The cloud is widely viewed as another tool or another option for IT organizations to get their infrastructure needs met. Most are choosing a hybrid approach, using the public cloud for some workloads and an on-site, private cloud for others. For vendors the trick is to provide those choices and make it easy to migrate and manage workloads wherever they’re running. This is what Nutanix is striving to do, using the tagline “one OS, one click” to promote their Enterprise Cloud Platform as simple and comprehensive. At .NEXT in Washington D.C. the company unveiled some new cloud-based capabilities and upgrades to their Acropolis operating system (AOS) that follow this strategy.
Calm is cloud orchestration that’s built into the Prism management environment, from the acquisition of Calm.io last year. Calm provides a self-service portal plus application modeling, automation and hybrid cloud management on the back end. The objective is to enable users to more easily create and manage complex application stacks (not just deploy VMs) on-premises or across multiple public clouds, including AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure, as well as Nutanix’s Xi (see below). This is a similar approach to some other cloud orchestration solutions like Dell EMC’s EHC (Enterprise Hybrid Cloud) and Cisco’s CloudCenter. Calm will be generally available in Q118
Xi Cloud Services is a public cloud service offered by Nutanix similar to Apple’s iCloud. The concept is to deliver common, cloud-based services, starting with DR, that are fully integrated with the Nutanix platform – again, like Apple integrates iCloud with Mac and iOS. DR is their first offering, which incorporates full disaster recovery services from planning and testing to failover and failback. Xi will be hosted initially in Nutanix’s data center (on their HCI nodes) but will eventually be hosted in the public cloud (Google, AWS, etc.) and by cloud service providers. Xi will support AHV and VMware at first release, which will be early 2018.
Nutanix brought Diane Greene, Google Sr. VP of Cloud Services (and co-founder of VMware) on stage at .NEXT to talk about their partnership. This includes eventually hosting the Xi Cloud Service as well as providing a public cloud platform for deploying apps with Calm, both as VMs and as containers using Kubernetes. There are some similarities here to Microsoft’s strategy with AzureStack, which is intended to provide a common development platform on-premises and in the public cloud. Google is also collaborating with Nutanix to create IoT solutions, where Nutanix provides the on-site compute platform that connects with the Google Cloud Platform, enabling data capture and edge processing for cloud-based analytics.
Nutanix reaffirmed their commitment with Dell EMC to provide the software for the XC series of HCI appliances and confirmed partnerships with HPE, Cisco UCS and Lenovo. In May Nutanix and IBM announced their partnership to run Acropolis OS on Power systems, creating an alternative to x86-based HCI appliances.
At .NEXT announced updates for a number of features, including a Docker Volume Plug-in for the Acropolis Container Services and NFS support for Acropolis File Services. To address security issues within a clustered environment, Nutanix has developed its Microsegmentation technology. Microsegmentation Services puts data security within the data center, not just at the perimeter, using app-centric policies decoupled from the network to help secure data flow between nodes and between applications.
The NX-9030 is a new high performance all-flash node that features NVMe flash storage (claiming sub 300-usec latencies) and an architecture that will support RDMA for workloads running on all hypervisors. When available, Nutanix didn’t give a GA date, users will be able to add the NX-9030 all-flash nodes to an existing hybrid cluster.
Last year Nutanix starting calling their hyperconverged infrastructure line the “Enterprise Cloud Platform” instead of the original “Extreme Computing Platform”. This sounded like typical vendor cloud washing as Nutanix’s HCI appliances, while they had an impressive set of features, didn’t offer many private cloud services or much integration with public clouds. But, based on the technologies announced at .NEXT 2017, Nutanix seems to be taking steps towards being a real cloud platform.
Their new relationship with Google is the big news as Nutanix gets a public cloud partner that can compete with Amazon and Microsoft and Google gets an on-premises compute platform that can go up against AzureStack. Google also gets access to the corporate data center through Nutanix’s substantial installed base. Xi Cloud Services is an interesting idea, one that VMware tried unsuccessfully with vCloud Air, but still has merit.
Cloud orchestration is something that we think all HCI vendors need to embrace – most are, in one way or another – and Calm is a good start. One question for CIOs is whether HCIs are the right platform to host the on-site portion of their hybrid cloud. This is similar to the question of how well HCIs fit in the enterprise in general (see Evaluator Group study “HCI in the Enterprise”). The answer will certainly vary between organizations.
As we’ve said, it’s all about choices and flexibility with the cloud. For those that choose HCI, Nutanix provides flexibility with the hypervisor, with the OEM platform and now with an alternative to x86 processors. With these announcements we think Nutanix is improving its foundation as a cloud platform as well.
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