Nutanix held their second annual .NEXT event for users, partners and analysts in Las Vegas last week. Twice the size of last year, 2500 Nutanix customers showed up for two days of technical sessions, customer testimonials and the usual cheerleading. The company announced several new features and capabilities scheduled to be released in the next few weeks and provided some additional information on their Cloud Platform.
This is Nutanix’s vision for IT moving forward. They see the inevitability of the cloud for most IT organizations – hybrid cloud and the public cloud – and see their technology as a platform that can deliver this vision, not just a hyperconverged product. In this view, the platform must support workloads running on a cloud-like infrastructure, on-premises, using a variety of hypervisors or containers, and support non-virtualized workloads as well. It must also enable these same workloads to be run in the public cloud, on the same software stack and be easily moved between on- and off-premises infrastructures.
Virtualization is progressing in all environments, but there are still workloads that run on non-virtualized, “bare metal” servers. This can be due to hypervisor licensing costs, a perception that virtual environments don’t provide the performance needed or even an infrastructure that hasn’t been completely depreciated.
To address this, Nutanix announced Acropolis Block Storage (ABS) to support applications running on physical servers. Available in their 4.7 release, scheduled for July 2016, it will expose iSCSI LUNs to external hosts using Volume Groups. Together with the NAS capability introduced earlier this year, ABS should make Nutanix a more compelling alternative to traditional shared storage solutions.
Nutanix already supports VMware ESX, Hyper-V and their own KVM-based Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) and provides a tool for migrating workloads between them called “App Mobility Fabric”, all controlled by the Prism management console. In their 4.7 release, Acropolis Container Services adds support for Docker containers as well.
This release will also support Microsoft Cloud Platform System. This is a bundle of Windows 2012 R2, Systems Center and Azure Pack, a software stack ready to create a hybrid cloud with an on-premises infrastructure and Microsoft’s Azure. During the sessions, Nutanix repeatedly compared this platform with AWS’s model of self-service and agility. They see companies moving their workloads between the public cloud and an on-prem infrastructure, between hypervisors and containers in a fluid fashion to meet their immediate resource needs, “like moving a dial” to optimize the mix between these modes in a common platform.
Nutanix has added two more all-flash configurations, essentially providing the option to fill all HDDs in the NX-1065-G5 and NX-3060-G5 models with SSDs. These two join the NX-9060-G4 that’s only available as an all-flash appliance. The company says they’ve optimized these new systems to run all flash, although no details were provided in that regard.
Nutanix also announced several new capabilities for their Prism management system that will debut later this year, after the 4.7 release. These include a self-service capability that lets users create VMs and provision resources to support them, plus some network virtualization capability in the Prism management console and a multi-cluster view that gives users better data on resource utilization to plan capacity and manage upgrades. In this future release, Prism will include the ability to natively manage the creation of VMs in ESXi as well.
A big part of the hyperconverged appeal is ease of use so it wasn’t surprising that Nutanix spent a lot of time on the concept of user experience. In fact, they devoted the entire first day closing session to this with a presentation by the Chief Architect from the messaging company Slack, who talked about the “Humanization” of IT, and a former Citrix CEO who put product user experience on Maslow’s Hierarchy pyramid.
I see this as something that Apple has championed (see Blog, “The Apple of IT”), certainly not a new concept, but one that’s still a bigger driver in product decisions than many companies realize. People will interact with their machines, including IT machines, and aside from making them more productive, a positive experience can drive acceptance and adoption in a big way.
Lenovo had a significant presence at this event, talking about their new HX hyperconverged product that runs Nutanix software. This is a turnkey hyperconverged appliance solution, not an OEM solution. Lenovo sells and fully supports this product, the same way Dell has done with their Nutanix-based XC series products.
Dell came up on stage and addressed what they said was “the elephant in the room”, referring to the future of the Nutanix-Dell partnership given the pending Dell acquisition of EMC. Both companies announced that they have no plans to change their relationship and said they were strengthening their commitments. No specifics were provided however.
We first heard about this new direction, the “Journey to the Cloud”, in January after their last release. Candidly, it sounded like marketing noise then and one could make the same comment today. (Nutanix actually had a technical session at this event about the difference between a platform and a product.) But I must admit I do agree with some of what they’re saying.
IT is moving inexorably towards a hybrid cloud model, defined as a combination of an on-site “private” cloud and the off-site “public” cloud. That means companies will need an on-site infrastructure, for which a hyperconverged cluster certainly qualifies. Nutanix’s product supports all three major hypervisors and has now added containers, plus block storage for non-virtualized workloads. With the addition of MS Cloud Platform Services and the ability to move VMs between hypervisors – and between on-site infrastructure and the cloud – the company does have a comprehensive offering with which to create a hybrid cloud. In that regard I think this product could be called a platform.
Whether it will be the preferred platform for companies ready to deploy a hybrid cloud remains to be seen. For smaller and mid-market organizations, this may be the best solution. For larger enterprises, a roll-your-own, software-only solution may be preferable, as indicated in our Study “Hyperconverged Use in the Enterprise”.
 Coverage for the Lenovo HX series product will be added to our Evaluator Group Research on Hyperconverged Infrstructure solutions in Q3 2016.