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Nutanix CEO: companies are moving back to on-prem

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy January 26, 2014
As Nutanix disrupts the infrastructure space, the company claims demand is coming from customers wanting to move back from public cloud deployments to on-prem or private cloud landscapes.

Nutanix CEO
Dheeraj Pandey, CEO Nutanix

Last week I met with Dheeraj Pandey, CEO Nutanix. It was a broad ranging conversation where I was exploring how a vendor goes from zero to $100 million in lifetime sales (and currently doubling up quarter over quarter), just two years after coming to market with a storage cum compute solution built for data center usage. It's a big and expanding market but there are plenty of well established infrastructure players out there.

It turns out that Nutanix is answering the question that enterprise critics like Vinnie Mirchandani have been asking for years: why does enterprise storage/compute have to be so expensive when consumers can buy bare metal 4 terabyte scale drives for less than $320? The EMC/IBM etc answer is always about emphasizing sophisticated management, failover and scale. And in any event, 4TB in an enterprise is a piddling amount of storage in a webscale world.

Nutanix solves both the cost and management problems through what it describes as 'converged infrastructure' that results in 'software defined data centers' that are built upon commodity Taiwan built hardware that can be spun up in 15-30 minutes. Sounds simple doesn't it? And in one sense it is.

Nutanix has done what many great software companies do: stand on the shoulders of giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon in its approach to developing an enterprise solution that not only tackles the data center cost problem but also does so in a manner that eliminates much of the manpower costs in keeping the lights on.


But it was when I asked Pandey about use cases that he surprised: "We're agnostic about private and public cloud style implementations but in reality what we see is private use dominating our customer requirements." What?

Expanding on the theme he added: "You know that Gartner hype cycle thing, well on public cloud it looks to us like customers are entering into that trough of disillusionment. They're reckoning that the cost of public cloud is more expensive than running in private. It's like on-premise is coming back...Amazon is too expensive except for certain workloads and demand spikes."

If that sounds like perceived analyst heresy then it's worth pausing for thought.

In recent weeks, our own Phil Wainewright has opened the door to a fresh consideration of cloud infrastructure discussions:

Many traditional client-server vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft have implemented SaaS using a hybrid architecture in which the application servers are multi-tenant but each database is a single-tenant instance. These single-tenant databases (the model is sometimes called 'isolated tenancy') are then virtualized across a multi-tenant physical server infrastructure.

The general consensus in SaaS circles has been that if those databases are customized to the needs of individual customers then it does not qualify as 'true' SaaS. The instance ceases to be interchangeable, which breaks the 'black box' principle.

Angels on a pin

But in a modern, virtualized architecture in which databases can be spun up and down on demand, this distinction starts to look as relevant as querying the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. As cloud architectures advance, there may be cases where economy is best served by spinning up single instances rather than using multi-tenancy — running web server instances on ARM server processors is one potential example. Therefore it may be that multiple instance will trump multi-tenancy as the defining characteristic of cloud application architectures.

Nutanix sounds like it is taking another turn on this discussion, offering customers like eBay yet more alternatives.

This is a story we'll be following.

Nutanix has recently joined the so-called 'billion dollar start up club' and is eyeing an IPO in 12-18 months. Much of its ability to reach that stage of development will come in market acceptance of its solutions. Today, it is chasing the low hanging fruit of the virtualised desktop applications space where cost pressure has driven some companies into the arms of Google. In parallel, Nutanix is running as hard as it can to develop solutions for more specialised business applications workloads. "I'd love to have an SAP system running on Nutanix," muses Pandey as our all too brief conversation came to an end...

Disclosure: SAP and Oracle are premier partners at the time of writing.

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