Dan's Take

Nutanix Upgrades Its Platform

A host of improvements should put VMware on notice.

Nutanix has been quietly enhancing several components of its "Enterprise Cloud" platform. The company released Acropolis 4.6 to improve system performance; an extension to its Acropolis App Mobility Fabric (AMF) to reduce virtual machine (VM) software lock-in; and Prism Pro, a datacenter automation solution tool designed to add machine intelligence capabilities to its operations management. Let's look at each of these separately.

Acropolis 4.6
Acropolis 4.6 is Nutanix's enhanced version of KVM. The company says that Acropolis 4.6 "includes more than 25 powerful software enhancements that increase system performance by up to 4x compared to earlier versions." The company described this new version in the following way:

  • Better performance across a wide range of enterprise application workloads, e.g., powering up to 30,000 Microsoft Exchange mailboxes in just 8U of rack space as validated through the Microsoft Exchange Solution Reviewed Program (ESRP)
  • Delivering the industry’s fastest storage I/O performance across hyperconverged all-flash solutions with over 1 million storage IOPS in just 4U of datacenter space
Addressing Vendor Lock-In
Nutanix's rallying cry is making infrastructure invisible so that IT administration, operations and development staff can focus on their organization's success, rather than mundane systems challenges. It would also like to capture a slice of VMware revenue by making it easy for customers to switch from vSphere to Acropolis. Here's how, according to Nutanix:

  • 1-click Hypervisor Conversion – Switch the hypervisor running on a Nutanix system from VMware vSphere to the built-in Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) in a completely automatic operation that can be completed in minutes with minimal disruption and risk.
  • Cross-hypervisor DR and Backup – Rapidly recover from a site failure by failing over VMs from one site to another location running a completely different hypervisor. Perform automatic backups of VM-level data from one Nutanix system to another running a different hypervisor. IT professionals can choose the best hypervisor for each environment to minimize virtualization license costs.
Simplifying Datacenter Operations
Nutanix has long sought to simplify IT administration and operations by including intelligent automation, operations and management capabilities into its software. This release includes a new feature "Prism Pro," described thusly:

Prism Pro features the new X-Fit technology with foundational machine intelligence built into the platform, delivering streamlined operations for every workload. With X-Fit, the platform now includes self-learning capabilities that continuously improve prediction accuracy and the  quality of automated decisions over time. Prism Pro leverages X-Fit to power automation and intelligence across a variety of operations, such as smart capacity management. This technology pits multiple predictive algorithms against one another, picking the best fit and  making actionable recommendations to eliminate over-provisioning without increasing risk to application performance.

Dan's Take: A Feisty VMware Challenger
Nutanix is quite the feisty supplier and seems to routinely make moves that appear designed to both improve its customers' lives and to take swipes at the competition. I really like the genteel, soft-spoken way it makes these moves without necessarily addressing its competitors directly.

Let's deconstruct the announcement.

  • VM performance has long been something VMware has claimed as its unique point of added value. Nutanix challenged this claim by enhancing Acropolis without directly challenging the industry's big dog.
  • Hyperconverged system performance and scalability is another area addressed by this announcement. Rather than directly call out any specific systems supplier, Nutanix just released information about how its new all-flash systems can support a larger number of Exchange mailboxes than ever before. I noted that this announcement didn't cite any industry standard benchmarks and may not have been audited by an outside, neutral third party.
  • Nutanix offered enterprises the ability to quickly and easily move vSphere workloads both to and from Acropolis. It's hoping customers will see that running an all-Nutanix shop will be more cost-effective than VMware, and just as reliable. I noticed that Nutanix didn't quite come out and directly challenge VMware to a duel. It did, however, plant the seed of the idea of an all Nutanix environment in the minds of its customers.
  • Several storage virtualization software companies, such as DataCore, have recently made broad announcements about how their technology impacts overall system performance. DataCore, for example, has gone to the effort of running the SPC-1 benchmark with its partner Lenovo, and has published outstanding audited performance numbers. Nutanix's announcement gently challenged those numbers without offering similar, audited benchmark numbers. The goal appears to have been to lightly address those competitors without actually throwing down a gauntlet and declaring war.

All in all, Nutanix's announcement was done well, and its product enhancements appear to offer solid value. The announcement hinted at many things that will be of interest to customers of both its direct -- and indirect -- competition.

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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