The cup has been flipped.

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The three part story of how a no name company became VMworld champions

Part I: An Unexpected vJourney

It is Sunday afternoon of September 15th, 2013. I am walking along Union Square with my family when a harem of fellow vGeeks approaches us. Considering San Francisco is always cold, I happen to be wearing my green Nutanix pullover.

vGeek #1: “Are you from Nutanix?!?” one of them ask as they approach us.

Lukas: “Why yes I am. The green pullover must have given it away, huh?” I respond.

vGeek #2: “Wow! you guys won the big award at VMworld 2013 this year” another vGeek continues.

Lukas: “Yes, we won the Gold Award for Private Cloud from TechTarget. We must be doing something right” I acknowledge.

vGeek #2:“No, I am talking about THE award. You are the VMworld vFlipcup 2013 champions.” he exclaims.

I am surprised that they recognize the Nutanix name. But even more so, I am surprised that they already know about our company and its core missions. The cat is out of the bag. The cup has been flipped.

The Two Nutanix Missions:

Flashback to two years ago. It is Friday morning of July 29th, 2011.

I pull up in a taxi to the Nutanix headquarters in San Jose, California to interview with a company that I have never heard of. Actually, I am not sure anyone has ever heard of Nutanix. I travel from Chicago after seeing a website that spoke of a distributed filesystem that eliminates the need for centralized storage. Although I had never heard of this company, the idea was something I believed in. I am a bit nervous and have no clue what to expect.

I walk into the Nutanix headquarters. It is a small office with about 20 engineers working hard at their development stations. The office was not impressive, but immediately I feel outclassed. The way that these folks were spewing code was inspiring. Their monitors were scrolling with colorful C and Python as code danced off their fingertips. I had heard of these “code ninjas” or “code monkeys” before, but never had I seen them in the flesh.


The interviews are tough. To this day, I have no idea how I made it through. After the mind-beatings are over I am told to stick around and wait to speak to the CEO. I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.

The CEO walks in..

Dheeraj: “We like you. We want to make you an offer.”

Lukas: “Really?!?!”

Dheeraj: “Yes. Do you have any questions?”

Lukas: “What do you want me to actually do?”

Dheeraj: “Well Lukas, we founded this company for two reasons.”

Dheeraj: “First off, we are going to revolutionize the compute and storage industry. Mohit, Ajeet, and I hired experts in distributed systems from Google, VMware, Oracle and Facebook to build a filesystem that can be used with commodity hardware and provide enterprise storage capabilities through software. Hyperconverged-infrastructure it is called. It will be the iPhone of the next generation datacenter.”

Lukas: “I am no Google, VMware, Oracle, Facebook, or Apple engineer. What does this have to do with a lowly midwesterner like myself?”

Dheeraj: “You know VMware well and you must ensure that we integrate successfully with the vSphere product line.”

Lukas: “Sounds easy enough. No problem.”

Dheeraj: “One more thing…”

Dheeraj: “I had a vision. There is a second mission that I have been dreaming about every day since we founded this company…”

Dheeraj: “Two years from now there will be a stupendous tournament in San Francisco. It is a flip cup tournament. You must drink the cup of beer, then flip the cup. The greatest companies in infrastructure software and virtualization will send their champions to vie for the most coveted award of VMworld 2013.”

Dheeraj: ”We must win. Because of this, every admin and architect will hear our story and revolt from the tyranny of traditional storage vendors. Nutanix must win this tournament, take home the trophy, and flip the course of history.”

Lukas: “But that is going to be incredibly difficuu…”

Dheeraj: “Luke. Do or do not. There is no try.

Lukas: “But…”

Dheeraj: “You do not have do this alone. Is there anyone you know who can help us?”

Lukas: “Hmmm… Actually Dheeraj, I know just the guy…”

The (VMware)Dude:

His name is Steven Poitras, but everyone calls him “The VMware Dude”. He is 5’9” tall but built like an NFL linebacker. I once saw him beat a Chicago NHL Blackhawks player in an arm wrestling match in the middle of a bar on the south side. He is well known in consulting circles for being an expert in VMware virtualization and network architectures. He also happens to be the best flip cup player that I have ever met. He can hold his vodka while architecting a leaf-spine network. Truly a polymath and renaissance man. We needed him on our side.

It is now Thursday evening September 8th, 2011. A very important phone call is underway…

Lukas: “Hello Steve, I am living in the bay area now working for Nutanix. We are building a distributed filesystem for VMware and other hypervisors.”

Steve: “Sound pretty interesting…”

Lukas: “Our second mission is win the 2013 vFlipCup tournament at VMworld. It is incredibly ambitious and I am not sure we caa…”

Steve: “I’m in.”

Without another word, Steve dedicates himself to the company and the cause. Even with the help of an VMware expert and flipcup aficionado, I know that we have plenty of work ahead to prepare for the tournament…

Stay tuned for Part II of the story, entitled “Blood, code, late nights, and cold beer.”