customers who shared their story, including financial data, to showcase how simple it was to choose a hyperconverged platform from both the technical and financial perspectives. The gentleman from Sligro Food Group called out how much savings he’s obtained from an operational perspective. Safe assumption to make, but glad to hear it echoed from a customer using the platform in production.
The commonly used phrase at .NEXT Conference was invisible infrastructure. Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform (XCP), the evolution of their software stack, now offers a variety of other integration points, hypervisors (including their own, Acropolis, a spin on KVM), and cloud managers. Making infrastructure become invisible means making it smart and software defined. As I mention on theCUBE, there’s a ton of day-2 operational effort that goes into running on-site infrastructure. Abstraction of these nuances is critical for being able to build a cost-effective cloud on-premises for the enterprise and service providers. It also makes much more sense financially, as similar economies exist when choosing to purchase, lease, or rent infrastructure in the form of a car. As a former auto employee, I can share that we loved it when people leased (instead of purchased) – that’s how we made our big money.
The competition coming out of Nutanix’s slideware is exciting. Allowing a scale-out solution to abstract application dependencies below (hypervisor, compute, storage, and management) can break a lot of existing models in a good way. If the proposed App Mobility Fabric intelligence can also work hand-in-hand with swarm and services focused stacks like Docker, and perhaps even integrate with the likes of Jenkins, Go, or Bamboo for easing CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Delivery), all that remains will be the application itself. Neat. Lots of concerns here – security, control, authentication, roles, policies – but it’s a step in the right direction.
For more of the techie bits, I’d suggest reading Brian Suhr’s Nutanix .NEXT announcements summary on VirtualizeTips. He’s an NTC (Nutanix Technology Champion) with a deeper level of interaction with the products.