Nutanix takes aim at making multi-cloud simple

Provider of hyper-converged technology, Nutanix, is breaking out of the datacentre and hybrid IT to enable workloads to move anywhere

It may have made its name in hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), but as Nutanix turns 10 years old, it is now focused on delivering technology to support new computing consumption models.

In February, analyst IDC’s worldwide semiannual public cloud services and infrastructure guide forecast that the public cloud services market will reach $210bn in 2019, an increase of 23.8% over 2018.

At the same time, many organisations are finding that not all workloads can be moved to the public cloud – there will always be workloads that need to remain on-premise, either due to data regulations or because the workload cannot be run cost-effectively in the cloud.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai, Santhosh Rao, senior director analyst at Gartner, said: “Hybrid IT will be the standard in 2019. Hybrid architectures will become the footprints that enable organisations to extend beyond their datacentres and into cloud services across multiple platforms.”

To complicate matters further, while most organisations use a single public cloud provider to run workloads, Rao estimated that 30% would likely diversify a portion of their application portfolio on a secondary provider.

This suggests that IT infrastructure is likely to involve on-premise as well as cloud workloads running on services from multiple public cloud providers (multi-cloud) in the future. This is an area of IT infrastructure that Nutanix is starting to build technology for.

The Nutanix multi-cloud play

Nutanix claims it is preparing for the multi-cloud, hybrid direction enterprise IT infrastructure is heading. Its stated ambition is to make IT infrastructure invisible, such that IT administers gain the flexibility to deploy workloads on-premise or on whatever public cloud they choose based on business requirements.

In his opening keynote at the company’s .Next 2019 annual conference, Dheeraj Pandey, Nutanix founder, chairman and CEO, said: “Our goal is to make it simple such that even application admins can configure geeky things.”

Over the 10 years since it was founded, Nutanix has shifted its focus from primarily pushing Supermicro server appliances for running its HCI software to becoming more software-focused based on its AOS operating system and AHV hypervisor.

The initial selling point for HCI was to give IT departments the ability to buy a single box with combined storage and processing power, which could be scaled simply through the purchase of additional nodes. But Pandey argues that, in the enterprise, IT departments want software rather than hardware. “AOS becomes a platform on which we can deliver more services,” he said.

In Pandey’s vision, Nutanix provides a scale-out architecture that sits in the middle of an enterprise’s computing infrastructure.

Sunil Potti, chief product and development officer at Nutanix, said: “The multi-cloud world is the new reality for IT – it’s no longer up for debate. Customers need solutions that can bring together the full mix of public, private and edge clouds that will soon make up their critical infrastructure, without drowning them in needless complexity and unchecked costs.

“By continuing to add new capabilities to our portfolio, we’re giving customers the freedom to deliver their applications and data from the cloud that makes the most sense for their business.”

Potti said IT infrastructure needs to be invisible. In Nutanix’s vision, this invisible infrastructure spans on-premise datacentres and public clouds. “We want to cover as many workloads as we can and maximise value to deliver cloud experience for our customers,” Potti added.

Demonstrating cloud migration

The company unveiled a number of products during the opening of .Next 2019, including Mine, a way to provide converged secondary storage and backup services from third parties such as Veaam and Commvault.

Nutanix believes IT departments face a massive challenge to deliver cloud native, multi-cloud architectures. Nikola Bozinovic, vice-president and general manager at Nutanix, asked: “What does it mean to orchestrate workloads in very different clouds like AWS and Azure? How do you  run things at scale and securely?”

Frame is another of the products Nutanix unveiled during .Next 2019, to address multi-cloud, hybrid IT.

In a demonstration during the keynote, Bozinovic showed how Frame could be used to provision and secure virtual desktops across Azure, Nutanix on-premise HCI and Amazon Web Services (AWS). “You can go from zero to tens of thousands of virtual desktops on-premise or in the cloud in a matter of minutes,” he said.

During the keynote, long-term Nutanix staffer, technical marketing engineer Laura Jordana, demonstrated a new piece of software from Nutanix called Move, designed to simplify the migration of virtual machines from AWS to on-premise datacentres.

“In a  hybrid environment, the challenge is that once data and applications are in the cloud, it is hard to get the data back out,” she said, adding that this is the challenge Nutanix Move can overcome.

She said IT departments can use the company’s Xi Beam governance tool to analyse workloads to determine if they are running efficiently and cost-effectively. “With Xi Beam you can see spend visibility across on-premise and cloud [environments] and see spend over time,” she said.

According to Nutanix, this information can then be used for workload optimisation analysis, enabling IT administrators to identify whether a given workload runs better on-premise. If AWS is found to be the best option, Xi Beam can also identify which size of AWS instance to deploy.

Nutanix is also looking at how it can expand where its HCI can run. In April, it forged a deal with HPE, in which HPE said it would offer Nutanix’s Enterprise Cloud OS software, which includes Nutanix’s free AHV hypervisor, through GreenLake, its as-a-service model for delivering enterprise IT hardware.

It now has plans to make Nutanix available on AWS. The idea is that an on-premise Nutanix cluster can burst capacity onto AWS bare metal instances.

In a demonstration of the technology, Binny Gill, chief technology officer of cloud services at Nutanix, showed how an IT administrator could expand a Citrix on-premise workload to support more virtual desktop users, by running additional capacity on AWS.

“You can increase capacity without buying datacentre expansion by using elastic consumption to burst capacity into the AWS cloud,” he said.

The essence of Nutanix’s overall message during .Next 2019 is about making multi-cloud invisible. For its existing customers, it is offering the ability to run its HCI software either on-premise or natively on AWS bare metal instances. 

For new prospects, it sees an opportunity to sell them the idea of running workloads on the same HCI software, whether it is on-premise or in the public cloud. This, according to Gill, simplifies cloud migration projects, since the IT environment and management tools are consistent across on-premise and cloud instances.

Read more from .Next 2019

  • Nutanix prepares to launch its Mine converged secondary storage appliances as it expands beyond primary storage with an architecture that Cohesity and Rubrik have adopted.
  • Xi Frame will now be able to run desktop virtualisation workloads on-premises, on top of the Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor (AHV).

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