Journey to Cloud: Step 9 - Validate the Business Case with ROI

Step 9 of Journey to Cloud podcast series focuses on efficiency and reducing costs. Nutanix, CIO Wendy M. Pfeiffer explains how automation, data consolidation and software-defined IT infrastructure helped meet and beat goals.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez February 26, 2021

Many factors come into play when deciding to build out a hybrid cloud IT operation. The ability to find immediate efficiencies is one factor. The ability to adapt and optimize to changing needs are others. Analyzing these and other factors help validate the return on investment (ROI), according to Nutanix CIO, Wendy M. Pfeiffer. 

“One of the opportunities that we had was to save some space and some money, but more importantly, we had the opportunity to reduce our electrical consumption and our electrical footprint,” Pfieffer said in the ninth segment of a 10-part Tech Barometer series Journey to Cloud.

Based on the ebook Charting the Course to Cloud, Pfeiffer shares lessons she learned shifting Nutanix into a billion-dollar, hybrid cloud-powered business. By taking a software-defined architecture, the move to hybrid cloud reduced capital expenses that used to pay for high-end hardware systems, including networking. Software now leverage lower cost computing resources. This has reduced network equipment purchases (CapEx) by 90%.

Her team shuttered older, sprawling data centers and moved to three modernized data centers built on the Nutanix enterprise cloud hypervisor and operating system – AHV and AOS. From automating IT operations to consolidating data, Nutanix’s journey to cloud improved efficiency and reduced costs. IT staff members spend less time deploying, managing, and securing the IT environment. Fewer unplanned outages improve business continuity. And having a leaner IT infrastructure minimizes costs related to licensing, power and facilities management.

The financial impact and efficiency gains show savings, including:

  • Project ROI greater than 200%
  • High-density rack deployment: 68% savings
  • Rent savings: 60%
  • Power savings: 46%
  • Saved millions of dollars by moving from VMware ESXi to Nutanix AHV for all workloads across multiple clouds
  • Saved millions of dollars in network CapEx by establishing a software-defined network with Big Switch
  • Obtained a 10 to 18 percent performance improvement by migrating from NFS to Nutanix Files for all file services

The CIO Who Drinks Her Own Champagne


Wendy M. Pfeiffer: This is step nine.

One of my architects came to me and said, you know, since we're doing all of this infrastructure is code stuff. Couldn't we have a software defined network. Couldn't we run a completely software defined network and treat our networking as code. And although it was a little bit scary at the time that we deployed the suite, we're the world's largest software defined network commercial network. We did that,

Jason Lopez: The journey to cloud with Nutanix CIO, Wendy Pfeiffer.
Wendy M. Pfeiffer: I mean, this is massive ROI and long-term savings as well.

We took all of the traditional physical routing and switching out of our environments. And today we run a big switch software-defined network on commodity hardware, running on AOS and HV. Now, what does that do for us? Well, the first thing that it does for us is it provides us with the kind of scale-out capacity that in our networks we get with our systems that sort of virtualization layer. Secondly, the cost of the hardware is reduced extensively. I reduced my planned CapEx spend by 90% just to buy this model of using commodity hardware. Thirdly, we're able to treat our entire environment as a virtual private cloud, whether that environment is running in public cloud or on-premises in one of any of our data centers. And so this gives us flexibility, optionality, scaling, et cetera. And in these times of a hundred percent remote work, we've been able to flexibly adjust our networks, even as we've turned the network inside out, even more importantly to the financial folks.

And, uh, you know, this was unexpected for me. I'd love to say this was my plan was actually it wasn't my plan. My plan was to move one data center at a time. But when we realized our cost savings, our CFO asks us to move all of them at once. And so we did over the course of 17 weeks, we shuttered for large-scale data centers and spun up three new, large-scale data centers. And in the same year as the project, we realized 200% return on investment, not over five years, but in the same year of the project, we got back over 200% of our project costs just in moving to this software, defined, modern, everything running on AOS and V mode. In addition to that, we now manage these environments remotely because all of the infrastructure can be addressed as code. And we have that same small team who now are managing those network elements as we saved a lot of money in CapEx and so on.

But another great thing is we began to be able to work the whole body of hardware. So we're able to use all of our hardware resources in these data centers for whatever part of our workloads need extra capacity. And we're able to dynamically assign that capacity, whether we need additional storage, additional compute, more network capacity, et cetera. And so this very efficient use of hardware and systems and capacity has been part of what has saved us about 50% over our previous power consumption. And to be clear that we didn't spin up new hardware. We physically moved hardware over 17 weekends. We loaded up trucks and drove them to the new data centers and put them in place. And so this power savings is not about having fancy new, low power consumption hardware. This power savings is around more efficiently using the hardware that we have using the hyper-converged infrastructure

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. Listen to other podcasts in this series with Wendy Pfeiffer at the forecast, find

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.

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