Cloud should not be complicated: Nutanix CIO

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Not too long ago, everybody wanted to be on the next flight to the cloud. Now, organisations are learning the true cost of those business decisions, as it turns out that not all workloads are fit for the cloud. 

Rami Mazid, Chief Information Officer of Nutanix, is determined to simplify cloud infrastructure complexity for enterprises. With a wealth of experience from Cisco and eBay, he shared with Frontier Enterprise some of his industry observations, including his involvement with product development, infrastructure challenges, and why cloud should not be a complicated undertaking.

What was the transition like from eBay, which is a very consumer-facing company where the CIO’s role is quite well-defined, to a tech company like Nutanix?

I’m really used to that because I previously worked at Cisco, which is also a very engineering-minded company. I enjoyed my time at Cisco more than at eBay because, at Cisco, I was heavily involved on the product side as well. I had about five different roles at Cisco, rotating within application development, infrastructure, and collaboration leadership. I worked on the whole WebEx acquisition and emerging technologies like Cisco TelePresence. In my last two years there, I served as an executive technology advisor to the US Department of Defense. After that, it was time for me to make a move, so I joined eBay.

Rami Mazid, Chief Information Officer, Nutanix. Image courtesy of Nutanix.

eBay is more focused on the back end and leveraging technology rather than developing it. They’re just providing the e-commerce platform. I joined Nutanix for multiple reasons. Throughout my career, I’ve always looked for simplified infrastructure, which I’ve never really seen until now. The hybrid multi-cloud capability was also a factor, as it was something we lacked historically. At eBay, the company never believed in the public cloud; everything had to be on-premises. We then went through a quiet journey of moving certain things to the cloud, with two separate teams managing cloud and on-prem infrastructure. We carefully studied each server and didn’t move everything at once to avoid disaster. Even so, it was challenging to manage both environments.

When I learned about Nutanix, I realised it could solve all the struggles I faced over 28 years. Nutanix is about simplicity, scalability, and efficiently running a true hybrid multi-cloud. As a result, my IT organisation consists of only four verticals instead of the traditional six to eight. These are cybersecurity (with a CISO and a cybersecurity organisation), global networking and operations, application and collaboration services, and a hybrid multi-cloud team managing our data centres. We leverage three cloud providers heavily: Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services, alongside our four major internal data centres.

I have about 120 employees across these four functions. If I were managing this in a non-Nutanix environment, I would probably need three times that number due to the legacy infrastructure and the specialised training required for compute, storage, and virtualisation. The beauty of our environment is that one team member understands the entire setup, allowing them to work much more effectively together.

End users complain about having to train a whole army of specialists when they adopt a certain cloud platform. Is this something you see being resolved with Nutanix’s services, or kind of being simplified in the future?

At Nutanix, we’re really managing everything from one interface. Our people don’t need to have a specialty in each of the cloud platforms because the same team members manage both on-prem and cloud environments, whether it’s Azure, Google, or AWS. We manage about 28,000 nodes, 7,500 blocks, and close to 20,500 static VMs (virtual machines). By static, I mean these VMs don’t fluctuate; they’re constant and run services 24/7.

Additionally, we have somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 ephemeral VMs, which go up and down and aren’t necessarily stable for more than 30 days. We use these for testing purposes, new environment setups, or evaluations. Sometimes, we bring them up for two hours or two weeks. Our policy is that if anything runs for more than 30 days, it becomes a fixed VM, and we apply fixed VM rules to these.

How does Nutanix leverage AI?

Our first journey with AI started with our internal employees. We integrated AI with ServiceNow and built a comprehensive knowledge base within it. From there, we identified the top 10 issues frequently reported by our employees, like password resets, and automated those with AI.

Another significant improvement has been in our first contact resolution, which is at 98%. This is well above the industry average of 70% to 72%. Thanks to our simplified infrastructure, automation, and AI solutions, our internal customer satisfaction is at 92% on the NPS (Net Promoter Score).

During the pandemic, many people were in a rush to move to the cloud, and now they are paying the price. Do you eventually see hybrid cloud as the final scenario?

I wouldn’t say the final scenario is going to be 100% hybrid. It is going to be mixed. You’ll continue to run certain things on the cloud, some will be hybrid, and others will remain on-prem. The ability to manage all three environments effectively is crucial. Customers need to focus on this because, otherwise, they’ll end up with three separate vertical teams, which is something you want to avoid, similar to what I experienced 20 years ago.