Nutanix, founded in 2009, quickly became one of the rising startups to look out for. They were among the first to introduce a simple (converged) compute and storage infrastructure, combining resources, without the need for complex and expensive Storage Area Networks, or Network Attached Storage. They deliver the power of so called Web-Scale technology, which we all know from companies like Google, Amazon and facebook, to name a few, as a turnkey solution directly into your datacenter, basically reinventing the way in which IT services can be delivered. With being awarded the Best of VMworld Gold award and named on Gigaom’s Top 50 Cloud Innovators list, I think it’s safe to say that Nutanix is here to stay!
Some accomplishments so far
Traditional datacenters Just aren’t designed or capable of handling the excessive data growth, user demand and virtualized workloads they’re presented with today. Therefore companies, big and small, are on a constant lookout for technologies that are able to help them overcome these challenges without having to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars at once. Offering them a scalable, out of the box turn key solution, preferably up and running within a few hours tops. Well… you see where I’m going with this right?
Some numbers: In just a couple of years time Nutanix has grown to service an impressive number of over 500 customers world wide, including companies like; eBay, Hyundai, Toyota, LA Fitness, the US Army and the list goes on, it includes over 15 $1M+ accounts. They’ve also accomplished a revenue growth of over $100M in just two years of selling, and in terms of funding (series D) they were able to raise over $101M which is know to be the largest single round in converged infrastructure history!
Version 4 is among us
Last week, as a follow up to my visit at the Dutch Nutanix HQ two months ago, I had the privilege to talk (WebEx) to both Greg Smith, Senior Director of Product and Technical Marketing and Suda Srinivasan, Director of Product Marketing, about their, back than, upcoming NOS 4.0 release. They briefed me about what was going on with Nutanix as a company as well as a scoop on the latest features integrated into Nutanix OS 4.0. Although we didn’t really got down to a detailled level with regards to the technology involved, at least not for now, I’ll still be able to give you a glimpse (and perhaps a bit more than that) on what to expect. It was more of a first ‘getting to know each other’ meeting including an overview on what’s new in their latest release. We also agreed that more sessions, and perhaps blogs, will follow.
Today they’ve announced version 4.0 of their Nutanix OS, a.k.a. NOS, again adding to the maturity of the Nutanix virtual platform, bringing web-scale technology to mainstream enterprise IT. It includes enhanced performance, availability as well as scalability. Powerfull management and analytics, Multi Cluster Management and integrated data protection.
I’m already looking forward to this evening’s session at Qwise (check out our new website) where Raymon Epping, system engineer at Nutanix, will first be informing our Pre-Sales consultants on the Nutanix portfolio and possibilities, closely followed by (after diner) a more in depth technical session meant for our consulting team. I’m sure he’ll share a thing or two on NOS 4.0 as well. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Nutanix or converged infrastructures as a concept, I’ll start with a word on Nutanix and take it from there. Otherwise, just scroll down a few paragraphs and see what’s new!
A short introduction
The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform converges compute and storage into a single system, eliminating the need for traditional NAS and or SAN like storage arrays. A single 2U appliance can contain up to four independent nodes, comparable to blade systems, each optimized with high-performance compute, memory and storage. Each node runs an industry-standard hypervisor and al major platforms are supported.
The system embeds all control logic into intelligent virtual machines, called Nutanix controller VM’s, that run on each cluster node, it handles all I/O operations for the local hypervisor.
A global storage pool aggregates storage capacity from all nodes and all hosts in the cluster will have access to that pool. Storage resources are exposed to the hypervisor through traditional interfaces, such as NFS, iSCSI etc. It also leverages existing Ethernet networking investments out of the box. As a 100% software-driven solution (yes they’re actually a software company) Intelligence is abstracted into a distributed software layer, rather than being ‘baked’ into specialized hardware for programmatic control and simpler centralized management.
Don’t be fooled
Now don’t let the above numbers fool you, Nutanix isn’t just about large enterprises. Their product is extremely flexible and scales easily, in fact, most of the companies, or customers, mentioned earlier, like eBay, Hyundai etc. started out with just a few nodes and took it from there. Of course there’s nothing stopping you to limit your deployment to just two or three nodes and keep it there, you can always scale up when needed.
Even if you ‘only’ administer several hundreds of users Nutanix can, and will, help you to replace your (legacy :-) storage network one step at a time. The modular building-block design lets organizations start with small deployments, preventing any massive upfront investments, and grow incrementally into very large clusters. As mentioned, each 2U appliance can hold up to four nodes in total but you can start out with one or two (HA) nodes just as easy. if that’s what you need. As stated earlier, Nutanix eliminates the need for a dedicated storage network or array and streamlines overall datacenter administration with a single, intuitive management console, named Prism by the way.
Let’s break tradition
Traditional storage networks are complex, they consist of multiple components like switches, disk arrays and fiber optic HBA’s, they’re not that flexible in terms of scalability and often require a dedicated team of specialists when it comes to configuration, expansion/upgrading and/or troubleshooting. Support can be hard to get and support contracts are expensive. They’re not designed to handle today’s virtualized workloads and the (ever returning) IOPS that come with it. Nutanix makes life easier and offers what companies are looking for in terms of, simplicity, efficiency and overall reliability.
Back to 4.0, what’s new?
Below I’ll list some of the new (main) features introduced with NOS 4.0. Make sure to check out their product pages for some more information or contact Nutanix directly if you have any further questions. They’ll be more than happy to help you on your way! Again, no deepdives, I’ll include some visual material as well, so it should give you a good idea on what’s possible.
Prism, now referred to as Prism Central, isn’t completely new, it’s their management framework suite and the graphical user interface from where all of your systems and VM information is organised and presented in a easy to read fashion. It includes at-a-glance views of server, storage and network operations so critical information is always at hand. And since it’s build on HTML5 it’s supported on almost every device.
As of today, it has been enhanced by offering true Multi Cluster management. It enables you to manage an almost unlimited number of clusters across multiple locations from a single pane of glass (hence the name change). Configure single sing-on for all clusters and aggregate health and usage data from multiple clusters at the same time, including historical data for deeper analysis. True enterprise support. Smaller companies with multiple sites and clusters will profit from this as well.
Integrated data protection
Also build into Prism, Integrated data protection lets you schedule, manage and use local and remote snapshots for backup and disaster recovery purposes. It includes WAN optimized replication for use with multi site or DR cluster scenario’s. You can also schedule and replicate snapshots to local off-cluster storage on your primary site, using Veeam for example. It’s compatible with both ESXi and Hyper-V. Restoring data and state recovery have never been easier, it just takes one click. Backups, restores and DR capabilities all fully integrated and managed from one product and interface. Who ever said that datacenter management is complicated?!
One click NOS upgrade
With clusters (of any size) serving up to hundreds or thousands of users, you don’t want any downtime or user disturbance while upgrades are being processed. With one click NOS upgrades, you’ll get just that. Once you initiate the upgrade process, the software will handle the rest. It will automatically download and install the new software on all nodes without interrupting your users. Nodes are upgraded in parallel and reboots are automatically sequenced in serial, completely transparant to your users. They like to compare it with upgrading an iOS device, it’s that easy.
Their new Cluster Health service monitors and checks your entire infrastructure stack, including your VM’s, physical nodes and disks of all clusters managed through Prism Central, remember the new Multi Cluster management feature?! All information is grouped, filtered and presented from their multicluster health page in Prism, providing you with a clear and crisp overview on all that’s going. It tells us exactly what we need to know, nothing more, nothing less.
It shows us all warning’s, failures, critical alerts and total number of events throughout our entire stack. It also display’s the total number of clusters managed, how many VM’s are running, which hypervisors are used (per individual cluster), which NOS version they’re running, the number of upgrades, replications, backups and more. Their health check suite runs in the background, collection information on a ongoing basis, enabling us to quickly indentify, troubleshoot and resolve issues across the entire infrastructure stack, the way it should be.
Their elastic deduplication engine introduced with NOS 3.5, which was already a big leap forward, has once again been enhanced and complemented by adding in MapReduce deduplication capabilities. MapReduce is a framework, or algorithm, used for processing huge amounts of data using a large number of nodes, collectively referred to as a cluster. A master node will handle the input and divides it in to smaller sub-sets of data to be distributed to other worker nodes, taking full advantage of the clusters size.
Once the data is processed, the master node will again collect all data sets and distribute them accordingly. All this takes place at warp speed without us even noticing. By distributing the data sets, or work loads, across all available cluster nodes, it provides us with, true scale-out and global deduplication.
As we’ve seen, Nutanix continues to grow, not only as a company, but as a product as well, constantly providing us with various new and improved features and/or technologies to help manage our various work loads and data sets. Nutanix states that NOS version 4.0 helps contribute to the maturity of their product, but I think that we’re dealing with a very mature and robust product already. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next, Knowing Nutanix that probably won’t take to long.
Bas van Kaam ©
Reference materials used: Nutanix.com and Wikipedia.org