Cultivating Private and Hybrid Cloud Across Europe, Middle East and Africa

Sammy Zoghlami explains why private cloud is sexy again and how companies across EMEA are turning to hybrid cloud to shape the future.

By Charlotte Jensen

By Charlotte Jensen April 06, 2020

Like most sky warriors, Sammy Zoghlami usually works from a makeshift office on a plane or in an airport lounge. But that works just fine for Nutanix’s Paris-based senior vice president of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), who prefers to meet people in person when possible.

“I do most of my emails, analysis, planning and calls when I’m moving,” he said. That way, he can be fully present in conversations with customers.

Getting work done between destinations keeps him focused on fully experiencing each destination, which more times than not means he’ll face a different language and culture. In Europe alone, there are some 160 culturally distinct groups. The Middle East consists of nearly two dozen countries. Some say there are over 3,000 separate cultures across Africa.

When the Coronavirus that hit Europe in March 2020, travel halted. Not getting to meet people in person will make it harder to build trust and relationships. Zoghlami quickly adjusted two things. “I upgraded my video conferencing equipment and increased the number of phone and video calls I make, instead of relying on email,” he said. 

“I’m focusing even more than usual on how I can help, regardless if there’s business or not out of it. That’s what makes a true partnership. It’s always during tough times that you realize who’s reliable and who truly cares about you.”

When Zoghlami became SVP in 2019, he spent six months traveling to meet customers and employees in geographies as diverse as Amsterdam; Abu Dhabi, Barcelona; Berlin; Brussels; Copenhagen; Dubai; London; Madrid; Milan, and Munich.

He said bringing cutting edge innovations across this region requires mental dexterity, empathy and a good sense of humor.

“It seems impossible to manage operations across such a vast, diverse region, but really it comes down to people,” he said. “It’s about listening, understanding and building trust. Deals rarely get done without demonstrating altruism and genuine intent to add value.”

Zoghlami speaks French, English and sometimes a little Spanish after a cocktail or two. Whether his meetings happen in the Middle East, Munich or via videoconference, he prepares for each distinct culture by learning local customs.

“In Germany, it matters less what your job title is – it matters more what knowledge you have,” he said.

He compared that to the UK and France, where “there’s a little bit more of a requirement to see the boss at some time in the sales cycle, and the title is more important,” he said.

Some countries in Europe are laid back, so Zoghlami dresses and behaves more casually. But when he visits or meets online with execs in the Middle East, he wears a suit and often a tie. 

Zoghlami said the C-level execs he meets all want agility and data security. They want to create a competitive advantage from their data and, in most cases, monetize it. He said enterprises want to transform their IT infrastructure personnel into cloud operations teams. They want to create a flexible DevOps culture and accelerate their use of public cloud. This is bringing new challenges that Zoghlami’s team is ready to help overcome.

Hybrid Cloud Rising in EMEA

Zoghlami sees many customers using siloed public cloud infrastructure in parallel with their internal IT systems.

“There are very few customers operating a true hybrid cloud platform,” he said.

[Related story: Myth of Hybrid Cloud]

Only about 12% of enterprises in the EMEA, for example, have deployed hybrid cloud, compared with about 36% that have adopted private clouds, according to the Nutanix 2019 Enterprise Cloud Index report, which surveyed IT pros worldwide about their cloud deployments and plans. The research indicates that about half that many (18%) run a single public cloud infrastructure service in the EMEA, and just 9% run multiple public clouds.

However, Zoghlami said businesses can now “bring public and private clouds together like never before.”

Tools such as Nutanix Xi Beam unify visibility into all of an enterprise’s private and public cloud assets, across cloud borders. IT operations personnel can use Beam to see what those services cost, whether there’s a more cost-effective option at any moment in time, and make a change right then and there, if warranted.

Zoghlami said many companies that considered building a private cloud suddenly rushed to the public cloud, but unforeseen costs and complexities are bringing them back.

“Private cloud is sexy again,” he said. “People see hybrid cloud as a viable future, but we are just approaching the middle of the bell curve in terms of awareness and adoption.”

Customer Success Focus

He meets very large customers that are all-in on Nutanix as well as new customers who are just starting to embrace enterprise cloud technologies.

“We absolutely need to keep our focus on customer success, which ties back to the importance of building relationships – more art than tech,” he said.

For him, it’s about finding balance. He said he never wants employees to feel burdened by an exec waltzing in with a full agenda that looks good for the exec’s connection to the field but doesn’t actually help the team move the needle.

“It’s important for me to stay connected to our customers, partners and employees,” he said. “That’s the only way to understand fully how the market and our organization are evolving, beyond what I can read from dashboards, quarterly business reviews and reports.”

In this pivotal time, Zoghlami is EMEA’s Johnny Appleseed, cultivating trusted relationships across the vast, diverse region as businesses and organizations build their IT for the future.

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Charlotte Jensen is a contributing writer who specializes in business topics. She is the former executive editor of award-winning Entrepreneur magazine. Find her on Twitter @JensenChar.

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