Tag Archives: nutanix

Is Nutanix the perfect fit for SMBs?

This posting is ~4 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

There’s a world below clouds and enterprise environments with thousands of VMs and hundered or thousands of hosts. A world that consists of maximal three hosts. I’m working with quite a few customers, that are using VMware vSphere Essentials Plus. Those environments consist typically of two or three hosts and something between 10 and 100 VMs. Just to mention it: I don’t have any VMware vSphere Essentials customer. I can’t see any benefit for buying these license. Most of these environments are designed for a lifeime of three to four years. After that time, I come again and replace it with new gear. I can’t remember any customer that upgraded his VMware vSphere Essentials Plus. Even if the demands to the IT infrastructure increases, the license stays the same. The hosts and storage gets bigger, but the requirements stays the same: HA, vMotion, sometimes vSphere Replication, often (vSphere API for) Data Protection. Maybe this is a german thing and customers outside of german are growing faster and invest more in their IT.

Hyperconverged, scale-out IT infrastructure for SMBs?

Think enterprise and break it down to smaller customers. That is said easily, but we saw so many technologies coming from the enterprise down to the SMBs over the last years. Think about SAN. 15 years ago, no SMB even thought about it. Today it’s standard.

I’ve taken this statement from the Nutanix webseite.

Nutanix simplifies datacenter infrastructure by integrating server and storage resources into a turnkey appliance that is deployed in just 30 to 60 minutes, and runs any application at any scale.

When working with SMBs, most of them have to deal with a tight budget. This means that they use the maximum principle, to get most hardware, software and service for their money. Customers do not like long implementation phases. Long implementation phases means, that lots of money can’t invested in hardware or software. Every single Euro/ Dollar/ $CURRENCY invested for service can’t be invested in hardware and software.

Another important requirement for the most SMBs is simple operation. I know a lot customers with only one, two or three people, that doing all that stuff around helpdesk, server, networking etc. IT infrastructure, or IT in general, isn’t the main focus for many of them. It should just work. Every day. Until it’s replaced.This applies not only to the area of server virtualization, it applies to IT in general. This often requires lean and simple designs, designs that follow the principle of error prevention. Because of this, it’s a good practice to reduce the components used in a design and automate where it’s useful and valuable. And if a solution is robust, then this can only be an advantage.

Why Nutanix?

In my opinion, simplicity is the key to sucess. If you see Nutanix for the first time, you will be surprised how easy it is to manage. Deployment, operation, updates. It’s slick, it’s simple, it’s lightweight. Everything the customer needs, is combined on 2U. The same applies to the support. I’ve followed the discussion on Twitter between Nutanix and VMware on who may/ can/ is allowed to provide support for VMware. It was started by a blog post of Chuck Hollis (10 Reasons why VMware is leading the hyperconverged industry). To make it short: I don’t share his opinion. In my opinion, Nutanix focus on customer experience is the key.

Simplicity and the ability to change

I don’t think that pre-configured systems like Fujitsu Cluster-in-a-boxVCE vBlocks or HP ConvergedSystems are the answer to simplified IT infrastructure for SMBs. They are not hyperconverged. They are pre-configured. That’s an important difference. Pre-configured doesn’t mean that it’s easy to manage or fast and easy to implement. SMBs want hyperconverged platforms to simplify their IT infrastructure. Okay, so why not buy any other offered hyperconverged platform on the market, like SimpliVity OmniCubeHP ConvergedSystems HC or VMware EVO:RAIL? Because these offerings are focused on VMware. The question was: Why Nutanix? Because you can run KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi on it. That’s an unique selling point (USP). You can offer the customer a hyperconverged platform, that allows him to change to another hypervisor later. I think we all agree that VMware is the market leader. But Microsoft is catching up. All features of the Essentials Plus kit can be delivered with Microsoft Hyper-V (and much more if you add SCVMM). Remeber: I talk about the typical Essentials Plus customer. VMware vSphere Essentials Plus includes all what a customer needs: Failover, live migration, data protection, and if needed, replication. In my experience, DRS, Host Profiles and vSphere Distributed Switches are nice, but SMBs can’t take advantage of it (exceptions are not excluded…). Add the Microsofts SCVMM and the gap between VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V is even smaller. The licensing of Microsoft Windows Server makes it interesting for customers to take a look at Microsoft Hyper-V, especially if you take the licensing costs into account. Sure, it’s not all about CAPEX (capital expenditure), OPEX (operational expenditures) is also important. Don’t get me wrong, I love VMware. But it’s important to be prepared. If the customer decides to change to Microsoft Hyper-V, you should be able to deliver it.

How can it look like?

Depending on the computing and storage needs, take a closer look at the Nutanix NX-1000 or NX-3000 series. I think a NX-1350 or NX-3350/ 3360 block is a good catch. Add a VMware vSphere Essentials Plus kit (or some Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 licenses… maybe also System Center 2012), Veeam Backup Essentials, something to store the backups on, like a HP StoreOnce 2700, and your favorite switches for 10 GbE networking connectivity (for example two HP 2920 switches in a stack with 10 GbE modules). A complete datacenter on 5U. This is only an example, but I think this should fit for most SMB customers (depending how you define SMB…).

Famous last words

Is Nutanix the perfect fit for SMBs? Yes! Easy to implement, easy to manage and robust. Nutanix stands out with its platform independence. This allows customers to have a choice in regard of the used hypervisor. Investment protection is a valuable asset, if you constantly have to fight for budgets.

Useful stuff about Nutanix

This posting is ~5 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Nutanix was founded in 2009 and left the stealth mode in 2011. Their Virtual Computing Platform combines storage and computing resources in a building block scheme. Each appliance consists up to four nodes and local storage (SSD and rotating rust). At least three nodes are necessary to form a cluster. If you need more storage or compute resources, you can add more appliances, and thus nodes, to the cluster (scale out). Nutanix scales proportionately with cluster growth. The magic is not the hardware – it’s the software. The local storage resources of each appliance are passed to the Nutanix Controller VM (CVM). The CVM services I/O and storage to the VMs and is running on each node, regardless of the hypervisor. You can run VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM on the nodes. Although the Nutanix Distributed File System (NDFS) is stretched across all nodes, I/O for a VM is served by the local CVM. The storage can be presented via iSCSI, NFS or SMB3 to the hypervisor.

Over the time I found some very useful stuff about Nutanix. A good start is “Software-Defined Storage for Dummies – Nutanix Special Edition“. It’s a free eBook, which can be downloaded after a simple registration. If you want to get deeper, the Nutanix Bible written by Steven Poitras is an excellent source. Steve (@StevenPoitras) is Solutions Architect and Technology Evangelist at Nutanix. Sometimes it’s nice to get your hands dirty. Unfortunately Nutanix doesn’t ship their appliances for free. So you have two options… mmh… maybe three options: Get hired by Nutanix (if you’re VCDX the chance is high to get hired…), sell ​​your innocence to the man with the window-less van or try the interactive Nutanix Web Console GUI. It’s not the real Web Console GUI, but it will give you a good overview how the PRISM UI looks like. The mock-up was created by Tim Federwitz, Sr. Systems Engineer at Nutanix. Another good source of information is the Platform Administration Guide for NOS 3.5. Last but not least there are a lot of great blogs, e.g. Michael Webster (@vcdxnz001, VCDX #66), Josh Odgers (@josh_odgers, VCDX #90), Derek Seaman (@vDerekS, VCDX #125), Bas Raayman (@BasRaayman) and many more.

If you ever have the chance to get your hands on a Nutanix block, then I recommend you to take advantage of this opportunity. I think that Nutanix vision of a  hyper-converged datacenter will change the way how we will run applications workloads in the future.