Nutanix looks to move beyond hyperconverged with new software release

Nutanix’s 4.6 software release enables key features to its platform announced last summer, as part of their longer-run strategy to be an Amazon-like infrastructure for the enterprise cloud.


Prabu Rambadran, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Nutanix

Nutanix has announced the latest release of its web-scale computing platform, with new software that provides an agile enterprise cloud to businesses, with 4x the performance improvement for any workload. The enhancements include data centre automation solution Prism Pro, and the expansion of use cases for the Acropolis App Mobility Fabric announced last year. This is all part of the company’s strategy to become much more than a hyperconverged vendor.

“While we were the first vendor in the hyperconverged market, that isn’t our destination,” said Prabu Rambadran, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Nutanix. “What we truly want to deliver in the long run is an Amazon-like infrastructure for the enterprise cloud. We want to deliver that kind of functionality to the enterprise data centre, so customers get that same operational simplicity that they get from Amazon. Hyperconverged is a building block for this, but there are several other layers to help us realize that vision.”

The 4.6 release of the Nutanix software includes more than 25  software enhancements that the company says increases system performance across the full Nutanix appliance portfolio by up to 4x compared to earlier versions. This translates into over 1 million storage IOPS in just 4U of data centre space, at a point as low as $0,35/IOPS.

Beyond the raw performance increases, the enhancements also build significantly on the expanding use cases that began last summer, when Nutanix announced its Acropolis hypervisor and Prism one-click enterprise management platform features. Now they are extending the Acropolis App Mobility Fabric to give IT more flexibility in its choice of hypervisors.

“We announced our vision for the App Mobility Fabric last year, and with this release, we are enabling a couple use cases we spoke about then,” Rambadran said. “One is for customers running VMware ESxi. We are now giving them the ability to move to Acropolis with a single click, as well as to roll that back at any point in time.”

The hypervisor conversion from ESXi to Acropolis is a simple, automated operation that can be done in minutes. Rambadran said that Acropolis is only the first alternative hypervisor to get this capacity, and that this was based on their user demand. He indicated that subsequent releases will also enable other alternative hypervisors in the same way, including the capability to move back and forward.

The other major use case expansion is the introduction of cross-hypervisor disaster recovery and backup, which facilitates recovery by failing over VMs from one site to another location that runs a completely different hypervisor.

“Where the primary data centre runs [VMware] ESXi, they can now spin up a second one with Acropolis and use it for disaster recovery, which will help customers limit what they spend on VMware licensing,” Rambadran said. “It stops paying insurance to VMware for secondary data centres that are used once or twice a year.”

When Nutanix announced Acropolis and the App Mobility Fabric last year, they stressed that their functionality was not intended as an anti-VMware move, notwithstanding the fact that substantial numbers of analysts and pundits took this protestation with a grain of salt. VMware competitors like Citrix certainly haven’t see things that way, with Citrix partners at last month’s Citrix Summit being exhorted by Citrix executives to use the new Nutanix platform to bust VMware’s ‘VM Tax.’ Nutanix’s tacit acknowledgement that its’ new platform features save customers money at VMware’s expense seems somewhat more explicit at this stage, although Nutanix still retains its air of cordiality towards its competitor.

The other major component of the new Nutanix software lacks such drama, although like the App Mobility Fabric, it is also designed to save customers money by simplifying complex operations and the third-party software tools needed to run them. Prism Pro is a data centre automation solution with a unique search-first interface and customizable dashboards designed to simplify IT operations.

“Today, you have a wide variety of orchestration solutions because systems management, storage, DR and other operations are all done by different vendors, so you need orchestration solutions provided by those other vendors,” Rambadran said. “Nutanix is well equipped to handle capacity planning because we understand the entire stack and can recommend how to optimize capacity. Today’s capacity planning tools are one dimensional. They do one thing. Because we own the entire stack, we will have multiple algorithms that run in parallel — and we let them compete against each other, to give the best recommendation for optimizing capacity.”

The key here is Prism Pro’s new X-Fit patent pending technology, with foundational machine intelligence built into the platform, delivering streamlined operations for every workload. Its’ self-learning capabilities continuously improve prediction accuracy and the quality of automated decisions over time, and its multiple predictive algorithms  are pitted against one another to pick the best way to eliminate over-provisioning without increasing risk to application performance.

“Prism also contains a Google-like search interface built into the product to get context sensitive results,” Rambadran said. “We can mine data since we have the entire stack and can give actionable search results.”

Nutanix customers can non-disruptively upgrade their existing infrastructure to run Acropolis and Prism 4.6. There is no requirement to upgrade hardware. Prism Pro is available as an add-on subscription and is currently offered as a Tech Preview with a free 60-day trial evaluation. The new one-click hypervisor upgrade capability in the App Mobility Fabric is also available as a Tech Preview in version 4.6.