Nutanix is rolling out an update to its hyperconverged infrastructure platform, allowing customers to pick the best cloud or virtualisation platform for specific applications regardless of the underlying hypervisor, and adding machine intelligence to help automate operational management of the infrastructure.
The new capabilities come in version 4.6 of the Nutanix operating system, and are part of the firm's previously detailed 'invisible infrastructure' initiative that seeks to enable IT departments to focus more on delivering key applications and services to their organisation, rather than day-to-day management of the infrastructure.
As well as a host of efficiency tweaks that boost performance, the 4.6 release allows customers to develop applications on one virtualisation platform and move them seamlessly to a different one. It also includes machine intelligence designed to simplify complex operations and deliver predictive analytics for tasks such as capacity planning.
"What we want to do is basically bring the benefits of public cloud to the data centre, what we're calling the ‘enterprise cloud'. It means providing ‘AWS for the data centre' while still supporting all of the enterprise applications that businesses care about, like databases and email and so on," said Sudarshan Srinivasan, director of product marketing at Nutanix.
Nutanix started out by offering a platform based on VMware's hypervisor. Its hyperconverged hardware appliances contain compute and tiered storage, with an additional software layer to create a common storage pool across a cluster of Nutanix nodes.
The firm then added support for Microsoft's Hyper-V and the Linux KVM hypervisors, and a major update last year introduced Nutanix's own Acropolis hypervisor based on KVM and the App Mobility Fabric, offering intelligent virtual machine migration and conversion across hypervisors and clouds.
In this release, Nutanix is now offering cross-hypervisor backup so that customers can perform snapshots of virtual machines on their Nutanix infrastructure regardless of the hypervisor on the target site, and cross-hypervisor disaster recovery (DR) so that, if a virtual machine goes down, the backup will spin up on the DR infrastructure regardless of the hypervisor used at either end.
"All the VM configuration information, the network configuration, the vCPU configuration, is also sent over, so that when the VM is brought up at the DR site, it comes up with the same configuration as the primary site," Srinivasan said.
Nutanix is also making it easier for customers to adopt its own Acropolis hypervisor by offering a one-click conversion process from Nutanix infrastructure using the VMware hypervisor.
"With a single click, the platform will power down the VMs, move them off the nodes one by one, convert them to the target format, install any required drivers, foundation the nodes from ESXi to Acropolis, bring the VMs back and power them on. All of these steps the system does automatically for you," Srinivasan claimed.
Nutanix now makes it possible for customers to have a primary cluster and a secondary cluster running different hypervisors, so that customers have the freedom to choose a different environment for development and testing than their production environment, but still use snapshots of live data for testing purposes, according to Srinivasan.
"Customers want to be able to run the hypervisor that makes the most sense from a cost perspective on each environment. For example, a lot of Nutanix customers use a different hypervisor for Splunk or VDI than for their production environment, but they want to be able to manage it all centrally from the same platform," he explained.
The platform also features over 25 software enhancements that, taken together, improve performance by up to 4x when compared with the previous release, Srinivasan claimed.
"This means that without any additional investment, Nutanix customers can with a single click deploy the new software and all of a sudden your system is performing better, so you can now operate 30,000 mailboxes in 8U of rack space, while every 4U of rack space gives you one million storage IOPs," he said.
Meanwhile, an updated version of the Prism management tool, Prism Pro, delivers a new feature called X-Fit that includes machine learning capabilities to take some of the management burden away from IT staff.
This is currently in technology preview status, but enables customers to take common workloads such as capacity planning and automate the processes underlying them. It also introduces a Cortana-like query interface for IT staff to find information and execute tasks.
"We have this capacity trending algorithm that is part of X-Fit, and it figures out how your capacity is trending over time based on application behaviour and predicts how much capacity you need, so it will predict how much spare CPU, storage and memory capacity you have," Srinivasan said.
X-Fit uses multiple predictive algorithms and continually compares them against each other to see which delivers the closest outcome to observed conditions. It does this continually, so that even if application behaviour changes it will adjust its predictions accordingly.
"Because the system has an end-to-end view of the infrastructure, it can make recommendations along different dimensions. For example, if it sees you have only 28 days' worth of storage capacity left, it can tell you that you haven't touched certain VMs in the past 50 days, so you can probably kill them to free up capacity," Srinivasan explained.
The new 'search-first' user interface in this update lets an admin issue natural language commands like 'list VMs' to see all the virtual machines, rather than hunting through menus for the right actions.
"Now the interface is in the service of the admin. They know what they need to do, and they don't want to have to navigate through a tree of options to find what they want," Srinivasan said.
Prism Pro is available free as a technology preview at the moment, while the rest of the Nutanix 4.6 platform is a simple one-click upgrade for existing Nutanix customers.
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