Nutanix, one of the fastest growing IT infrastructure startups around, shows no signs of slowing down with their release of Nutanix OS 3.5. For those not familiar with Nutanix, they offer a truly converged virtualized infrastructure. This generally consists of four nodes in two rack units of space, where each node has CPU, RAM, traditional fixed disk, SSD, and Fusion-IO flash built in. Their secret sauce is really NDFS, the Nutanix Distributed File System, built by the same folks that created Google’s File System, as well as a unified, hypervisor-agnostic management interface.
Nutanix OS 3.5 adds what they call the “Elastic Deduplication Engine,” an inline deduplication facility for RAM and flash that aims to be able to cram more data into those expensive, fast storage areas. They claim that they’ve been able to store up to 10x the amount of data in RAM and flash as a result, which has a very positive effect on storage performance, most notably latency. It also helps to drive up the VM density, especially in environments where there is a lot of common data, such as VDI deployments.
While they say their deduplication approach is extensible to all storage on their platforms, actual implementation on other types of storage is left to a future version. This feature set, while a welcome addition, does trail some of their competition. For example, Simplivity’s OmniCube Accelerator deduplicates once, then stores that deduplicated data on any tier of storage.
Version 3.5 of their OS also brings with it much-desired GUI changes, implemented in HTML5 for cross-platform browser compatibility and aimed at making IT staff lives easier by simplifying the environment. They call it a “consumer-grade user experience”, which is something more IT vendors should strive for. GUIs are oft-overlooked, an afterthought implemented by an engineer who will never use the product on a day-to-day basis like the customers will. By focusing on decent UX design many human errors can be reduced, root causes of problems can be found more readily, and IT staff can go to work not dreading the tools at their disposal.
Nutanix OS natively offers replication services between Nutanix clusters as part of NDFS, and this release adds compression to that, as well as the ability to be controlled by VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM). In order to initiate failovers, SRM uses “Storage Replication Adapters” (a fancy name for what are often just Perl scripts) to bridge the gap between SRM and the storage array APIs. This is an attractive feature for larger enterprises which have built their DR/BC/COOP runbooks around SRM already.
Nutanix says there are over 75 enhancements in OS 3.5, which will be available to all customers with active maintenance contracts beginning in September. The last new feature I find notable is their beta support for Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012, as well as making KVM support a first-class citizen on their platforms. This is great news for non-VMware shops and shops exploring additional hypervisors and cloud platforms like OpenStack.
Overall, this release is a great one, and it shows Nutanix has their eye on the problems that actually plague IT, coming up with clever and cost-efficient solutions to them in software while also delivering a range of hardware to meet enterprise and small-scale IT needs. They’ve become one of the poster children for converged and software-defined IT. I am anxious to see what they might do with other areas of IT in the future, like networking, as “software-defined” makes its way deeper into our data centers.