The Futuriom Q&A with Rajiv Ramaswami

Rajiv Ramaswami

By: R. Scott Raynovich

Rajiv Ramaswami is the President and CEO of Nutanix, a leading cloud computing infrastructure company that trades on the NASDAQ as NTNX (Nutanix founder Mohit Aron was interviewed by Futuriom back in 2018). Ramaswami joined Nutanix in December, 2020 from VMware, where he served as Chief Operating Officer of Products and Cloud Services. Prior to that role, Rajiv led VMware’s Networking and Security business, one of the fastest-growing units in the company, as executive vice president and general manager.

Ramaswami's career is a dizzying array of leadership, general manager, and product roles. Ramaswami has literally been everywhere in the chip, networking, and infrastructure industry. Before joining VMware, he served as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Infrastructure and Networking at Broadcom, where he established Broadcom as a leader in data center, enterprise, and carrier networking. He has also worked at Cisco, Nortel, Tellabs, and IBM. At Cisco, he held General Manager roles for multibillion dollar product lines in switching, data center and storage and optical networking.

Rajiv earned his BTech in Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology and his Master’s and PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow and holds 36 patents, primarily in optical networking.

Read on, for the full interview with Rajiv Ramaswami:

Futuriom: You took over Nutanix at an interesting time with some major debates about cloud, multicloud, and repatriation. How have things changed in the last year?

Rajiv Ramaswami: Everybody is talking about going digital and how to use the public cloud. But I think the conversation with clients has changed from cloud being just a destination to it being an operating model. Businesses should be able to run applications anywhere and they should have the freedom to make choices based on cost, privacy, security, around what makes sense for each of the applications they need to run.

So the conversations have changed, everybody’s saying they are going to be operating in multiple clouds. Most of our customers tend to have an on-prem datacenter, but they are also using more than one public cloud. With our platform we see use cases around cloud migration, disaster recovery and temporary expansion to name a few. The conversation has progressed to hybrid multicloud – they want to be in multiple clouds, they want a hybrid approach, they want the opportunity to go across each of these clouds seamlessly.

What Nutanix does as a platform company is give customers a single platform that provides a consistent operating model – they can operate it on-prem, they can operate it in AWS and soon Azure, with more clouds on the way. Ultimately, our goal is to make clouds invisible for our customers.

Futuriom: Do you believe that cloud repatriation is a realistic trend?

RR: We’re definitely seeing an increased focus from CIOs and IT leaders of the true costs of public cloud, which is sparking conversation around repatriating certain workloads. Of course cloud is an important aspect of many enterprises IT strategy but so is the increased awareness that public cloud is not always the right answer. For some customers the focus has been on more closely monitoring the cloud costs; for some it has been to be more discerning about which workloads should move to the cloud in the first place; some on the other hand are looking to bring cloud agility on-prem; and lastly we’re definitely seeing some customers repatriating workloads back to on-prem. Generally, however, most IT leaders agree that hybrid multicloud as the ideal solution providing the best of both public and private cloud, as well as the flexibility to move between the two.

Futuriom: You've have been promoting the partnership with Red Hat. Why is that so important?

RR: Partnerships are one of the key priorities I laid out when I started as CEO of Nutanix. Our partnership with Red Hat is aIt’s a complete stack that’s good for customers. Customers want to run their existing applications and they want to run modern, Kubernetes-based applications. We have an infrastructure as a service platform (IaaS) that can run across multiple clouds. If you look at what Red Hat does with OpenShift, they are delivering platform as a service (PaaS) across multiple clouds. By combining the two (Red Hat running on top of Nutanix), we have a complete stack as a hybrid, multicloud solution. Red Hat is aligned with us from the vision perspective, they are complementary when it comes to the stack itself. Together we service the needs of the customers. The full Red Hat stack is completely certified on top of the Nutanix platform and that itself is creating good momentum in the market.

Futuriom: Did your friends at VMware poke fun at you for going with Red Hat?

RR: Our view is that Nutanix and Red Hat are best-of-breed providers and our strategic partnership unlocks added value for both of our customer bases. We focus on the infrastructure layer and selectively up in the stack with database as a service. By partnering with Red Hat, we can deliver a complete solution.

Futuriom: VMware also has their own HCI solutions and a tight partnership with Dell.

RR: Nutanix’s approach focuses on being platform agnostic combined with simplicity and choice. We provide our customers freedom of choice at any layer in the stack. Starting with the hardware, the hypervisor – while we have our own hypervisor, we also support any other hypervisor as well. Then further up in the stack we support any cloud-native stack. You can run OpenShift or you can [Google] Anthos if you’d like. We want to provide that choice to the customer at the same time as bringing best-of-breed solutions together.

Futuriom: Let’s hear about the growth perspective. The buzzwords move fast. Your origins are HCI. Now we have multicloud and Kubernetes. Where will growth come from? What happens with HCI.

RR: Our foundation is HCI. If you look at HCI it’s about breaking down silos in compute and storage. Later, we added networking as well, putting it together on a single stack that could be run on commodity hardware and could be run simply by IT admins. That HCI journey started off focused on specific workloads like virtual desktop. Now HCI is at a place where you can run almost any workload. Today we run ERP systems, we run security analytics like Splunk, for example. Pretty much anything. Including modern cloud-native applications. That provides the foundation for what we do.

If you look at the growth, there is a ton of opportunity just in that [HCI], still. The first part of the customer’s journey is modernizing the infrastructure. If you look at the market growth, there is a total market opportunity of $60 billion, with $40 billion was actually in the core HCI opportunity.

Now we have extended HCI into multicloud and hybrid. I look at it as an extension. It’s the same platform, same software, same license even. That provides an additional leg of growth as our customers move to the public cloud. We also provide unified storage. We have those built in on our platform as an add-on. Instead of buying separate object stores, they can use us. That’s another leg of growth – object storage.

The last thing I'm focused on and most excited about is database as a service. This is the one place where we are making an investment up the stack above the infrastructure layer. Our aspiration is to be a multicloud database as-a-service provider. We aren’t a database provider, but we can provide all of the tooling for databases to be deployed from day zero and managed on day 2, being able to backup and restore these databases and make the life of a database admin very simple. It’s got a great market fit and we have a significant Fortune 500 customer using this.

Futuriom: You've been a big proponent of movements such as ESG, tell us what you have been doing there and why it’s important.

RR: Sure. One of the things Nutanix has been doing with the platform is making things more efficient. Whether it’s an efficient cloud platform or remote work, that’s a way to offset carbon for our customers. Another area Nutanix is focused on is gender and diversity. We have published our gender statistics for the first time. It’s putting a stake in the ground in terms of where we’re at. We have a lot of work to do going forward to make us a better place to work. We have committed to that effort.

Futuriom: Tell us about One School at a Time, your charity organization.

RR: That is my personal work. There is such an overwhelming need for education around the world. This is my personal project and it's 100% volunteer driven. We have focused on the relatively hard work of building schools, largely in rural areas. These are schools with maybe 4-6 classrooms and having basic things like toilets and community shelter. Before we build one of these schools we talk to the community and make sure they are completely supportive. We’ve built 50+ schools so far and probably another 15+ going forward. I’m impressed with this team, it’s all volunteer driven. It’s impressive and gratifying that we could actually get these schools built during a pandemic. There are a lot of technology people involved in this organization and we’re just making a dent.

Futuriom: That’s great. Congratulations. Thanks Rajiv!

RR: Thank you.