Nutanix stresses Run Better, Run Faster themes with new software announcements

Nutanix’s flurry of new product news follows a general theme of moving from HCI where they began to a broader hybrid cloud infrastructure story.

Rajiv Mirani, Nutanix’s Chief Technical Officer

As IT companies transitioned to virtual events this year because of the pandemic, one of the noticeable changes was that major technology announcements were fewer in number than when events were live. Today, Nutanix is kicking off their virtualized .NEXT event with a flurry of announcements that seem to be one of the exceptions to the general trend. They include new capabilities in their HCI software, which leverage new storage technologies to increase performance by 50%, new Blockstore technology to self-manage storage, and a new Storage Performance Development Kit [SPDK]. Also new is Flow Security Central, a centralized SaaS-based management plane, Karbon Platform Services, a Kubernetes-based multicloud Platform-as-a-Service [PaaS], and a futures item, Calm as a Service, which is under development.

“The general theme of .NEXT is Run  Better, Run Faster, Run Anywhere,” said Rajiv Mirani, Nutanix’s Chief Technical Officer. “The Run Anywhere component we really addressed with our Nutanic Clusters on AWS last month, but we are addressing the Run Better and Run Faster components here. The next-generation HCI is Run Better, while our Karbon PaaS is Run Faster, as is Calm as a Service.”

Mirani indicated that he considered the enhancements to AOS, the Acropolis operating system, to be the primary announcement being made at the event.

“We have been rearchitecting our core for the last couple years,” Mirani said, noting that this allows AOS to more fully leverage new storage technologies, including NVMe based SSDs and Intel Optane SSDs.

“This provides a 50% bump up in performance, lower latency, and more IOPs, to execute for workloads that need sustained IOPs,” he indicated. These improvements also improve VM density to lower overall TCO for all applications.

Brand new here is Nutanix’s Blockstore technology, which is designed to self-manages storage with much more efficiency than traditional file systems.

“Blockstore is not a service,” Mirani said. “It’s a rearchitecting of how we store data. It removes a file system layer to reduce latency.”

Another software innovation is the SPDK, an open source library developed by Intel that lets applications access NVMe capacity directly, avoiding any operating system or kernel-level overhead to drive even faster workload performance.

“SPDK is now available in early access as a tech preview, and will be generally available later in the year,” Mirani said.

Also available in the future will be new virtual networking capabilities in Nutanix Flow being natively integrated into the Nutanix HCI software stack. These are based on VPC [Virtual Private Cloud] technology from Nutanix Xi Cloud, and will provide customers with expanded options to connect their multiple clouds, incorporate advanced networking features, and support DevOps teams through agile networking that facilitates rapid and automated provisioning of new applications into multiple environments.

“These virtual networking capabilities are a big deal, with we have been working on within our own Nutanix cloud,” Mirani stated. They are scheduled to be available early next year.

Nutanix is also announcing the availability of Flow Security Central, a cloud-hosted SaaS offering that acts as a hub for customers’ security operations. It lets easily assess the overall security posture of their Nutanix deployments and implement a Zero Trust security strategy in their environments.

“Flow Security Central takes technology from our other products, specifically Nutanix Beam, to provide recommendations for a stronger security profile,” Mirani said. “All security is consolidated in Flow Security Central.” This includes information about current security compliance  with regulatory standards like PCI and HIPAA, network utilization, general security health of Nutanix clusters, and a comprehensive multicloud inventory view. Flow Security Central makes Security Posture Monitoring information much more easily accessible and actionable than Beam, with dashboards and reports to offer “at-a-glance” information. It also provides networking visibility, which is not something that Beam provides.

On the ‘Run Faster’ side, Nutanix is announcing the availability of Karbon Platform Services, a Kubernetes-based multicloud Platform-as-a-Service, to accelerate the development and deployment of microservices-based apps across any cloud.  It builds on the core Kubernetes lifecycle management capabilities initially introduced with Karbon as an integrated component of the Nutanix HCI software.

“Karbon is intended to be attractive to developers as well as IT,” Mirani noted. It gives developers a turnkey managed services experience to build and run cloud native applications while enabling them to decouple applications from the underlying infrastructure.  Karbon Platform Services include managed Kubernetes, Containers-as-a-Service, serverless Functions, AI, message bus, ingress, service mesh, observability, and security services. They also provide simplified operations and uniform application, data, and security lifecycle management, regardless of the underlying cloud, and cross-cloud data mobility and hybrid application management through transparent, WAN-optimized data pipelines and extensible data interfaces.

Finally, Nutanix announced that they are working on Calm as-a-Service, a hosted version of its application management and orchestration solution to support DevOps teams.

“It’s in beta right now,” Mirani noted. “Calm now runs as part of Prism Central, which means that it requires a Nutanix cluster to run. We are removing that dependency with Calm as-a-Service.”

Mirani summed up the general theme of all the new announcements.

“This is our broader story of moving from HCI to hybrid cloud infrastructure,” he indicated. “It’s not about HCI any more. It’s about hybrid cloud.”

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