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Nutanix eyes PaaS services with Project Beacon

Nutanix is extending its reach higher up the software stack with Project Beacon, a multi-year effort to deliver PaaS services across distributed environments

For a while now, Nutanix had focused on delivering software to run and manage hybrid multicloud infrastructures, but with a new multi-year initiative to deliver platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings that users can access on any infrastructure, it is extending its reach higher up the software stack.

The initiative, dubbed Project Beacon, was announced at Nutanix’s recent global customer event in Chicago, signalling the company’s intention to better address the challenges associated with managing and moving workloads across distributed environments.

During the event, Nutanix demonstrated how it was possible to move a Kubernetes environment from one cloud to another, using the same tool that its customers currently use to manage their infrastructure.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Han Chon, managing director of ASEAN at Nutanix, noted that Project Beacon was conceived to help enterprises navigate the complexities of operating hybrid multicloud environments.

“They need a way to manage [workloads] across the board, using a simpler, more standardised way of accessing and deploying resources while complying with regulations that they’re subject to,” he said. “That’s not as simple a task as people would like it to be, and that’s where our focus has been.”

For a start, Nutanix is introducing database services, the foundation of all applications, and plans to deliver the Nutanix Database Service as a managed offering on native public cloud infrastructure, building on the database automation and management capabilities of the Nutanix Cloud Infrastructure stack.

Nutanix would expand from there to popular data-centric platform services, such as streaming, caching and search. The goal is to deliver all key elements needed to build modern applications so that developers would not have to rely on services that will lock them into a single infrastructure.

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That means organisations could choose to run a database on-premise or on a specific public cloud infrastructure and have an application that sits on another public cloud access the same database, said Chon.

“That sort of flexibility is what the customers are looking for, as they should no longer be bound by the cloud they’re using,” he added. “And one of the key enablers of that is containerisation technologies like Kubernetes that let you take an application or a solution from one environment to another because the underlying compute substrate remains identical.”

It is uncertain which Kubernetes distribution Project Beacon would use, though Red Hat’s OpenShift is likely to be supported, with Red Hat CEO Matt Hicks commenting on the project in a Nutanix press statement.

“As the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, Red Hat OpenShift helps customers build, deploy and manage any application, anywhere,” he said. “With Project Beacon, Nutanix will build on our mission with a vision of data-centric platform services delivered consistently, anywhere, further extending customer choice on Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud platforms with Nutanix’s advanced data services.”

However, certain PaaS services, such as those that offer artificial intelligence capabilities, can be very sticky and difficult for companies to wean off. To that, Chon said the next step for Nutanix would be to address cases where customers are utilising specialised services, and whether or not those services can be abstracted like what Nutanix has done for datacentre infrastructure. “That’s a longer-term strategy that we have to work on,” he said.

Besides Nutanix, rival Dell Technologies is also ramping up efforts to ease the pain of operating hybrid multicloud infrastructure and improve the portability of workloads across different environments through its new Apex cloud platforms.

Jointly built with Red Hat, Microsoft and VMware, the cloud platforms integrate popular cloud technology stacks and Kubernetes orchestration software with Dell infrastructure, enabling enterprises to extend their cloud-native environments across public cloud, on-premise datacentres and co-location facilities.

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