Review: Nutanix Hyperconverges All the Needs of Enterprise Digital Businesses

Product Review: Nutanix Acropolis

For enterprise businesses hunting for the best network storage solution to handle their increasingly unmanageable data influx and upgrade their systems with the virtualization options now available, the sheer amount of available options is daunting.

For organizations seeking a complete solution, Nutanix may be the right option for your custom needs.

The Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) is purposely built to run on intelligent storage that understands virtualization and provides data services such as snapshots, provisioning, operations and data protection at VM granularity. As a result, Nutanix believes that their hypervisor has been made leaner and can thus focus on delivering secure virtual computing.

One familiar name, particularly in the hyperconverged infrastructure market niche, Nutanix, believes that they have eliminated the need for traditional SAN and NAS solutions in their own product offering. Hyperconverged solutions combine computing, storage and networking in one place like the modular infrastructure that monoliths like Facebook, Google and Netflix have adopted. Their solution, Nutanix Acropolis, aims to deliver a rich set of virtual machine (VM)-centric software-defined services including the services of snapshots, clones, high, reliable availability, disaster recovery, deduplication, compression, erasure coding storage optimization and more.

It also contains a number of data services and features for data protection, space efficiency, scalability, automated data tiering and security.


Nutanix Hyperconverges All the Needs of Enterprise Digital Businesses - YourDailyTech
The infrastructure of Nutanix compared to legacy solutions
Together with Nutanix Prism, the consumer-grade management platform, and Acropolis intends to provide a comprehensive enterprise cloud platform for any sized organization. By utilizing this all-inclusive system, costs and complexity will be cut; there is no need to struggle with demands of legacy data center products.

Binny Gill, Nutanix’s chief architect, made the comparison of Acropolis as “Nutanix’s left brain (the logical bit) [to] Prism [as] the creative right brain.” Prism aims to help IT management by offering a “true consumer-grade user experience” with the ability to see “an end-to-end view of all workflows” so, that administrators can make applications do their bidding with no specialized or high end training.

Prism is a distributed, highly dependable management solution that provides high class management and intelligent operational analytics. Prism is already integrated into the Nutanix solution. From a virtualization perspective, Prism provides:

• One-click VM operations, including to create, delete, update, power, pause/resume, snapshot, and clone VMs

• Image management: Convert and upload disk / ISO images to Nutanix clusters for simplified deployments

• Cross-Hypervisor Migration to migrate VMs between virtual environments running different hypervisors easily

• Detailed performance alerts and analysis with simplified root cause analysis

Nutanix Acropolis meanwhile is “a powerful scale-out data fabric for storage, computing and virtualization.” Acropolis combines feature-rich SDS with built-in virtualization in a hyperconverged infrastructure solution that can then scale up, down and all around to run any application.

The converged storage and virtualization stack eliminates the complicated bloat of standalone legacy hypervisors and thus, renders virtualization “invisible.” The Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) is purposely built to run on intelligent storage that understands virtualization and provides data services such as snapshots, provisioning, operations and data protection at VM granularity. As a result, Nutanix believes that their hypervisor has been made leaner and can thus focus on delivering secure virtual computing. Nutanix’s hypervisor is built on open-source KVM technology; Acropolis also supports VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V.


Nutanix Hyperconverges All the Needs of Enterprise Digital Businesses - YourDailyTech
Structural options of Nutanix plus other hypervisor options
Acropolis is advertised as an open environment capable of delivering intelligent virtual machine placement, virtual machine migration, and virtual machine conversion across hypervisors and clouds as well as “cross-hypervisor high availability and integrated disaster recovery.” Acropolis has been designed to support all virtualized applications and to provide a seamless path to containers and hybrid cloud computing. Its hypervisor, AHV, supports core virtualization capabilities including high availability and VM migration that all applications today require.

The Nutanix platform also includes the Acropolis App Mobility Fabric (AMF) meant to facilitate seamless workload migration between hypervisors and different runtime environments. This functionality is explicitly aimed at making it easy for customers to move from existing hypervisors to Acropolis and avoid the high moving costs typically involved. This structure also allows an easy solution for many IT enterprise teams because “AHV and AMF decouple applications from the underlying infrastructure,” enabling choices for organizations’ runtime environments that are ideal for their applications and services.

Nutanix Hyperconverges All the Needs of Enterprise Digital Businesses - YourDailyTech
A chart highlighting the important inclusion of App Mobility Fabric and Distributed Storage Fabric in Nutanix Acropolis
Unlike many competing vendors, Nutanix offers Acropolis as part of its hyperconverged platform with no licensing costs.

In addition to the previously mentioned services, Acropolis realizes that it still needs to have several important service options to cater to enterprises businesses. Among these services is the Acropolis File Services (AFS). AFS is meant to provide “a highly available and massively scalable data repository for a wide range of deployments and applications, including large-scale home directories and user profiles.” Its existence eliminates the necessity for separate machines and management within the enterprise ecosystem. AFS is a 100 percent software-based service that can be deployed and scaled on demand to be customized to the needs of the organization.

With some integrated management to AFS and Prism, Nutanix claims that “AFS can be deployed in minutes with the ability to scale based on demand with a single click.” With the support for mixed platforms within a Nutanix cluster, storage can be scaled independently of computing power. If additional storage is needed or required, a storage heavy or storage only Nutanix node can be incorporated into the cluster. If more performance is required, additional file server VMs can be deployed easily.

AFS aims to ensure data is available during software upgrades, hardware upgrades and unexpected failures. With a well-distributed and intentionally thought-out architecture, there are meant to be no pathway weaknesses for bottlenecks or isolated points of failure in the system. Additionally, with native snapshots and self-service recovery of files services included in the platform, protection and recovering files is meant to be extremely easy. Acropolis File Services can be deployed on stand-alone clusters that are purely meant for file serving or on integrated deployment where virtual machines and data live in the same cluster providing necessary flexibility.

For many enterprises, containers have become a critical part of their architecture that must be included to ensure that business runs smoothly. Acropolis Container Services (ACS) was created to support this need by including simple management systems that include easy deployment of containerized applications on the Nutanix platform and enterprise-class persistent storage for containers. ACS includes “two core capabilities, persistent container volumes and the Nutanix Docker machine driver, which together simplify the process of building a Docker-based container environment on the Nutanix enterprise cloud platform.”

Most enterprises recognize the benefits container structure brings: agility, portability and increased capacity efficiencies for heavy workloads. For container technologies to be able to support enterprise applications, companies require secure enterprise-class persistent storage for containerized applications. Nutanix made sure to incorporate that as part of its ACS infrastructure.

Nutanix guarantees persistent and resilient storage for organizations’ containerized stateful applications such as databases and web caches. Nutanix describes the setup: “persistent container volumes are backed by iSCSI block storage on the Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF) through the Nutanix Acropolis volume plugin for Docker, and get all the benefits of Acropolis DSF such as deduplication, compression, tiering and erasure coding. Moreover, due to the distributed nature of Acropolis DSF, containers can access the storage volumes from anywhere within the cluster and are not confined to a single host.” This setup allows the storage service to be highly resilient and opens up mobility across hosts. With the Nutanix Docker machine driver, developers can quickly and easily spin up Docker hosts on the Nutanix clusters to build and support containerized applications.

Acropolis Block Services (ABS) empowers non-virtualized legacy applications to leverage Nutanix’s Distributed Storage Fabric. Certain applications such as legacy databases still have not been virtualized for an application or licensing reasons; in many enterprise ecosystems today, these applications are isolated in their own silo creating operational inefficiencies and higher costs.

For better performance and more effective costs, organizations could transition these applications to Nutanix architecture and benefit by using an existing or new Nutanix cluster as the storage backend. Additionally, the platform is devised to deliver very high, reliable performance and can be a good option for non-virtualized high-performance database applications. For examples, according to the website, “if a single Nutanix CVM can deliver over 100,000 IOPS, a four-node Nutanix cluster can deliver an aggregated throughput of 400,000 IOPS.”

All the benefits of the Acropolis DSF such as deduplication, compression, tiering, and erasure coding applies to Acropolis Block Services, which provides applications an ideal platform for all non-virtualized workloads. Also, all of Prism’s one-click management simplicity also applies to Acropolis Block Services.

Nutanix and their products are award winning. In Gartner 2015’s Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems, Nutanix was named a leader. This ranking listed Nutanix out in front of competition due to a perceived completeness of vision and strong ability to execute their intended product.

Nutanix Hyperconverges All the Needs of Enterprise Digital Businesses - YourDailyTech
Gartner 2015 Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems
Nutanix emerged in 2011 as a pioneer in the hyperconverged market niche with products that combined servers and storage that could be grown in a scale-out fashion. Starting with three or four nodes customers could add computing and storage in a grid-like way to theoretically limitless scale. It initially supported VMware, but added support for KVM and Hyper-V hypervisors in 2013 and 2014. So, Nutanix has a history in this market niche; other players in this market include Simplivity, Pivot3 and VMware with its EVO:Rail.

One of their competitors, Simplivity also approaches hyperconverged infrastructure with the same attitude of streamlining that Nutanix has. Simplivity’s platform converges more than just computing, networking and storage; SimpliVity eliminates complexity by integrating all IT infrastructure below the hypervisor.” According to their website, “the foundation of SimpliVity’s hyperconverged infrastructure is the revolutionary OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform software and its OmniStack Accelerator Card.”

Another alternative choice is Pivot3 whose “smarter infrastructure for the software-defined data center offers patented erasure coding, distributed scale-out architecture, and a Dynamic Quality of Service (QoS) engine to maximize resource utilization, deliver high availability that performs, and prioritize performance and data protection to the [most important] applications.”

In the future, Nutanix hopes to extend the capabilities of analysis and VM sprawl analysis beyond its current limitations. By improving this capability they hope that workloads tended by Nutanix software can burst into the public cloud sphere. Additionally, they want to make the infrastructure stack easily manageable and invisible so enterprise organizations can worry less and focus more on their businesses.

Nutanix is already a strong competitor in the hyperconverged infrastructure and has ambitions to continue to grow and expand. For a company with experience, awards, well thought-out products, and intentional technological services, consider Nutanix for your data center needs.

Nutanix Hyperconverges All the Needs of Enterprise Digital Businesses - YourDailyTech
Nutanix Partner Technologies and More

Additional Resources: 

Nutanix Hypervisor Sheet

Nutanix Datasheet

Lindsey Cobb

Lindsey Cobb, a Georgia native and former history major, is a technology researcher who is fascinated by past and future of technology. When she is not engrossed in the prophecy of science fiction stories, Lindsey is likely to be planning her next adventurous trip or petting every dog she meets. Contact Lindsey at [email protected]