Journey to Cloud: Step 5 - Institute Autonomous IT

Nutanix CIO Wendy M. Pfeiffer talks about how automation brought IT costs significantly down in this fifth segment of a 10-part Tech Barometer podcast series.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez February 1, 2021

Private and public cloud technologies are changing the dynamic of IT teams. Many operations no longer require squads of software engineers, storage engineers and network engineers, according to Wendy Pfeiffer, Nutanix CIO. Operations can be managed by the right mix of specialists and generalist IT professionals.

“Today, I have 69 IT professionals who support 7,500 of workers,” said Pfeiffer in the fifth segment of “Journey to Cloud,” a Tech Barometer podcast series based on the ebook Charting the Course to Cloud.

“That's a ratio of one IT person to every 683. And the industry average is more like one to 72.”

Today, after completing the hybrid cloud employment, IT spending at Nutanix hovers at around 1.9 percent, said Pfeiffer. Midsize technology companies such as Nutanix typically spend 4.1 percent of their budgets on IT.

“The Nutanix Platform makes incredibly efficient use of compute and storage capacity wherever it runs,” she said.

The IT team can address the hardware via the operating system using software code. And it can address it in a scale-out way, the same way hardware in a public cloud can be addressed, all from a desktop.

“Administrators can maximize the use of cloud resources without having to visit the data center,” she added.

Automation has helped the IT operations staff become more efficient. Pfeiffer said that during Q3 of 2019, a small team of 17 Help Desk workers closed 47% more request tickets than the same quarter in the previous year. She said her team continues to find ways to build automation into more IT processes and operations.


How a Billion-Dollar Business Moved to Hybrid, Multi-Cloud IT


Wendy Pfeiffer: Step five. So our next step was to figure out how could we do more of our common functions in it, autonomously.

Jason Lopez: The Journey to Cloud with Nutanix CIO, Wendy Pfeiffer.

Wendy Pfeiffer: If you've ever knitted, you cause your body and your mind to converge on thousands of times in a row doing the same stitch again and again and again, and again. People like me can't even make it through one line on the knitted item without having to do stitches. I don't have that ability to be that consistent. Most human beings don't know what the machine does, it just follows the instructions and it can follow the instructions infinitely as long as you have electricity powering it.

So now we've got thousands of folks interacting with our on-premise and public cloud environments, our homegrown applications and tools and our SAS applications and tools. And they're doing all of this off of this common substrate, this hybrid cloud that we built. We became more productive. We started doing more things. And as we did more things, our volumes increased. The company itself was growing along my journey, as well as we were trying to support all of this complexity, we were spending 6 to 7% of our annual operating budget on IT. That's a little on the high side, even for technology companies, the standard is more like 4% of the company spend. How do we keep up with this? Automation held a real key for us.

One of the things that we did is we took a look at how we handled our networking. At that time, our networking was a very, very hands-on process. We worked with a third party vendor who certified their networking product to run on AOS and AHV. And we went from having Cisco in our core to having this third party vendor's software defined network at our core. We started doing all of our core routing and switching via a software defined network. This means that I no longer need to have people who are physically configuring top of rack switches in my data centers. I don't need to rewrite my operating code to run in public cloud versus on-premise. I handle networking the exact same way, whether that networking is happening in any of my global on-premise data centers or is happening in public cloud. And so that then frees us up to begin to automate how we run.

Recall that I said, I have a few thousand sales people, but I also have a few thousand engineers. And those engineers rely on me to provide them access to their development environments and their test environments and so on. Because those environments are accessible via code I can directly provide self service via automation to those engineers. So instead of those engineers, having to ask mother may I, every time they want access to a new VM or a new environment, they can access and call those environments themselves using pre-built automation that we make available to them. In addition, I now have a staff of IT professionals who have deep expertise in modes of it, operation, whether these are CCIEs who know how to manage networks or storage experts or systems experts, those folks are now able to translate their expertise and how things operate into code, which can be invoked and called and used to operate. And so what this allowed us to do is to offer all of the rich complexity of our multiple environments and tools and modes of operation to offer that via an input mechanism that was repeatable, that was near autonomous.

Although Nutanix has been growing 47% year over year, my IT team has only grown 21% in total, in the last three years, meaning that we are serving more and more people, but we're doing that with less and less relative resource as we begin to automate. Today, I have 69 IT professionals who support 7,500 of workers. That's a ratio of one IT person to every 683. And the industry average is more like one to 72. So that's huge. Today instead of being 6 to 7% of the company's operating budget with this huge year over year growth and Nutanix our spending today is now 1.9% as a percentage of our budget.

Jason Lopez: Wendy Pfeiffer is the Chief Information Officer of Nutanix. This podcast series of 10 steps to cloud comes from her ebook, Charting the Course to Cloud. This is the Tech Barometer podcast from The Forecast.

Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.

© 2021 Nutanix, Inc. All rights reserved. For additional legal information, please go here.