One of the themes of Nutanix .NEXT 2018 in New Orleans, was “invisible” – Invisible Infrastructure, Invisible Data Center, Invisible Clouds. Nutanix wants to be the (invisible) hybrid cloud operating system for the enterprise, running workloads on-premises, in the public cloud or in their own cloud. As one executive phrased it, they want to offer an “AWS-like experience” inside the data center. And, with products like Calm, Flow and Beam (see below), the company hopes to provide a “1-click” hybrid cloud platform, enabling workloads to be moved from on-premises infrastructure into the public cloud and between clouds, while maintaining cost control and compliance.
Nutanix continues its growth trajectory, pushing towards $1B in sales by the end of 2018 and a projected $3B by 2021. This growth is driven by repeat purchases. In fact, current global 2000 customers are expanding their Nutanix infrastructure spend every year, to almost 15x by year 6.
Nutanix AHV continues to grow its installed base since the 2015 GA, as the company claims that one-third of customers use this hypervisor. There were plenty of customers on hand to share their enthusiasm to reduce the cost of hypervisor licensing.
Last year, Nutanix announced that it was transitioning to a software-only company and would stop counting revenue from hardware sales of its original HCI appliances, the NX line built by Supermicro. This theme was re-emphasized, although the statement was made that customers could still buy the NX nodes for now. Nutanix will continue to support existing NX nodes as well.
The company continues to release (and announce) new features and functionality for its Enterprise Cloud Platform faster than any other company in the HCI space. While not all of the following features were first announced at .NEXT 2018 they are essentially new this year.
Flow is a software-defined networking (SDN) solution that runs in Nutanix’s proprietary AHV hypervisor only. It provides network visualization and automation to give a view into performance and availability, while simplifying network configuration changes. Flow also provides micro-segmentation, for application-level, real-time monitoring of network traffic. Flow came from Nutanix’s acquisition of Netsil
Beam is a cloud cost optimization and visibility tool that’s sold on a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) basis. It provides governance for workloads running in public clouds to enable companies to control costs and maintain compliance. Self-service IT delivered through the Nutanix Marketplace using the Calm orchestration platform can now be monitored for cost and security with Beam. This product came from Nutanix’s Minjar acquisition.
Nutanix can be deployed as a single node in smaller environments, using internal RAID to provide data protection, or as a two-node configuration using a witness agent running on another server.
Multiple instances of the Prism Central management platform can be run on multiple servers to handle larger clusters and more VMs, while improving system resiliency.
Acropolis File Services (AFS) was released with Acropolis 5.0, providing SMB file and block storage access to servers connected to the Nutanix cluster over the network. Now, v5.6 allows the Nutanix shared storage pool to be presented as an NFS NAS as well.
Nutanix Acropolis Operating System (AOS) can now support nodes with up to 80TB each, although Nutanix’s current NX models are offered with a maximum of 40TB.
At .NEXT in 2017, Nutanix announced Calm, a cloud orchestration platform that’s built into the Prism management environment for early 2018 GA. This product came from the acquisition of Calm.io in 2016. 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 control the application lifecycle, to more easily create and manage complex application stacks (not just deploy VMs) on-premises or across multiple public clouds, including AWS and Google Cloud Platform on Nutanix’s AHV hypervisor and VMware ESXi. This is a similar approach to some other cloud orchestration solutions like Dell EMC’s EHC (Enterprise Hybrid Cloud) and Cisco’s CloudCenter. Calm is licensed by the VM – packs of 25 VMs.
Also announced last year was Xi Cloud Service, 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. Xi will support AHV and VMware at first release, which was originally scheduled to be early 2018, but was pushed out to later in the year.
Nutanix has had the most complete feature set of any HCI and continues to pad that lead with AFS file services (to go with SMB, block storage and container services), 1- and 2-node clusters, expansion of their Prism management platform, etc.
Recent acquisitions that produced the Calm cloud orchestration layer, Beam monitoring tool and Flow SDN support the company’s objective of being a ubiquitous cloud platform. While the company has still not turned a profit their growth rate and cash flow numbers seem to be keeping investors satisfied.
The software-only strategy makes sense for Nutanix, but may create some friction with server OEMs who now have their own HCIs and with VARs who have to do more work than they did to sell the original Nutanix NX appliance. But this also allows them to participate in opportunities where the customer already has a hardware preference.
At .NEXT 2017 we wrote about Google’s commitment to Nutanix, as they looked for an answer to Microsoft’s Azure Stack. This year the conversation was more about Nutanix going after AWS and every other public cloud with their Acropolis platform and taking on VMware in the hypervisor space.