CIO who dropped VMware 18 months ago now feeling thoroughly chuffed

Predicts worse to come for customers as he builds AR for slot machines around Nutanix

Next Gregg Lowe is feeling thoroughly chuffed about his technology buying decisions.

A couple of years back, the CIO of Boyd Gaming, operator of 28 hotel and casino properties across the US states, was hip-deep in negotiations for a fresh enterprise agreement with VMware prior to its acquisition by Broadcom. Nutanix, which offers its own AHV hypervisor for free with its stack, was also present within the company, meaning Boyd could be paying for hypervisors it didn't need. So the company decided to compare VMware and Nutanix and pick one for its future infrastructure needs.

The latter came out on top, and 18 months later Boyd Gaming is on track to complete the migration from VMware to Nutanix's AHV on its last site.

Lowe admits the project has had its tricky moments and sometime-missed deadlines or encountered complications. But he suspects he would have faced longer-term worries had he stuck with VMware because earlier in his career he used products from Computer Associates – another company acquired by Broadcom – and felt back then CA had a sound strategy and was well-led.

“When Broadcom took over, they stopped a lot of innovation,” he said of CA at Nutanix’s NEXT conference in Barcelona on Tuesday, before predicting the same will happen at VMware and that Broadcom’s revised licensing strategy will please investors but not customers.

Which is why he’s thoroughly chuffed about his Nutanix decision.

Broadcom, for what it is worth, has promised to invest an extra $1 billion in R&D at VMware and hinted that the results of that spending will become visible in two forthcoming releases of its flagship Cloud Foundation suite that deliver a better user experience and improve product integrations.

Lowe told The Register that with Boyd Gaming’s migration project almost done, further innovation is on the agenda. The hospitality corporation has a sprawling application portfolio across its gaming, hotel, and convention businesses, plus point-of-sale apps and a huge fleet of devices to manage.

Many of those machines are slots – which are basically networked PCs dedicated to encouraging the optimistic to part with their cash.

One of the apps Lowe’s team is working on will present info about those slots in augmented reality (AR).

The CIO said gamblers will be able to use a headset or other device to peruse information about the gaming machines in AR, such as the time since a box last paid a jackpot. Used in combo with a customer’s loyalty card, the AR app will let players walk away from a machine and effectively pause their session. When they return they’ll resume play with the same balance and with the slot in the same state as when they left it.

The vElephant in the room

Lowe appeared at Nutanix’s conference on a panel titled “Migrating to AHV”, a topic of some interest given the vendor is VMware’s great rival and Virtzilla has given its customers solid reasons to consider alternatives with the sudden licensing changes that many users have complained deliver huge price increases – but which Broadcom insists can see customers come out ahead.

Nutanix has every reason to promote itself as a migration destination, but mostly did so with restraint.

In his Next conference keynote, Nutanix CEO Rajiv Ramaswami mentioned VMware’s change of ownership and licensing only in the context of a fresh risk its customers need to consider.

As if to re-enforce that suggestion, the keynote also featured mega-bank Wells Fargo's executive veep for platforms, Michael Parks, who mentioned he’s currently a little exercised by “a large competitor of yours” – which is to say a competitor of Nutanix. Parks said he likes to split his suppliers into “champions” and “challengers”, with the former accounting for around 75 percent of resources.

Nutanix, he said, is now his champion for databases, all 128,000 of them, after delivering 1,000 percent better performance than another unnamed rival and pulling off tricks like recovering a forty-terabyte database in eight minutes.

Nutanix has also earned “challenger” status for other workloads.

Another NTNX customer featured in the keynote, Paul Booth – head of hybrid cloud services at the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions – didn’t directly address a migration but did offer the observations that “anyone familiar with the UK knows we have had trouble with some vendors,” and that some he deals with behave like used-car salesmen with their eagerness to secure any sort of sale.

Booth said the pension department’s workloads are very bursty, making him a happy user of Nutanix’s Cloud Clusters – and also a little chuffed that unlike some of his UK public-sector contemporaries he hasn’t been “burned” by a cloud-only strategy. ®

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