Nutanix is readying updates to its hyper-converged infrastructure platform for running virtual machines that it claims will take away much of the complexity of deploying and operating infrastructure and enable IT departments to focus on delivering applications and services.
Announced at the Nutanix .Next user conference, the firm's "invisible infrastructure" initiative aims to take its existing hyper-converged compute-and-storage platform to the next level by enabling customers to choose whichever virtualisation technology they wish and by introducing its own management tools to rival VMware's vCenter.
These capabilities will be delivered in Acropolis, which is effectively an enhanced version of the Nutanix operating system, and Prism, which is the management tool.
Combined, the two products will be known as the Xtreme Computing Platform (XCP), explained Raja Mukhopadhyay, vice president of product management at Nutanix.
"If you look at IT teams in organisations they spend a lot of time just making sure that the infrastructure is up and running," he told V3.
"That's because of the complexity in the infrastructure stack that has built up over the last two decades between the servers and storage arrays, and then you have the hypervisor and virtual management and orchestration layers, and finally you get to what you want, which is the application."
Nutanix's vision is that the Xtreme Computing platform will deliver "invisible infrastructure" because it will "just work" once deployed, like the electricity supply, he added.
Acropolis brings an App Mobility Fabric, a Distributed Storage Fabric and a new native Acropolis hypervisor based on the Linux KVM technology as an option for running virtual machines.
App Mobility Fabric gets its name because it enables customers to have flexibility with regard to the best environment for their workload, according to Mukhopadhyay.
"If you talk to customers they might say they have a 1,000-virtual machine environment based on VMware's ESXi, and for cost reasons they would like to try out something like Microsoft's Hyper-V," he said.
"But they can't because it would be a six-month consulting project and the act of converting that environment is extremely challenging. Our App Mobility Fabric is a set of technologies that lets you do that with a single click."
The Distributed Storage Fabric is an enhancement of the storage layer in Nutanix's existing platform, adding support for erasure coding and enabling virtual machines to directly mount iSCSI volumes instead of using the Nutanix software-defined storage layer, to support applications like Microsoft Exchange which have specific storage protocol requirements.
Meanwhile, the Acropolis hypervisor is essentially a "hardened" version of KVM, Mukhopadhyay said.
"We trimmed it down so that it only has the modules that are truly needed for the hypervisor layer to be a performant one," he explained, claiming it is all part of the process of simplifying the IT stack.
Prism, the management piece of the puzzle, is designed to offer centralised management of the entire infrastructure, including hypervisors and storage, and subsumes the Prism Central tool that Nutanix introduced last year to manage multiple clusters of Nutanix nodes.
It also includes new troubleshooting capabilities based on operational analytics and a natural language query tool that is said to enable users to ask why their Exchange server is running slowly, for example. The system will then look for possible causes.
Furthermore, it would appear that Nutanix is positioning Prism as an alternative to VMware's vCenter for managing virtualised infrastructure.
"Prism is all about the management of the virtual machines, the stuff that VMware has in vCenter and Microsoft has in System Center Virtual Machine Manager, creating VMs from templates, suspend/resume VMs and snapshots," Mukhopadhyay said.
"From a pure hypervisor standpoint, KVM and Hyper-V and ESXi are mostly equal. The real reason people go with ESXi and less so with Hyper-V and very little with KVM is because of the management capabilities that those stacks provide.
"Our real goal through Prism is to give customers a true choice of KVM with enterprise-grade management."
The combination of Acropolis and Prism in the Xtreme Computing platform is thus being pitched as a rival to the entire VMware stack, should customers want this.
"[VMware] rightly has a pretty entrenched position in the data centre landscape, and we expect the vast majority of VMware customers to keep running on ESXi," he said.
"What we're trying to do is give customers more choice and flexibility, so that if their business changes and they want to explore moving to Hyper-V or Acropolis, they can do that easily."
Most of these capabilities are expected to be available "within weeks" in a version of the Nutanix operating system dubbed 4.1.Xtreme. The operational analytics support is slated to be delivered towards the end of the year, according to Mukhopadhyay.
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