Infrastructure Consolidation is the largest driver and use case for HCI, based on Evaluator Group surveys over the past 3 years is. While HCI has certainly consolidated the data center, at .NEXT 2020, Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey made the pitch that they can consolidate the cloud as well with the term “1-click hybrid cloud”. “One-click” is a concept that HCI vendors frequently use to describe the semi-automated processes that simplify operations, from set up to upgrades and expansion. Nutanix has taken this concept and applied to many aspects of deploying and running their HCI solution in a hybrid cloud environment.
Nutanix has long been the leader in new HCI features and was the first to push the concept of the enterprise cloud – actually renaming their “Extreme Computing Platform” the “Enterprise Cloud Platform”, almost four years ago. Since then, the company has kept up their rapid pace of new products and feature update releases, including the Xi Cloud, originally a DR solution that copied VMs into Nutanix’s private cloud (now called “Xi Leap”). To make the shift to the Enterprise Cloud Platform a reality, they have added about a half dozen other proprietary cloud-based services for managing infrastructure health, optimizing resource utilization and reducing cost, plus improving security, supporting IoT and VDI.
Continuing with the one-click and consolidation themes, Nutanix is now emphasizing “One platform, any app, any cloud”. A big piece of technology that helps make this a reality is Nutanix Clusters, a public cloud-based migration and operation solution first introduced at .NEXT 2019 but made generally available in August 2020. (Note: In this report, “Clusters” with a capital “C” refers to this new product, “clusters” with a lower-case “c” refers to a group of HCI nodes).
Nutanix Clusters on AWS runs the Nutanix software stack on bare-metal EC2 instances, providing a Nutanix platform in the public cloud that enables companies to move applications and data from an onpremises Nutanix infrastructure to the cloud similar to the way they would move VMs to a remote HCI now. Nutanix Clusters has a unique hibernate feature that allows the entire state of the Cluster to be moved to an AWS S3 bucket, saving cloud costs until the cluster is resumed (another one-click process). Companies can use their existing AWS account and their existing Nutanix software licenses as well, or pay by the month. Clusters is designed to provide mobility between clouds as well. At .NEXT, Nutanix announced Nutanix Clusters for Azure is generally available.
Foundation Central is an orchestrator for Nutanix nodes that enables one-click, zero-touch deployment of Nutanix HCI clusters. It enables companies to set up new clusters in remote locations using images from existing nodes through Prism Central. Prism Ultimate is a new version of Prism that includes Insights, a SaaS-based predictive health and support automation tool was originally released in late 2019 and is now GA. Nutanix Insights uses telemetry data captured from a cluster to understand the operational environment and reduce support and maintenance activities.
Nutanix also released LCM (Life Cycle Management), a software and firmware update tool that enables one-click upgrades, on-premises or remotely, while managing dependencies between components. LCM is a feature that figured prominently in Evaluator Group’s latest HCI study, which will be out in October. Flow Security Central is a SaaS offering that provides dashboard-based information on the current security “posture, security audits and remediation suggestions, plus micro segmentation planning and cloud security compliance.
Karbon, Nutanix’s Kubernetes management solution that is included in all AOS editions, is now available as a service. Karbon Platform Services enables the deployment, configuration and management of Kubernetes clusters in one or multiple public clouds. Nutanix Calm, an application management framework that provides native automation and lifecycle management is also now available as a Service.
Nutanix, with over 17,000 customers, has built arguably the most recognizable name in the HCI market. They have scored at the top of Evaluator Group’s annual HCI survey, behind only VMware vSAN offerings when respondents were asked which HCI they have deployed or evaluated. As mentioned above, they were the first HCI to fully embrace the hybrid cloud, and have created a portfolio of cloud-based services. Nutanix was the first HCI to offer support for all major hypervisors and their own KVM-based hypervisor, AHV, enjoys a 49% adoption rate, according to the company.
At this event, it was clear that the company is still committed to developing and releasing new features and products, and still made that decision over profitability. Profitability has always somewhat of an “elephant in the room” situation in discussions about Nutanix, even after finally going public in 2018. But change is afoot. Founder and original CEO, Dheeraj Pandey is leaving the company, a choice that may be related to the investment by Bain Capital, a private equity firm. This could lead to a change in direction for the company, pulling back from development and focusing on achieving profitability. While that kind of change could mean fewer new products and features, it probably will not impact existing products.