Mr. Cowden, hyperconverged systems – what is behind this rather cumbersome technical term?
Patrick Cowden: Hyperconverged systems are a software platform for managing all components in a datacenter infrastructure. The emphasis is on software.
In earlier times, the topic of infrastructure immediately brought to mind hardware, such as storage arrays, hard disks or physical servers.
Hyperconverged systems still have hardware, of course, but the software takes on the key role. This greatly reduces the costs and the administrative commitment of resources.
Which infrastructure components does Nutanix offer in its software?
Cowden: Our software is conceived as a platform; in particular, it brings together the previously-separated areas –storage device, server and hypervisor. Memory space or RAID configuration for instance or also the question of which hypervisor a virtual machine is supposed to run on, merely remain functions within the software.
They no longer require any special knowledge from the administrators. In hyperconverged infrastructure, the infrastructure becomes invisible, so to speak, for the application-users in the IT department.
Also, innovations – such as performance improvements, metro-availability or linking of older systems that cannot be virtualized – can simply be entered-in as a software update. This way, the value of the investments does not decline, it increases
You put forward your solution more as an Enterprise Cloud than as a hyperconverged system. What does that mean?
Cowden: The new paradigm in IT is called cloud. This means the public cloud‘s public offerings, comfortably and easily usable by private application-users and corporate clients alike. As a result, enormous pressure is put on companies‘ internal IT organizations.
Today application users expect the same degree of simplicity, speed, linear scalability, automation and continuous innovation at their workplace as they do at home.
IT departments can best accommodate these expectations if they can administer their internal infrastructure as simply as they would if they used a product offering from the public cloud.
Using our software, administrators practically only concern themselves with services and applications but no longer with the infrastructure itself.
So companies have to decide between Nutanix and the public cloud?
Cowden: No, not at all. We offer the users an experience comparable to that of the cloud, but don‘t present them with a mutually exclusive decision. To be specific, we estimate that the proportion of workloads in companies that are regularly used and can be planned, averages at around 75 percent.
Yet for the remaining quarter, fluctuations in usage-levels are so great that that it makes sense to use public-cloud resources for this.
We offer standard connections to the public cloud, particularly to AWS and Microsoft Azure. Nonetheless, from our management console, Prism, users can completely administer the resulting hybrid environment.
If what you offer is so similar to the cloud, do you in fact offer any advantages compared to it?
Cowden: Two advantages must be pointed out. First, with us the companies save money. This applies not only compared to traditional infrastructures, as a comprehensive IDC study shows.
By contrast, the public cloud’s cost-advantages are soon diminished if there is a need to migrate complex, highly-adapted core systems, integrated with third-party solutions – the typical situation for established SAP customers.
In such situations, as an administrator you are “permitted to“ select between hundreds of proprietary interfaces and services in the public cloud and costs go through the roof quickly.
You also then become dependent on these proprietary technologies and this means that you can no longer change the public-cloud provider used as simply or quickly as you could before.
If you live for several years in a particular city you are probably more likely to buy a home than rent one. However, if you are only staying in a given place for a few weeks, you will probably use a holiday apartment.
We are, so to speak, the owner-occupied home for the predictable workloads, the companies‘ core systems.
And the second advantage?
Cowden: Companies must protect their intellectual property and make sure to comply with existing data security regulation. They do this best by ensuring that the important systems and data remain within their own datacenter.
A possible alternative worth considering is local hosting or managed-service partners, however, they too should use Nutanix in their own infrastructure to keep a lid on costs and complexity.
This is absolutely necessary because only when companies manage to achieve IT-budget savings do they create room for future investments.
And these are urgently needed to master the digital transformation.
So what does all this mean for the SAP community?
Cowden: Established SAP customers face three major challenges. Firstly, they must modernize their IT in accordance with the cloud paradigm.
Secondly – at least mid- to long-term– they must follow SAP’s technology strategy and cloud strategy. Thirdly, considering the first two challenges, they must formulate the digitalization strategy best suited to them and provide the required financial resources.
As previously explained, our solution can make a valuable contribution in overcoming all these three challenges.
What role does the partnership with Lenovo play here?
Cowden: The short answer is a substantial one. Lenovo enjoys an outstanding reputation as a provider of infrastructure solutions for companies. This applies to all important areas of software, such as ERP, CRM or Big Data.
Our software is implemented on the Lenovo Appliances of the HX series. In addition, the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform is certified for SAP NetWeaver. Thus the companies can operate their SAP systems reliably on our combined product offering. Lastly, we also have a support agreement with SAP.
You have mentioned NetWeaver but what about Hana and S/4 Hana?
Cowden: In technical and business-management terms, Nutanix and the Lenovo HX series are ideally suited for operating the S/4 application servers, both for development, test-operation and production operation.
Established SAP customers already deploying Hana as their database platform can operate this on the Lenovo servers x3850 and x3950 with Enterprise X Architecture, offering many TB of space for the main memory.
Our joint, hyperconverged solution is thus wholly consistent with the goals that SAP is pursuing with its new solutions, simplicity and lower overall operating costs. It is the best starting point for companies to make investments in innovations and in the digital transformation.
Mr. Cowden, thank you for this discussion.