Nutanix: Navigating the accidental hybrid cloud

Nutanix hosted its .NEXT conference in Chicago, Illinois, this week in what was the first in-person iteration of this normally annual event for five years. 

The Computer Weekly Developer Network team attended to get a first-hand download of Nutanix’s ‘run everywhere’ message. Obviously a kind of cloud-era reimagining and reinvention of the core ‘run anywhere’ Java message that we have known for so many years, the company’s single operating model (now making use of ‘Nutanix Central’) is intended to enable organisations to move applications across clouds with new freedom.

Speaking to press in breakout briefings and at the event keynote sessions was Lee Caswell in his role as SVP of product and solutions marketing at Nutanix.

Accidental hybrid cloud

Caswell suggests that the mix of so many hybrid multi-clouds today has resulted in a sort of hodge-podge of cloud resources, endpoints, instances, types and locations. He calls it the ‘accidental hybrid cloud’ and it’s a landscape that most cloud customers have almost inherited (often from themselves, from their own last decade’s cloud deployments) that they now need to manage today.

That hybrid mix hodge-podge is made up of everything (in no particular order and from a Gartner schematic) of edge, branch, IaaS, colocation resources, DNS providers, STorage-as-a-Service STaaS… and that’s all with datacenter at the centre.

“Nutanix is now focused on providing data services for Kubernetes in whichever environment an organisation needs to run its cloud resources. Customers need to be able to think about what workloads to run where and where they will be able to execute most effectively,” said Caswell, making reference to his firm’s technology that works in this space.

Nutanix Data Services for Kubernetes is intended to extend storage provisioning, snapshots (point-in-time cloud instance copies taken for back-up, disaster recovery and storage-related reasons) for Kubernetes applications to help accelerate containerized application development.

When Caswell and team talk about multi-cloud, this term is not intended to refer to hybrid-cloud (public and private) in the first instance (although, typically, most multi-cloud will inevitably be hybrid-cloud) – no, instead, multi-cloud simply denotes a scenario in which an enterprise customer uses more than one Cloud Services Provider (CSP) hyperscaler.

Remembering that once a customer is using any one CSP, Caswell reminds us they need to use the software application development and management tools that relate to that CSP – this means that the applications and data services built upon that backbone of that individual CSP are generally tied pretty closely to the infrastructure of the cloud beneath. What Nutanix is focused on now is the ability to offer any workload for any app and run it anywhere. We need to reach a world of seamless portability across clouds, after all.

“Most customers have inherited a mult-cloud reality, but few have a federated management view of the total cloud stack and the ability to work with a single management layer to oversee it. Nutanix Central provides that federated view across endpoints,” said Caswell, detailing part of the Nutanix roadmap and product vision.

Cloud (cost) agility

All of this cross-cloud (sorry, multi-cloud) agility is important if we think about the way instances are set up a billed out to end-user customers i.e. if all cloud licensing was spread out equally across all nodes in a cluster, then companies would be paying for expensive high-performance compute CPUs that are only overseeing storage resources. Therefore, being able to more intelligently manage compute and storage ‘between clouds’ is crucial, which of course brings us back again to the whole run cloud everywhere message, but with a key efficiency component as well.

Talking of efficiency, we need to think about bridging from efficiency to sustainability.

Rajiv Ramaswami, president & CEO of Nutanix talked about the rise of data, how it spans from datacentres to the edge and how the facts show that as many as 99% of firms will have moved their applications from one cloud infrastructure to another. As such, Nutanix hosted a dedicated sustainability panel at .NEXT 2023 to dig deeper into this topic.

The Nutanix sustainability panel consisted of Steen Dalgas, senior cloud economist at Nutanix and Harmail Singh Chatha, senior director of global cloud operations at Nutanix. Dalgas and Singh Chatha were joined by Steve McDowell from Nand Research and Chris Kanaracus from  IDC.

A more auditable data stack

Looking into cost optimisation in the cloud and the way organisations are now looking to consolidate workloads to use resources more effectively, the panel highlighted the way companies are now looking to perform a more ‘auditable data stack’ – but that reality can only be achieved if we first agree on metrics that we work towards.

Because there are problems with over-provisioning and under-utilising in most cloud deployments today, we need to look to optimise compute. We know that the Nutanix-driven message here will be the application of a hyperconverged infrastructure to achieve greater efficiency. 

Another part of the whole cloud sustainability discussion is cloud repatriation. This process means picking things out of the public cloud datacentre and putting those applications back on-premises, which does (in many cases) reduce costs and (of course) reduce latency. 

Picking one other session from the many on offer, press and analysts were invited to a Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) presentation with Indu Keri, SVP, engineering NCI and NC2, Nutanix and Nick Mahlitz, senior digital infrastructure manager at Forestry and Land Scotland.

Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) delivers a hybrid multi-cloud platform designed to run applications in private or multiple public clouds. NC2 operates as an extension of an organisation’s on-premises datacentre and provides a hybrid cloud architecture that spans private and public instances, operated as a single cloud.

Mahlitz talked about being on the early adoption programme for Nutanix NC2, which his team deployed on the Microsoft Azure cloud and migrated workloads to NC2 to be able to manage both public and private cloud on one platform.

The NO refactor X-factor

Sustainability and better cost management were improved from the get-go said Mahlitz and the organisation is now looking to develop further. When Nutanix started out with the vision of cloud clusters a few years ago, it wanted to enable organisations to move to the cloud without needing to refactor applications first, this reality is being played out now with users like Forestry and Land Scotland, a newly created department in the Scottish government.

According to Nutanix, “NC2 extends the simplicity and ease of use of the Nutanix software stack to public clouds using a unified management console. Using the same platform on both clouds, NC2 (Nutanix points to AWS in particular) is designed to reduces the operational complexity of extending, bursting, or migrating your applications and data between clouds.”

Taking stock then, the Nutanix of today looks something like the Nutanix we knew in pre-pandemic times, but now with some additional re-launch branding and some core additions and extensions to its core platform and product set. Even if the whole run anywhere and everywhere single-pane-of-glass simplicity message is not new in and of itself, it does arguably need some reinvention for the modern cloud-cloud era… and that (as the company puts it) is ‘simply’ what Nutanix does.

Rajiv Ramaswami, president & CEO of Nutanix.

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Data Management