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.Next 2024 - Nutanix CIO optimizes estate for growth opportunities

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth May 31, 2024
A year in, Nutanix CIO Rami Mazid has saved money and spent it transforming internal operations

An image of Rami Mazid, CIO of Nutanix
(Image sourced via Nutanix)

Annual conferences shower digital leaders with product announcements and the Nutanix .Next event of last week in Barcelona, Spain, was no different. CIOs of major vendors are well placed to be the guinea pigs for the technologies being announced on stage by the boss, but their role is broader than additional research and development - the new technologies must correlate to the operations and strategy of the business. Rami Mazid, CIO of Nutanix, has, therefore, been using the latest technologies to optimize the US-headquartered business, reduce cloud costs and increase the ability of Nutanix to respond to opportunities. And with the Broadcom acquisition of rivals VMware being a top topic of discussion, there is a sense that Nutanix is entering a period of opportunity. 

Among a plethora of announcements Nutanix announced a revised AHV virtualization management technology, a timely announcement given the number of CIOs receiving price hikes from VMWare since its Broadcom acquisition. Nutanix describes the latest AHV as a tool for infrastructure modernization and cost control as it enables digital leaders to reuse existing server hardware, and to manage workloads from a single tool. 

A recent partnership with Cisco will enable Cisco UCS blade certification, which again will allow CIOs to repurpose servers that have already been deployed. As organizations demand digital leaders adopt artificial intelligence and keep their foot on the pedal to deliver digital transformation and data improvements, the reuse of infrastructure should be beneficial. 

That demand for AI and digital transformation is also increasing the usage of containerization technology by CIOs, but containerization can lead to an increase in cloud costs. In response, Nutanix announced an extension of its Project Beacon data services architecture, stating:

While the majority of cloud-native applications are born in a cloud, very few are actually multi-cloud and built to be moved easily from one cloud to another, or on-premises. They also lack consistent data services to store, protect, and process data, across clouds.

CIO Mazid joined Nutanix a month after Project Beacon was first announced and has been using the technology as part of his own infrastructure modernization strategy: 

We have been customer zero for the cloud management technologies that we have released, and we have saved a lot of money from that exercise.

Internally, we are using more and more containerization, and we really see an opportunity for the industry to follow us. Until now, it has not been a big strategic focus for the IT organization because most of their focus has been on the operations and how to keep the environment running.

As demand for AI and digital transformation continues to increase, Mazid believes infrastructure will step into the limelight as the enabler for changing business operations. Few organizations can lift and shift their infrastructure, as the many debates about moving away from VMware in the light of the Broadcom deal showed at .Next, that is a long game. A game which Nutanix was very aware of and honest about. However, as Mazid points out, digital leaders have to enable change, and with a keen eye on the costs of cloud computing. The CIO says: 

The transformation is coming, but a lot of IT departments are running out of money. They are not going to be able to ask for another $5 million dollars to invest, so they are going to have to be creative and optimize, and then use the savings for the transformation.

The CIO says this is exactly what he did upon joining the business:

One of the first things I looked at was the operational costs, where we are spending our dollars, and where we are getting a return from them. 

Like many of his CIO peers, Mazid found inefficient usage of cloud compute: 

The most typical problem in the industry is that people spin things up as then want to run them, and then they turn their back and they don’t think about an opportunity to optimize that demand.

To modernize the Nutanix internal technology infrastructure, Mazid set out an optimization strategy: 

Every time I was asked for more resources, I said, ‘I’m not going to ask for any money or resources’. Instead, let’s focus on what are the opportunities that we can first optimize to get the money, and then put that money where it can give us the best value, and it was successful. I told Rajiv (Rajiv Ramaswami, Nutanix CEO) we have already saved X many dollars and we have already spent it, so don’t think to ask for it back.

It wasn’t just the CEO that he has changed the narrative with. Being a CIO is a communications job, and Mazid says it was vital to get his organization on board with the optimization focus. 

You have to influence your team members to take that direction, as you cannot do it alone. You have to have the team understanding where you are going.

First year report

Mazid joined Nutanix as CIO in June 2023, filling a role previously held by Wendy Pfeiffer, and he says his first year has been focused on doing the things that Nutanix believe will be the opportunity for digital leaders and their new products: 

Simplify, simplify and simplify, and do it with the least number of resources. This has enabled our developers and community to be self-sufficient. We have really achieved that fairly quickly.

Mazid joined Nutanix from e-commerce giant eBay, where he spent seven and a half years, first as Head of Global Infrastructure and End User Services, before becoming CIO in 2019. Earlier in his career, he spent 14 years with key Nutanix partner Cisco in various senior leadership roles covering public sector IT, client services and emerging technology. 

My take

Nutanix .Next was dominated by the debate over VMware and its new parent company. However, talking to CIO Mazid was a reminder that the first thing a business needs to succeed is to ensure all of its own operations are in order, cost-effective and provide the opportunity to benefit from any changes in the market. As Mazid says: 

Every company faces technical challenges. The companies that stay on top are the businesses that continually innovate and solve problems.

Mazid’s first year has been focused on solving the problems that dog all digital leaders - ensuring demand and agility don’t increase costs. If the plethora of technology announcements demonstrates that Nutanix has the capacity to be agile and innovative, yet costs are under control, then that is a case of job done. 

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