What You Missed at Nutanix .NEXT: Invisibility is Nutanix’s New Superpower
By Michael Colonno, Manager of Data Center Solutions, CDI
This year’s conference was hosted in Anaheim, California (right next to Disneyland in fact, so it was interesting to see half the crowd wearing Nutanix gear and the other half wearing Mickey Mouse ears) to celebrate a decade in business.
I have to set the stage, I am a double VCP, soon to be triple, and have been working on VMware since 2.5, so don’t think I walked into a conference with a VTAX tattoo. But here’s my disclaimer for you readers: I promise that I’m not listing every service Nutanix offers. You can just blame Nutanix for having so many great updates this year. It’s impressive how this new software direction has changed the company and allowed it to truly focus on developing the platform and allow Enterprise customers to use Enterprise Licensing Agreements (ELA) to bring down costs.
The first day of the conference was partner focused, with over 1,800 partners participating in a packed house. Personally, it was nice to see friends and former coworkers on both the partner and Nutanix side who focus on the channel. There were great sessions to help enable us to deliver the best solution to our customers. New programs for partners around labs and certification will make sure education/enablement is delivered to people inside and outside a partner’s organization.
Dheeraj Pandey, Nutanix founder and CEO, focused on where the company came from and discussed which customers were early adopters. He of course speckled in his usual VMware digs, which are always funny if you follow the feud. Some might think the hostility is a bit childish, but Nutanix should consider it a compliment when given the size difference between them and VMware.
He divided up the Nutanix solution ideology into three categories: Data, Design, and Delivery.
Data: Represents the foundation of their data service of software-defined storage, as well as their more advanced services for data. These include things such as snapshots, Files (NAS), Buckets (Object), Era (Database) and others.
Design: Helping to simplify the user experience, this can be something like reducing the number of clicks to accomplish a task (one-click upgrades), or providing simple interaction of complex services such as FLOW with microsegmentation.
Delivery: This references how a user can consume the solution – the ability to have storage or compute centric nodes or OEM hardware and consume software only.
The theme of this and several other presentations was invisibility is the future. Hypervisors made compute invisible, Nutanix made storage invisible, and now they are looking to make cloud invisible. Advancements in CALM (their self-service orchestration system), which was acquired in 2018 and very quickly integrated into the portfolio, will help augment provisioning. It features easy to use APIs, blueprints, canvas interaction, and soon to have a ServiceNow plugin.
The CALM discussion lead to the major announcement that we’ve all been waiting for — Nutanix on AWS.
Nutanix on AWS: Nutanix will now have the option to be hosted on bare metal EC2 instance. This will deliver a true hybrid experience between on-premises and cloud. No overlays, no silos of VPCs and no need for multiple consoles all using existing AWS accounts and credits. This can interconnect with native services/fabric like VMware on AWS does. A very interesting feature is the ability to hibernate VM’s, which takes a VM and freezes the data and puts it into S3 for cheaper storage. Once ready you can resume the workload, converting it back into a live VM.
These services interlace with BEAM for showback, governance and right sizing. Nutanix’s migration tool MOVE has been announced to now work on AWS EC2 instances. This tool has typically been used to move between hypervisors. Nutanix has created a change block tracking (CBT) mechanism to perform actual cutover to and from the cloud. It does a shadow copy with all locations and does not affect the original machine.
Xi Leap: Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) – will feature one-click failover to provide another layer to the invisibility of clouds. This service is baked in so there is zero installation to get it up and running. This service uses Xi Cloud, a Nutanix on GCP service.
Xi Frame: Desktops as-a-Service (DaaS) – the Frame product came from an acquisition in 2018 and has now been pushed to a full hybrid cloud model. You can seamlessly request desktops to live on-premises, in AWS and in Azure. Prior to the acquisition, the service originally specialized in cloud, but the straddling of on-premises and cloud was never a feature. This is a one-click secure service that actually holds the Fed Ramp certification, so users never have to worry about passing security checks. And even better – all locations are manageable via one pane of glass! This DaaS solution is currently buy-one, get-one, so I expect trails to be selling like hotcakes. Lastly, I was very impressed by the performance. A demonstration of Adobe Premier Pro was performed during the keynote, conducting live edits of the infamous Starbucks cup in Game of Thrones. Like magic the cup was removed and video playback was performed seamlessly.
Mine: A new data protection system hosted by Nutanix. Initial integration will be with Veeam, so they can supply a best-in-class backup solution without creating a new product from scratch. Commvault, HYCU, Veritas and Unitrends will follow since there is already some API integration. Personally, I believe this to be a fantastic move for Veeam. In the world of Rubrik and Cohesity, people love their software-based backups but it needs a home. Nutanix is now that home and can offer an all-in-one solution (very similar to Cohesity), since it provides secondary storage ability. It will be offering two form factors to start, a 2U 96TB unit and a 4U.
HPE DX: Nutanix and HPE have joined forces to create an appliance on an OEM. This can be compared to Dell EMC/VCE and the VxRail. Instead of consuming NX nodes, which is Nutanix’s whitebox, you have the option to use OEM highly validated DX nodes. Additionally, HPE will be providing Greenlake, which is Hybrid Cloud as-a-Service, as part of the agreement. This will allow people to do a pay as you go, consumption model for on and off-premises.
Karbon: Native Kubernetes service: This service is interesting because Nutanix was going down their own container path, but saw the writing on the wall and quickly pivoted. Kubernetes is the majority stakeholder for most customers and it would have been foolish to not create a service around it. Karbon is so well-positioned in this space because Nutanix offers the Volumes, Files and Buckets service, providing persistent native storage to the containers. This provides a cloud-like DevOps experience to the end customer (the developers). For day two operations you use Xi Epoch (another acquisition) which handles application monitoring and mapping. This gives you real-time metrics with the ability to link this and other systems with ServiceNow to provide actionable workflows.
Era: Database service: This service provides provisioning, patching, “Time-Machine” (this is a snapshot-based system allowing a user to rewind the DB to any point in time) and database migrations at a single click. These support Oracle, MySQL, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL, just to name a few, but now adding support for SAP HANA, Meditech Expanse and Epic. This is worth mentioning simply because these last three are major for the industry, the support and approval for these databases is not just given out.
Files: NAS file service: Though this service has been around for a little while now, there are many long-awaited features. This service is important because it’s software-defined files, not just a simple NAS. This is API driven like all Nutanix systems and can work with VMware and AHV. This, like many others, is a one-click service offering deployment, monitoring, upgrades, etc. all from Prism. It’s a fully-scalable architecture offering, up and out expansion, but most importantly will give recommendations on how you scale (up, out, rebalance). Being software based will deliver data about your data, due to the analytic engine built around this file system, understand how your data is being access and by who and create policy-based management and security all governed with easy to read UI.
FLOW: Software defined networking: I say software-defined networking, but really what Nutanix did was take a look at the major functionality that users desire and simply offer that. Microsegmentation is the focus of this product and though it isn’t new, there are new functions. There is now Palo Alto integration for deep packet inspection, where previously this was something you would only see from VMware’s NSX. They now also have active directory integration — a feature which adds great security functionality. This provides a simple solution all wrapped up with a pretty bow. The UI is very intuitive and someone with limited networking experience and set up basic rules in a few minutes.
In summary, I’m still running high on my Nutanix buzz. I spoke with many partners and customers who are also left with a new vigor towards the platform. I can see their push for people looking at it as a platform and not a single solution is justified. Plus, the hyper-convergence of clouds might actually become a real thing without tons of tool overlay.
Separately, I loved the “.heart” initiative, Nutanix’s corporate social responsibility effort. One of my biggest issues with conferences is the wasted food, since so much is cooked but so few people attend the meal sessions. .heart organized the donation of excess food to local charities where it was provided to those who needed it most.