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Consider the Source

Ever met one of those people that likes to keep learning long before they’ve faked interest at school and scraped through some exams?  Well recently that has been me.  While waiting for Nutanix upgrades to complete (during the day, no down time – you get the drill) I’ve found time for educational publications and none have made more of an impression than the 1984 classic “The Man With the Gold.”  Is this a self-help book perhaps?  Maybe the musing of a Harvard scholar?  No, this is the autobiography of Mr T.

Yes, that Mr T.

This Mr T.

In one particular chapter he talks about the peer pressure young kids face in his neighbourhoods and the harsh words others will use against them to force them down one particular path.  This is pretty relevant to the line of work I’m in and the customers I talk to so before we continue with this unusual parallel between the musings of a TV star and the world of software read what he wrote:

I know about peer pressure and all that, but I say, “Hey, they called me a sissy because I wouldn’t join a gang. Who was calling me a sissy? Does it make me a sissy because somebody called me a sissy?” […] I’m going to fight if you touch me or hurt me or do harm to my family. But if you call me a bad name, or whatnot, I’m too smart for that. That’s the message the kids need to hear coming from me. I tell them, “If I fought every time somebody called me a name, I would never get out of jail. But I’m disciplined. I’m smarter than that.”

So I tell them, like my mother said, “Consider the source.

When you see who called you the name, then you understand why they’re doing it. Then you don’t have to stoop that low.

In pretty much every meeting I attend stories from the competition come up about Nutanix.  For example, did you know “Nutanix doesn’t scale, has awful performance, loses data if a node or disk fails, uses 100GB of RAM for our CVM” etc etc.  All news to me.

Now, consider the source of those stories and why they’re saying such things.  The competition is out to discredit Nutanix.  Not through proof points but through FUD shaped as fact.  Many do this before we’ve even been able to ask the customer about their business requirements – you know, the real reason people want to talk to vendors – but that’s been the way in business for decades and it’s time it changed.

In the field we prefer the open and honest approach to answering critics and that’s what I’d like to touch on today.

Firstly we can and will always have hundreds of customer references to call upon.  Our customers are our biggest advocates and none of them are told to say anything nice about us, only the truth.  We can confidently say we’ve got all avenues covered from verticals to applications so finding someone “just like you, sir” isn’t going to be too hard thanks to the thousands of customers who’re already in our family.

Next, and this happens quite frequently, we can run live and unfiltered proof of concepts.  This is a great way to get customers hands-on with the product and test the systems and processes that are critical to them.  We’ve ran these on customer sites and on our extensive hosted platform where customers can do everything to a Nutanix cluster remotely from the comfort of their desk, including destructive testing, to ensure it does what it should.

Finally, and this is the one I really love, a number of our SEs in the UK have put together something very special called Tech Bootcamps.  This is a day long session (with food and beer afterwards) where 10 to 20 attendees from different companies can learn the technology together and also perform the testing required for their success.  We run these roughly twice a quarter and they’ve been a huge success so far.  We have seen them cut down the time customers spend ticking off the basics while getting first-hand experience on the finer details pertinent to their business requirements.  In 90% of cases we’re not asked for on-site or hosted POCs after this which helps their own project timelines no end.  All because we’ve addressed all of the FUD from their source quickly and efficiently.

Keep an eye out for these being advertised by the UK team and please come along whether you’re already engaged with us or have something we might be able to help with.  Don’t worry, no sales people are allowed to attend 🙂

Taking this approach has the added value of showing who is the humble, honest and hungry one to work alongside and that goes a long way to building the most important part in any relationship – trust.

So the next time you see FUD thrown in a meeting, before you’ve even met the other vendors, just ask yourself why they’re name calling and how you can get the proof points you need objectively and honestly.

…and if they do keep going on about it here’s a few things you can tell them, from Mr T himself



Invisible Hands

ChickybabyToday, or maybe yesterday depending on when I can be bothered to spellcheck and publish this, we, Nutanix, became a public company. As my favourite basketball announcer Chick Hearn would say…

“The Jello is Jigglin!”

It was a great day for everyone in the Nutanix Nation. My fellow employees, our current and future customers, channel and partners – oh and of course our new extended family of shareholders.

It’s safe to say I did no work at all today – I’m on holiday before you think ill of me – and the buzz on Twitter and Slack has been something else. But while we have very much lived in the moment today it’s made me think of how I came here and that’s what I’d like to tell you both today.

My background was 100% desktop and app virtualisation at Citrix. I joined as a 22 year old when Metaframe 1.8 was launched and left a few weeks after my 36th birthday. I could have stayed there forever. The technology was and still is the market leader, I knew the place like the back of my hand and I worked with an amazing bunch of people.

And yet I did leave. To the shock of many and the confusion of most.

Now, I’d like to tell you that this was a calculated decision born of months of dedicated research and market awareness but that would be wide of the mark. It was chance or as our President Sudheesh says it was Nutanix’s “invisible hand.”

If I think back to how I landed my job at Citrix way back in 2001 it was again out of pure luck. I was looking for a job after a pretty awful time at Speedo (make up your own jokes) and typed in “giz a job” into some search engine. “Giz a job” being slang for the desperate cry for a job from the weak and weary. IT Support 100 miles away from where I lived came up as the first hit and a month later I was driving down the M1 when I was told the good news by the recruiter. I shouted so loudly and proudly I think I scared the other drivers. It then started lightly snowing as the traffic slowed to a halt. The invisible hand at work. I’m not talking about anything religious or fate as don’t believe in either but it makes for a nice story huh?

Anyway, back on track and let’s move to 2014 when the hand would again give me a gentle slap into a new direction.

In 2014 a lot of changes were happening. My daughter popped out in February 3 weeks early (ask me about the water breaking over my Impreza seats and you’ll see a broken man) so stability was absolutely what I needed. After a month off work looking after my partner, daughter and Labrador (and scrubbing the alacantara seats daily) I got an email from a Citrix partner called MTech inviting me to dinner in London for a steak and wine. Never one to refuse anything their MD Martin offers I immediately said yes…and then noticed someone from a company called Nutanix also on the invitation. This was Alan Campbell, employee number 1 outside of the US for Nutanix. The email went something like “Hi Alan, I don’t know anything about you or Nutanix so please put me in touch with an SE so I can fake a conversation with customers in case your name pops up.”

A week later I was sat on a Webex with SE number 2 in the UK, Matt Northam. Matt took me through the proposition and technology and I was blown away. How can something this simple and obvious not already be ‘the way it’s done?’ Only once before did I have a light bulb over my head and that was researching ICA for my Citrix interview. When I saw what Nutanix could do then I knew it would be perfect for all my existing customers. Scale, simplicity and performance. Everything a growing XenDesktop deployment needed.

“Matt that was incredible thank you….” and then I said goodbye and jokingly “I’ll have to keep an eye on your careers page!”

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I met Rob Tribe at a Citrix usergroup. Nutanix needed someone from the Citrix community and asked if I knew anyone who would be interested. I looked behind me at my peers, friends and mentors and thought “screw it, yes, I’m interested. I’m very interested.”

After a phone interview out the back of a Subaru garage, a face to face at a service stop next to a motorway and one with the sales director and SE director I was offered the job. To this day I’m not sure why as I’m still sure I messed up that face to face meeting but something must have stuck.

One thing that I did take into all those interviews was one truth and it’s one I need to feel from people who join us today.

“Nutanix, I believe in what you believe.”

Infrastructure, applications, disaster recovery, change weekends, expansion, performance, setup, monitoring, none of these things should be complicated. Take away the friction, add delight to the simple things and the idea will grow and bloom.

6 weeks after the Webex with Matt I drove away from Citrix for the last time. I walked around site to say goodbyes to those that mattered most, got in my car and exited Chalfont Park for good.

A week later I parked outside a rented office and walked into a small room in Bracknall furnished with two IKEA desks as employee 10 in Western Europe, SE 3. Quite a shock going from a 10,000 employee organisation and working in a listed stately home but I knew we had the right idea and that we would make it a success. The great thing was that all around the world there were other small pockets of Nutants who believed in the same vision and no matter how few people we had in each region and country, together we were immensely strong and focused.

And so two and a bit years later I work in an office with nearly 100 people, in a organisation with 2,500 employees, with thousands of new customers every year and a future that I believe is even brighter that I knew it could be in 2014.

Now some will say it’s luck, other because we are just plain good but to quote the late great Chick Hearn one final time…

“I’d rather be lucky than good and if you’re both look out!”

Look out, indeed.

A dip into Prism

A few weeks ago I was given the lovely task of attending a meeting at the last minute with no preparation time and a 3 hour drive just after I got back from annual leave.  The meeting was only for an hour so I decided to record a short 10 minute video in the morning to take them through what they’d actually be doing on a Nutanix cluster from day to day.  Knowing the type of customer I knew there would be no internet connection let alone a 4G signal.

I could have just given a normal powerpoint pitch and sent them back to sleep on a beach (which is where I still wanted to be) but I wanted to keep them awake and also elevate the conversation away from dull stuff like hardware and storage.  Usability, simplicity and time to value was the intention here so click below and leave a comment if it made sense to you.  No voice over as I’m too cheap to buy a program for my Mac that’ll do it 🙂

There’s a storm coming. Big deal…

Remember the ominous end scene in The Terminator (yes there’s a ‘the’ in it) where Sarah Connor is showing how badly prepared she is traveling to Mexico without even a simple Spanish phrase book?  “There’s a storm coming,” says the little boy.  Sarah, looking more than a little nervous, drives off into the future to meet the rain clouds head on.  Smart move?

Bad preparation

To summarise she was badly prepared for where she was going and what was to come.  I didn’t even see a rain coat in the Jeep she was driving and don’t get me started on the blatant lack of a roof.  “There’s a storm coming and you’re wearing the wrong clothes, your car will rust from the floor panel out and frankly you should have learned basic conversational Spanish before you left,” is what the boy should have said.  His dad probably warned him away from people like that soon after.

Anyway, storms are a ballache at the best of times and generally the ones you and I know about in our working life are boot-storms.  Just like the type that’ll soak you to your skin and prove that a fancy bandana is no replacement for an umbrella we need to adopt the right technology to overcome this inevitable problem and that’s what I’m going to address today.

This morning I was with a customer who’s looking to start a VDI deployment with 500 desktops and grow to around 3000 depending on the take-up in the business.  The major headache they’d read about was IOps and in particular the rather nasty side effect booting all their VMs at once has on the systems as a whole.  SANs are not very good at serving IOps.  They’re not that great at anything other than storage really and that’s why there are lots of bandage technologies out there to cover up the holes and disguise how awful the performance can be if you tried to run VMs from them.  Now, I’m all for keeping massive investments going so if you want to throw some further expense in front of a SAN you’re locked into for four more years go right ahead.  Come and talk to me when the steak dinner invites and massive renewals come in.

Thankfully today the customer was ready for real change which is why I was discussing Nutanix’s approach to VDI and all the other wonderful challenges desktop virtualisation brings with it.

Boot storms to us at Nutanix are nothing more than a light shower with a raincoat on.  Preparation to mitigate the IO spikes for any amount of desktops is built in to our product and removes the worry for the customer.  Let me explain…

In a typical compute+SAN architecture you have a bunch of servers running VMs.  They talk down through a bunch of storage fabric to a couple of storage controller heads and then down to the disk shelves.  The shelves can only server up a finite amount of IO.  If you boot 10 machines that’ll be fine.  100 could probably work OK too.  Go to 200 and above and you’re looking at major stress being put onto everything below those servers.  The fabric might not be saturated but you can bet your last weather-proof North Face coat that the disk shelves or controllers will be.  The more VMs that boot, the slower the whole system will become as each VM has to wait for IO to be served.  Now of course you could stagger boot times, do them all at 4am before people come into work but how about the time when you need to fire them all up immediately after invoking DR or applying a critical patch during the working day.  Big trouble, Sarah.  Big trouble.

Because Nutanix is a distributed platform our approach to boot storms are to look to tackle it per node.  If we assume 80 to 120 VDI VMs could  run on a single node that’s the only thing we need to calculate for.  Once we know how many VMs each node can handle in terms of boot and general density (I’ve had IOmeter tests show 25,000 random reads and 18,000 random writes on regular 3000 series nodes a couple of weeks back) then all we have to do is add more of the same node type to get to the desired total VMs.  That’s how we scale and design clusters.  It’s that easy.

Here’s a diagram from The Nutanix Bible on how Shadow Clones work.  Click it to go to the article.

Shadow Clones

Because we read and write locally, or in some cases read over the 10GiB switch, the majority of all IO is done locally to the VMs and via the SSD tier.  Even better is that if we see blocks of data that are required by lots of VMs on a node we’ll kick in Shadow Clones to ensure that all VMs get that data localised right away.  Data locality is the key here but it’s only one of the technologies we use to make sure the cluster as a whole is predictable and efficient.  The best part is all of this is done on the fly without any administration.  We take care of it invisibly and without disruption.

So next time you start to worry about storms, just select the right clothing before you go playing in the rain and you’ll be just fine.


Gracias por leer.


Robocop_Mediabreak_Casey_Wong_jpg_878×473_pixelsYou may well be a loser.  If you look after a SAN for virtualisation you’re a loser.

Now, you’re going to take that the wrong way, I know that.  My point is you’re losing time.  Time from doing more productive things like shopping on Amazon, getting a high score on Forza or making a cup of tea.  You may even be better suited to getting some real work done.

Anyway, to show you just how flipping easy Nutanix makes creating storage for your hypervisor I recorded a very simple video.  In it you’ll see how to provision a container which to ESX is a datastore.  I’ll also show you how that presents itself to ESX, how to unmount it from a particular host and also add some policies around dedupe and compression.

If you can use an iPhone you can use Nutanix.

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