Dan's Take

Nutanix Introduces Free Community Edition

It offers hyperconvergence for up to four servers.

A while ago I spoke with Nutanix and learned a bit about their view of the recent trend to bring many of the functions of distributed systems back together in "Hyperconverged" systems. To summarize: Nutanix has developed system software that brings together the functions of industry standard x86-based systems, storage services and storage and offers it as a "software driven virtual computing platform." This makes it possible for systems and storage to be seen as a pool of resources that can be easily expanded as needed.

Historical Industry Trends
As I've pointed out before, platforms originally hosted all an application's components on a single machine. As the industry sought out ways to improve performance, reliability and scalability, suppliers moved each of those functions into a separate appliance server. While this approach did offer enterprises the ability to apply as much processing horsepower as needed, it also meant that the enterprise datacenter became overwhelmingly complex.

Recently we've seen the pendulum starting to swing the other way, bringing system functions back together. What's new this time is that virtualization technology has been applied to make it possible to see available resources as a pool, and then allocating part of that pool to a given task, executing that task, recovering the resources once that task has completed, then provisioning them for the next task.

Depending on the supplier, terms such as "converged," "hyperconverged" or even "ultra hyperconverged" are being used to describe this trend; which term is used depends on how many functions have, like prodigal children, returned to the server.

I would argue that this trend is really just a return to the ideas that made and still make mainframe computers so effective for many transaction, business intelligence, data management and large-scale analysis tasks.

What Nutanix Does
Nutanix offers a computing platform that makes the environment "software defined" and allows functions to be distributed throughout a cluster of machines. This means that processing power, memory and storage that resides in each system can be treated as a pool of resource and assigned to tasks as needed.

The company points out that this approach drastically simplifies the environment. Storage area networks and network attached storage are no longer needed, since Nutanix technology dynamically combines the storage volumes attached to the systems and makes them available to applications in ways they expect.

The technology Nutanix provides offers features to manage enterprise storage, provide data protection for that storage and creates a highly available, highly reliable computing platform. The company's technology also provides management analytics and security for that converged computing environment.

Free Community Edition
Nutanix is offering a free Community Edition of its system software so that enterprises may try out this hyperconverged approach without feeling irrevocably committed to the idea. They can then experience for themselves what Nutanix describes as a "webscale" experience. (Note that this is currently a beta program.)

Getting enterprise decision makers to try out a new idea is very challenging for industry newcomers, regardless of how well its technology performs or the benefits for clients. Nutanix is taking a page out of the open source community playbook and  offering enterprises the opportunity to download their software and put it to use. Nutanix points out that the software works with products offered by many system suppliers.

Dan's Take: Kick the Tires
If your organization is looking for ways to take your traditional applications and move them into a "Web scale" and "hyperconverged" environment, it would be worth your time to wander over to Nutanix's site and watch their many, many videos in which customers describe what they're doing and how Nutanix helped. Download the Community Edition and try it out for yourself.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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