Author: David (page 1 of 3)

Consider the Source

Ever met one of those people that likes to keep learning long before they’ve faked interest at school and scraped through some exams?  Well recently that has been me.  While waiting for Nutanix upgrades to complete (during the day, no down time – you get the drill) I’ve found time for educational publications and none have made more of an impression than the 1984 classic “The Man With the Gold.”  Is this a self-help book perhaps?  Maybe the musing of a Harvard scholar?  No, this is the autobiography of Mr T.

Yes, that Mr T.

This Mr T.

In one particular chapter he talks about the peer pressure young kids face in his neighbourhoods and the harsh words others will use against them to force them down one particular path.  This is pretty relevant to the line of work I’m in and the customers I talk to so before we continue with this unusual parallel between the musings of a TV star and the world of software read what he wrote:

I know about peer pressure and all that, but I say, “Hey, they called me a sissy because I wouldn’t join a gang. Who was calling me a sissy? Does it make me a sissy because somebody called me a sissy?” […] I’m going to fight if you touch me or hurt me or do harm to my family. But if you call me a bad name, or whatnot, I’m too smart for that. That’s the message the kids need to hear coming from me. I tell them, “If I fought every time somebody called me a name, I would never get out of jail. But I’m disciplined. I’m smarter than that.”

So I tell them, like my mother said, “Consider the source.

When you see who called you the name, then you understand why they’re doing it. Then you don’t have to stoop that low.

In pretty much every meeting I attend stories from the competition come up about Nutanix.  For example, did you know “Nutanix doesn’t scale, has awful performance, loses data if a node or disk fails, uses 100GB of RAM for our CVM” etc etc.  All news to me.

Now, consider the source of those stories and why they’re saying such things.  The competition is out to discredit Nutanix.  Not through proof points but through FUD shaped as fact.  Many do this before we’ve even been able to ask the customer about their business requirements – you know, the real reason people want to talk to vendors – but that’s been the way in business for decades and it’s time it changed.

In the field we prefer the open and honest approach to answering critics and that’s what I’d like to touch on today.

Firstly we can and will always have hundreds of customer references to call upon.  Our customers are our biggest advocates and none of them are told to say anything nice about us, only the truth.  We can confidently say we’ve got all avenues covered from verticals to applications so finding someone “just like you, sir” isn’t going to be too hard thanks to the thousands of customers who’re already in our family.

Next, and this happens quite frequently, we can run live and unfiltered proof of concepts.  This is a great way to get customers hands-on with the product and test the systems and processes that are critical to them.  We’ve ran these on customer sites and on our extensive hosted platform where customers can do everything to a Nutanix cluster remotely from the comfort of their desk, including destructive testing, to ensure it does what it should.

Finally, and this is the one I really love, a number of our SEs in the UK have put together something very special called Tech Bootcamps.  This is a day long session (with food and beer afterwards) where 10 to 20 attendees from different companies can learn the technology together and also perform the testing required for their success.  We run these roughly twice a quarter and they’ve been a huge success so far.  We have seen them cut down the time customers spend ticking off the basics while getting first-hand experience on the finer details pertinent to their business requirements.  In 90% of cases we’re not asked for on-site or hosted POCs after this which helps their own project timelines no end.  All because we’ve addressed all of the FUD from their source quickly and efficiently.

Keep an eye out for these being advertised by the UK team and please come along whether you’re already engaged with us or have something we might be able to help with.  Don’t worry, no sales people are allowed to attend 🙂

Taking this approach has the added value of showing who is the humble, honest and hungry one to work alongside and that goes a long way to building the most important part in any relationship – trust.

So the next time you see FUD thrown in a meeting, before you’ve even met the other vendors, just ask yourself why they’re name calling and how you can get the proof points you need objectively and honestly.

…and if they do keep going on about it here’s a few things you can tell them, from Mr T himself https://youtu.be/omgzk9sQ0eM?t=9s

 

David

XenDesktop on Nutanix CE

Want to see how to install, deploy and update 99 desktops on an Intel NUC running CE while playing a game and getting education on how long a proper cup of tea takes to brew?  Of course!

One of the best things I was involved in while at Citrix was seeing the evolution of the flagship product.  From Metaframe 1.8 when I started to XenDesktop 7 when I left we always drove towards simplicity for the end user and eventually the admin.  It’s this simple idea of taking away complexity and either replacing it with something easy and intuitive or just making once manual tasks automated and invisible.

With XenDesktop 7 Citrix made great steps with Machine Creation Services and right from the start I’ve been a vocal supporter because it fit the beliefs of Citrix so well.  Nutanix brings this simplicity to another level by ensuring that not only is MCS easy to deploy but it’s also predictable and scalable – something that it has struggled with – much in the same way as linked clones did with Horizon View.

Over the last week or so I’ve been playing with my new Intel NUC and seeing what our free Community Edition can do.  I’ve completed some simple provisioning tests because I was naturally curious as to how quickly a little home lab system can spin up desktops.  The speed, as you’ll see below, is rather impressive but in this post I’m going to show you how easy it is to integrate XenDesktop and any Nutanix deployment running our own hypervisor AHV.  The steps you see below are identical to how a full production Nutanix cluster would work so let me take you from zero to hero in 16 minutes.  You’ll see what components need installing on the broker and how to set up a connection to, in this example, a single Nutanix Community Edition node.

In case you’re interested my NUC is a Skull Canyon model with two SSDs and 32GB RAM and was a lovely present from Intel for Nutanix being so bloody awesome.

If you like what you see and would like to try Nutanix CE out yourself then go to this link and register with your work email address: https://www.nutanix.com/products/register

There’s no music or voiceover so pick your favourite SAN killing tune, open a bottle of beer and enjoy one of the most poorly put together videos on the internet not involving cats.

Thanks for watching.

 

David

Invisible Hands

ChickybabyToday, or maybe yesterday depending on when I can be bothered to spellcheck and publish this, we, Nutanix, became a public company. As my favourite basketball announcer Chick Hearn would say…

“The Jello is Jigglin!”

It was a great day for everyone in the Nutanix Nation. My fellow employees, our current and future customers, channel and partners – oh and of course our new extended family of shareholders.

It’s safe to say I did no work at all today – I’m on holiday before you think ill of me – and the buzz on Twitter and Slack has been something else. But while we have very much lived in the moment today it’s made me think of how I came here and that’s what I’d like to tell you both today.

My background was 100% desktop and app virtualisation at Citrix. I joined as a 22 year old when Metaframe 1.8 was launched and left a few weeks after my 36th birthday. I could have stayed there forever. The technology was and still is the market leader, I knew the place like the back of my hand and I worked with an amazing bunch of people.

And yet I did leave. To the shock of many and the confusion of most.

Now, I’d like to tell you that this was a calculated decision born of months of dedicated research and market awareness but that would be wide of the mark. It was chance or as our President Sudheesh says it was Nutanix’s “invisible hand.”

If I think back to how I landed my job at Citrix way back in 2001 it was again out of pure luck. I was looking for a job after a pretty awful time at Speedo (make up your own jokes) and typed in “giz a job” into some search engine. “Giz a job” being slang for the desperate cry for a job from the weak and weary. IT Support 100 miles away from where I lived came up as the first hit and a month later I was driving down the M1 when I was told the good news by the recruiter. I shouted so loudly and proudly I think I scared the other drivers. It then started lightly snowing as the traffic slowed to a halt. The invisible hand at work. I’m not talking about anything religious or fate as don’t believe in either but it makes for a nice story huh?

Anyway, back on track and let’s move to 2014 when the hand would again give me a gentle slap into a new direction.

In 2014 a lot of changes were happening. My daughter popped out in February 3 weeks early (ask me about the water breaking over my Impreza seats and you’ll see a broken man) so stability was absolutely what I needed. After a month off work looking after my partner, daughter and Labrador (and scrubbing the alacantara seats daily) I got an email from a Citrix partner called MTech inviting me to dinner in London for a steak and wine. Never one to refuse anything their MD Martin offers I immediately said yes…and then noticed someone from a company called Nutanix also on the invitation. This was Alan Campbell, employee number 1 outside of the US for Nutanix. The email went something like “Hi Alan, I don’t know anything about you or Nutanix so please put me in touch with an SE so I can fake a conversation with customers in case your name pops up.”

A week later I was sat on a Webex with SE number 2 in the UK, Matt Northam. Matt took me through the proposition and technology and I was blown away. How can something this simple and obvious not already be ‘the way it’s done?’ Only once before did I have a light bulb over my head and that was researching ICA for my Citrix interview. When I saw what Nutanix could do then I knew it would be perfect for all my existing customers. Scale, simplicity and performance. Everything a growing XenDesktop deployment needed.

“Matt that was incredible thank you….” and then I said goodbye and jokingly “I’ll have to keep an eye on your careers page!”

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I met Rob Tribe at a Citrix usergroup. Nutanix needed someone from the Citrix community and asked if I knew anyone who would be interested. I looked behind me at my peers, friends and mentors and thought “screw it, yes, I’m interested. I’m very interested.”

After a phone interview out the back of a Subaru garage, a face to face at a service stop next to a motorway and one with the sales director and SE director I was offered the job. To this day I’m not sure why as I’m still sure I messed up that face to face meeting but something must have stuck.

One thing that I did take into all those interviews was one truth and it’s one I need to feel from people who join us today.

“Nutanix, I believe in what you believe.”

Infrastructure, applications, disaster recovery, change weekends, expansion, performance, setup, monitoring, none of these things should be complicated. Take away the friction, add delight to the simple things and the idea will grow and bloom.

6 weeks after the Webex with Matt I drove away from Citrix for the last time. I walked around site to say goodbyes to those that mattered most, got in my car and exited Chalfont Park for good.

A week later I parked outside a rented office and walked into a small room in Bracknall furnished with two IKEA desks as employee 10 in Western Europe, SE 3. Quite a shock going from a 10,000 employee organisation and working in a listed stately home but I knew we had the right idea and that we would make it a success. The great thing was that all around the world there were other small pockets of Nutants who believed in the same vision and no matter how few people we had in each region and country, together we were immensely strong and focused.

And so two and a bit years later I work in an office with nearly 100 people, in a organisation with 2,500 employees, with thousands of new customers every year and a future that I believe is even brighter that I knew it could be in 2014.

Now some will say it’s luck, other because we are just plain good but to quote the late great Chick Hearn one final time…

“I’d rather be lucky than good and if you’re both look out!”

Look out, indeed.

Sock stuffing

socksnake

For a while now the metrics most infrastructures, including Nutanix, are benchmarked against is IOps – effectively the speed the storage layer can take a write or read request from an application or VM and reply back.  Dating back to the (re)birth of SANs when they began running virtual machines and T1 applications this has been the standard for filling out the shit vs excellent spreadsheet that dictates where to spend all your money.

Recently thanks to some education and a bit of online pressure from peers in the industry, synthetic testing with tools like IOmeter have generally been displaced in favour of real-world testing platforms and methodology.  Even smarter tools such as Jetstress doesn’t give real world results because it focuses on storage and not the entire solution.  Recording and replaying operations to generate genuine load and behaviour is far better. Seeing the impact from the application and platform mean our plucky hero admin can produce a recommendation based on fact rather than fantasy.

Synthetic testing is basically like stuffing a pair of socks down your pants; it gets a lot of attention from superficial types but its only a precursor to disappointment later down the line when things get serious.

In this entry I want to drop into your conscious mind the idea that very soon performance stats will be irrelevant to everyone in the infrastructure business.  Everyone.  You, me, them, him, her, all of us will look like foolish dinosaurs if we sell our solutions based on thousands of IOps, bandwidth capacity or low latency figures.

“My God tell me more,” I hear (one of) you (mumble with a shrug).  Well consider what’s happened in hardware in the last 5ish years just in storage.  We’ve gone from caring about how fast disks spin, to what the caching tier runs on, to tiering hot data in SSD and now the wonders of all-flash.  All in 5 or so years.  Spot a trend?  Bit of Moore’s Law happening?  You bet, and it’s only going to get quicker, bigger and cheaper.  Up next new storage mediums like NVMe and Intel’s 3D XPoint will move the raw performance game on even further, well beyond what 99% of VMs will need.  Nutanix’s resident performance secret agent Michael Webster (NPX007) wrote a wonderful blog about the upcoming performance impacts this new hardware will have on networking so I’d encourage you to read it.  The grammar is infinitely better for starters.

So when we get to a point, sooner than you think, when a single node could rip through >100,000 IOps with existing generations of Intel CPUs and RAM where does that leave us when evaluating platforms?  Not synthetic statistics that’s for sure.

Oooow IO!

Oooow IO!

By taking away the uncertainty of application performance almost overnight we can start reframe the entire conversation to a handful of areas:

Simplicity

Scalability

Predictability

Insightfulness

Openness

Delight

Over the next few weeks (maybe longer as I’m on annual leave soon) I’m going to try to tackle each one of these in turn because for me the way systems are evaluated is changing and it will only benefit the consumer and the end customer when the industry players take note.

Without outlandish numbers those vendors who prefer their Speedos with extra padding will quickly be exposed.

See you for part 1 in a while.

A dip into Prism

A few weeks ago I was given the lovely task of attending a meeting at the last minute with no preparation time and a 3 hour drive just after I got back from annual leave.  The meeting was only for an hour so I decided to record a short 10 minute video in the morning to take them through what they’d actually be doing on a Nutanix cluster from day to day.  Knowing the type of customer I knew there would be no internet connection let alone a 4G signal.

I could have just given a normal powerpoint pitch and sent them back to sleep on a beach (which is where I still wanted to be) but I wanted to keep them awake and also elevate the conversation away from dull stuff like hardware and storage.  Usability, simplicity and time to value was the intention here so click below and leave a comment if it made sense to you.  No voice over as I’m too cheap to buy a program for my Mac that’ll do it 🙂

Do the Evolution

*** Updated for v4.6 ***

evoluOver the last 18 months I’ve seen some amazing innovations come into the Nutanix platform but I’ve only personally seen half of the story.  Before I joined we made some staggering strides and I’d like to take you through those today.

Below are some abbreviated entries from all of the release nodes dating back to NOS 2.6 back in January 2013.  I’ve highlighted some of the ones I consider to be important milestones in bold but these are open for discussion and I’m probably wrong anyway 🙂

In this short plagiarised post I wanted to illustrate what can be achieved when approaching a problem with a software first mentality and riding the wave of Moore’s Law.  While we’ve brought on new hardware models, ditched Fusion-IO cards for SSDs and partnered with Intel to make it all sing a sweet tune the biggest strides have been made in our famous non-disruptive rolling software upgrades.  Whether you bought a node this year or two years ago all of these features should be available to you.

The next time your SAN vendor (or any vendor) claims they’re constantly adding value to their customers get them to put together something like this post because it’s only when you look back do you appreciate how much you’ve already accomplished.

 

 

NOS 2.6 (January 2013)

  • Genesis, a new management framework that replaces scripts run from the vMA, which is no longer required.
  • Support for 2nd-generation Fusion-io cards.

NOS 2.6.3

  • Nutanix Complete Cluster 2.6.3 supports vSphere 5.1.

NOS 2.6.4

  • Support for Intel PCIe-SSD cards is available as a factory-installed option.

NOS 3.0 (September 2013)

  • VM-centric backup and replication
  • Local and remote backup of VMs.
  • Bidirectional replication.
  • Planned and emergency failover from one site to another.
  • Consistency groups of multiple VMs that have snapshots made at the same time.
  • Scheduling, retention, and expiration policies for snapshots.
  • Compression
  • Inline compression of containers.
  • Post-process compression of containers with a configurable delay.
  • Support for NX-3000
  • Dual 10 GbE network interfaces.
  • Higher maximum memory configuration.
  • Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs.
  • Improved hardware replacement procedures.
  • CentOS for Controller VM.
  • Adherence to requirements specified in the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)
  • Security Technical Information Guides (STIGs).

NOS 3.1 (January 2014)

  • New entry NX-1000 series platform
  • New deep storage NX-6000 series platform
  • New higher performance model in the NX-3050 series.
  • ESX 5.1 support
  • Mixed nodes in a cluster

3.5 (December 2014)

  • New HTML5 based administration interface
  • Active Directory/LDAP authentication
  • Introduction of RESTful API
  • User-configurable policies for frequency and alert-generating events
  • Expanded alert messages
  • Support for user-provided SSL certificates
  • User-manageable SSH keys and Controller VM lock down
  • SNMPv3 support and Nutanix MIB
  • Faster display of real-time data
  • More intuitive nCLI command syntax and enhanced output
  • Deduplication of guest VM data on the hot tiers (RAM/Flash)
  • Optimization of linked clones
  • Container and vDisk space reservations
  • Compression of remote replication network traffic
  • Automatically add new disks to single storage pool clusters
  • Storage Replication Adapter (SRA) for VMware Site Recovery Manager
  • General availability of KVM hypervisor
  • Technology preview of Hyper-V
  • Automated metadata drive replacement
  • Improved resiliency in cases of node or metadata drive failure
  • Field installation of replacement nodes

NOS 3.5.1

  • Support for the new NX-7000 (GPU platform), NX-6020, NX-6060, NX-6080, NX-3060, and NX-3061 models
  • Support for vSphere 5.5
  • Analysis dashboard expanded list of monitored metrics
  • DR dashboard expanded protection domain details
  • Storage dashboard deduplication summary
  • Application consistent snapshots

NOS 3.5.2

  • Support for Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V
  • Support for application consistent snapshots in a protection domain
  • Virtual IP address, a single IP address for external access to a cluster
  • Certificate-based client authentication
  • Customised banner message in Prism
  • Enhancements to the Nutanix Prism web console
  • Expanded alert messages

NOS 3.5.3

  • Roles based access control using LDAP and Active Directory
  • Support for hypervisor lock down
  • Automatic reattachment to the Cassandra ring for replaced nodes
  • Improvements to the Stargate health monitor to minimize I/O timeouts during rolling upgrades, balance the load among nodes during failover, and facilitate high availability enhancements
  • Removal of the Avahi software dependency
  • The Nutanix SRA for VMware SRM supports vSphere 5.1 and 5.5 and SRM 5.1 and 5.5
  • NCC release 0.4.1

NOS 3.5.4

  • New entry NX-1020 platform
  • Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) support for Hyper-V hosts

NOS 4.0 (April 2014)

  • Feature based licensing introduced (Starter, Pro, Ultimate)
  • Disaster recovery support for Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V
  • Prism Central introduced to manage and monitor multiple global clusters from one GUI
  • Automated rolling NOS upgrades
  • Automatic block awareness introduced for further data protection
  • Scheduled and remote archiving of snapshots via Protection Domains
  • Deduplication for the capacity tier
  • Amazon Web Services integration for storing remote snapshots
  • Powershell commandlets for cluster management and automation
  • Redundancy Factor 3 (RF3) introduced allowing two nodes to fail simultaneously without data risk

NOS 4.1 (September 2014)

  • Metro availability introduced enabling synchronous replication
  • Prism UI configuration of Cloud Connect for replicating VMs to Amazon Web Services
  • Improved health monitoring of data protection
  • Data at rest encryption with self-encrypting drives
  • Require setting password on first access to Controller VM and hypervisor host
  • STIG compliance for Controller VM
  • Audit trail for all user activity
  • Hypervisor upgrade from Prism UI
  • One-click upgrade for NCC utility
  • Tech preview of converged management for managing VMs on KVM
  • Support for Prism Central on Hyper-V
  • Nutanix SCOM management pack introduced
  • Nutanix plugin for XenDesktop

NOS 4.1.1

  • Network Time Protocol vulnerability fixed
  • Simplified certificate replacement in the Prism web console

NOS 4.1.2

  • Vormetric key management server support
  • Improved performance and reliability for virtual machine bootup and storage I/O in a KVM (Now called Acropolis)
  • Significantly reduced the NOS image size (from 2 GB to under 1 GB)
  • Connection-level redirection for the Acropolis hypervisor implimented

NOS 4.1.3 (June 2015)

  • Nutanix Cluster Check (NCC) version 2.0
  • Additional key management vendors for use with self-encrypted drives (SEDs)
  • Support for VMware ESXi 6.0
  • Image Service for Acropolis for importing non-Acropolis VMs
  • Synchronous Replication (SyncRep) for Hyper-V Clusters
  • Time Synchronisation Script to control time drift
  • Data at Rest Encryption for NOS clusters with Acropolis and Hyper-V hosts
  • Security timeout setting for Prism
  • Network Switch Configuration for Traffic Statistics Collection
  • Hypervisor Support for NX-6035C storage-only/compute lite node
  • Acropolis, Hyper-V, and ESXi mixed cluster support
  • Erasure Coding tech preview
  • Acropolis High Availability tech preview
  • Acropolis Volume Management tech preview

NOS 4.1.4

  • Nutanix Cluster Check (NCC) version 2.0.1.
  • Mix Asynchronous DR with Metro Availability (Synchronous DR)on the same VM.
  • Data Protection Enhancement: 1-Hour RPO performance and latency
  • Acropolis Enhancement: Restore VM Locality
  • Hypervisor Support for NX-6035C
  • Disk firmware upgrade process improvements

NOS 4.1.5.1

  • Nutanix Cluster Check (NCC) version 2.0.2.
  • SyncRep for Hyper-V Clusters Update/VSS Support

NOS 4.5.0.2 (October 2015)

  • Bandwidth Limit on Schedule for remote cluster replication

    It's evolution, baby

    It’s (Lancer) Evolution, Baby!

  • Cloud Connect for Azure
  • Common Access Card Authentication
  • Default Container and Storage Pool upon cluster creation
  • Erasure Coding
  • Hyper-V configuration through Prism Web Console
  • Image Service Now Available in the Prism Web Console
  • MPIO Access to iSCSI Disks (Windows Guest VMs)
  • Network Mapping for VMs started on a remote site
  • Nutanix Cluster Check (NCC) 2.1, which includes many new checks and functionality.
  • NX-6035C Clusters Usable as a Target for Replication
  • Prism Central support for Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV)
  • Prism Central Scalability improvements to 100 clusters and 10,000 VMs or 20,000 vDisks
  • Foundation 3.0 imaging capabilities
  • The Nutanix SNMP MIB database improvements
  • SNMP service logs are now written to the following log file:/home/nutanix/data/logs/snmp_manager.out
  • Rolling upgrades for ESXi hosts with minor release versions
  • VM High Availability in Acropolis
  • Windows Guest VM Failover Clustering
  • Self-Service File Restore tech preview

Acropolis Base Software 4.6 (formerly NOS) (Feb 2016)

  • 1-click upgrades to BIOS, BMC Firmware & Foundation via Prism
  • Windows and linux guest customisation for sysprep and cloudinit
  • Acropolis Drivers for OpenStack
  • Volume/Disk groups added to Prism and RESTful API
  • Convert Cluster Redundancy Factor from RF-2 to RF-3
  • Cross Hypervisor Disaster Recovery (prod ESXi to DR AHV for example)
  • Erasure encoding improvements for more usable capacity savings
  • Snapshot and DR for volume groups
  • CommVault integration for AHV
  • New release of Nutanix Cluster Check software
  • Nutanix Guest tools
    • Nutanix Guest Agent (NGA) service
    • File Level Restore (FLR) CLI
    • Nutanix VM Mobility Drivers (multi-hypervisor DR)
    • VSS requestor and hardware provider for Windows VMs
    • Application-consistent snapshot for Linux VMs
  • Performance increases on ALL nodes we’ve ever sold (IO, BW etc) some 400% (no BS!)
  • Self-Service Restore for end users
  • Non-disruptive VM Migration for Metro Availability Planned Failover
  • *In-place hypervisor conversion (1-click from ESXi to AHV, for example)
  • *Acropolis File Services (NAS file system all from Prism)

*Tech Preview Feature.

 

The consumable infrastructure (that’s idiot proof…)

Just give the customer what they need

Just give the customer what they need!

Over the last couple of months I’ve had my first experiences with Acropolis in the field. Both quite different but they highlighted two important design goals in the product; simplicity of management and machine migration.

Before I begin I want to take you back a few months to talk about Acropolis itself.  If you know all about that you can do two things:

  1. Skip this section and move on
  2. Go to YouTube and watch some classic Sesame Street and carry on reading with a warm glow only childhood muppets can bring.

I knew you couldn’t resist a bit of Grover but now you’re back I’ll continue.

Over the summer Acropolis gained a lot of happy customers both new and old.  In fact some huge customers were already using it since January thanks to a cunning soft release and that continues into our Community Edition too.

The main purpose of Acropolis was to remove the complexity and unnecessary management modern hypervisors have developed and to let customers take a step back and simply ask “what am I trying to achieve?”

It’s an interesting question and one that is often posed when too deeply lost down the rabbit hole.  For someone like me who used to spend far too long looking at problems with a proberbial microscope there’s a blossoming clarity in the way we approached these six words.  The journey inside Nutanix to Acropolis was achieved by asking our own question:

“For hypervisors, if you had to start again, what would you better and what would you address first?”

Our goal was to make deploying an entire virtual environment, regardless of your background and skill set, intuitive and consumable.  Our underlying goal for everything we do is simplicity and while we’ve achieved this with storage many years ago (which we call as our ‘distributed storage fabric’) the hypervisor was the next logical area to improve.

Developing our own management layer and beginning its work on top of our own hypervisor was a logical step and that’s what brought us to where we are today with the Acropolis Hypervisor.  You can see a great video walk through of the experience of setting up VMs and virtual networks in this video.

 

Anyway on to my first customer story.

Back in summer I spent time working with manufacturing company on their first virtualisation project.  They were an entirely physical setup using some reasonably modern servers and storage but due to many reasons they’d put off moving to a virtual platform for many years.  One of the most glaring reasons was one I hear a lot here as well as in my previous role at Citrix; “it worked yesterday just fine so why change?”  While this is true I could still be walking two miles to the local river to beat my clothes against rocks to clean them.  But I chose to throw them in a basket and (probably by magic) they get cleaned.  If my girlfriend is reading this, it could be my last blog…

Part of the resistance is related to human apathy but their main concern was having to relearn new skills, which takes focus and resources away from their business, and it simply being too time consuming.  I completely agreed.  They wanted simplicity.  They needed Acropolis.

Now, I could have done what many would and do a presentation, demo and finishing Q&A but I chose to handle our meeting slightly differently.  To allay their fears I let them work out how to create a network and create a new VM.  As we went I took them through the concepts of what a vCPU was and how it related to what they wanted to achieve for the business.  If someone with no virtualisation experience can use Acropolis without any training there can’t be any better sign off on its simplicity.  We were in somewhat of a competitive situation as well where ‘the others’ were pushing vCenter for all the management.  The comparison between the two was quite clear and while I’ll freely admit that feature to feature vSphere as many more strings to its bow, that wasn’t what the customer needed and isn’t the approach we are taking with the development of Acropolis.  We had no wish to just make a better horse and cart and the customer was extremely grateful for that.

One happy customer done, one to go…

Our second customer story, dear reader (because there is only one of you), was already a virtualisation veteran and had been using ESXi for a few years before they decided to renew their rather old hardware and hopefully do something different with their infrastructure.  Their existing partner, who’d been implementing traditional three-tier platforms previous to this chose to put Nutanix in front of them and see if we could ease their burden on management overhead, performance and operating expenditure.

While the simplicity of Acropolis was a great win for them and made up most of their decision it was how we migrated their ESXi VMs on to Acropolis that really struck me most and that’s what I’m going to summarise now.

This was my first V2V migration so I needed something simple as much as the customer and partner did and wow did we deliver.  Here is everything we needed to do to migrate:

  1. Setup the Nutanix cluster and first container
  2. Whitelist the vSphere hosts in Prism
  3. Mount the Nutanix container on the existing vSphere hosts
  4. Copy the VM to the Nutanix container
  5. Create a new VM is Prism and select Clone from NDFS then pick the cloned disk from step 4
  6. Start the VM and connect to the console
  7. Strip out the VMware tools
  8. Install the VirtIO drivers
  9.  Go to 4 until all other VMs are done

Now of course doing a V2V also has a few extra parts such as ensuring any interdependent services are migrated as a group but really that’s all you need to do.

The clever bit is the Image Service.  This is a rather smart subset of tools that convert disks like the vmdk in this example to ones used by Acropolis.  There’s no requirement for any other steps or management to get a VM across and the customer had their entire estate completed in an afternoon.  To me, that’s pretty damn impressive.

I’m really pleased with what engineering have done in such a short period of time and to think where this can go is quite amazing.

 

And now we come to the point explaining why I said this stuff was “idiot proof.”  I can only describe what happened as an organic fault in the system also known as a cock-up on my part.  I hold my hands up and say I was a dumb-dumb.  As HR don’t read this, and to be honest it’s just you and I anyway, I should be ok.

While we were preparing the cluster for the VM migrations I decided to upgrade the Nutanix software to the latest version and while this was progressing smoothly node by node I somehow managed to…erm…hmm…well……I sort of sent a ctrl+alt+del to the IPMI console.  Call it brain fade.  This obviously rebooted the very host it was upgrading right in the middle of the operation.  After a lot of muttering and baritone swearing I waited for the node to come back up to see what mess I had created…

Here’s where engineering and all our architects need a huge pat on the back.  All I had to do was restart genesis on the node and the upgrade continued.  What makes this even more amazing is that while I was mashing the keyboard to self destruction the partner was already migrating VMs – during my screw up the migration was already in progress!  If I’d have done this to any other non-Nutanix system on the planet it would have been nothing short of catastrophic.  However, in this case there was no disruption, downtime and if I hadn’t let off a few choice words at myself nobody would have known.  That is frankly amazing to me and shows just how good we’ve designed our architecture.

So how can I summarise Acropolis?  It (and Nutanix) isn’t just a consumer-grade infrastructure, it’s also idiot proof and I for one am very grateful for it 🙂

XenDesktop on Acropolis!

invisible

Just over a year ago I was hired away from Citrix to bring my skills and experience in desktop virtualisation to Nutanix.  Proof, if any was needed, that a well rehearsed and embellished interview can get you anywhere in this world.  Thankfully only three people including me read this blog so we’ll just keep that between us…

From that first day back in June 2014 I wanted to take something back to the Citrix customers and community because my reason for joining was down to how wonderfully Nutanix’s platform and its vision suits desktop virtualisation.  It is a perfect marriage and today I’m going to talk about something genuinely exciting for me and hopefully you too.

Today Nutanix and Citrix announced support for XenDesktop (and XenApp!!!!) on Acropolis and I could not be happier about it.  This is a huge deal for any customer running the number one EUC product in the market because it not only continues to solve the outstanding issues left by an archaic three-tier architecture it means that from top to bottom it can unshackle them from what was previously a finger in the air pointing at an estimation of performance, scaleability and cost.  Today is the first time a virtualised Citrix environment can be simplified from the hypervisor layer and married to an architecture that can be delivered and scaled with absolute confidence.  Also don’t forget that NetScaler VPX and ShareFile are also fully supported so a fully loaded Citrix stack is very much here.

Our distributed storage and app mobility fabric simplifies IT infrastructures.  It allows limitless scale, predictable performance, deep monitoring and analytics and no single point of degradation or failure.  After all VDI is only really ‘seen’ when it goes wrong so why put up with anything less?  Many consider VDI to be a second class citizen in the enterprise because “it’s just desktops” but it’s where 95%+ of productivity apps run within a business.  VDI needs to be up there with the CRM, DB, billing and mail applications of this world.  It’s a tier one workload and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

With Acropolis anyone can deploy build, manage and secure VMs in a matter of minutes with almost no training at all.  From rack to deployed in 30 mins or less – I do it in 10 but I forgive you.  Simplicity is power, and all that.

If you’re still a bit hazy on how tricky VDI environments can be to glue together let me refresh your memories about the stack of divisions you have to persuade to coexist:

— The End User —
— Endpoint Devices —
— Virtual Application —
— Virtual Desktop —
— Hypervisor —
— Server —
— Storage Fabric —
— Storage Controller —
— Storage Shelves —

Each one of those stacks behind the end user have to be carefully crafted to work together while being managed and updated (sometimes) by different teams.  Easy it is not.

Even if you forget the complexities with traditional storage and servers actually configuring the hypervisors and their typically clunky management could take days to get right – if at all.  With Acropolis it’s done in a few minutes.  It’s no coincidence that the simplicity of setting up XenDesktop is a great fit for Acropolis.  Leveraging technologies like data locality and shadow clones means that even under the most harsh situations the XenDesktop site will remain stable, available and always have best in class performance.

The job of a desktop admin is to deliver applications to users to make business’ function more efficiently.  In it’s most simplistic form end user computing  puts application icons on desktops for people to click on and consume.  There is no shame in boiling VDI or app virtualisation down to that sharp example.  The beauty is in how it’s delivered but also hiding the complexities and details from the end user; making it invisible.

Up until today the building blocks of VDI were far too visible within organisations.  They were disruptive, aided procrastination and evangelised finger-pointing.  Now, Citrix and XenDesktop have joined the Nutanix invisible infrastructure and the real measure will be that users never notice.  Other than high-fiveing the IT teams of course.

Here’s the link to the first announcement and the Citrix Ready page and if you want to know more there’s a webinar on the 22 of September that I would love to see you at.

 

David

Community Edition Codes!!!!

hug

As promised, here’s your chance to get your hands on the Nutanix Community Edition.  Early access, no queuing, in-there-before-the-riff-raff goodness.

Just leave a comment below with your email address and I’ll send one out.

Please remember to use your business email address and details when signing up at http://www.nutanix.com/products/community-edition/register/ otherwise it will be rejected.

The first 10 people only and if you already have one please don’t be an arse and do it again because I will send in Steven Poitras to crush your soul.

 

*** ALL SOLD! ***

 

David

 

Size matters but it’s ok to be smaller

Here’s a short post without the usual rubbish I write.  Imagine that!  Well, my dinner is nearly ready, it’s a Friday, I’ve got 4 cold beers in the fridge and the daughter is trying to eat crayons.

I’ll be brief.

I’m part way through designing an infrastructure for a new customer who is looking to replace 39 IBM hosts and a whole mess of SANs and associated fabric.  In total they need five racks to put it all together while consuming 120TB of usable storage.  It’s an old environment and is ready for the future.

For legacy reasons they split their environment into three separate ESX clusters; one for the DMZ, one for SQL and one for the remaining production VMs.

Ignoring requirements for DR for a moment here’s what I need to put all that together and for your viewing pleasure I’m going to show you the output of our new sizing tool that we at Nutanix and our partners use to figure out what fits best.

Remember we have 5 racks filled with crap to take out.

To keep with with the separation the customer wants I’ve done three designs but they can all be part of the same cluster and will all fit into a single rack too.

Below you can see the specs of each cluster and the amount of VMs each one needs to support.  I’ve included the rack size just for giggles 🙂

 

Main VMware Cluster

Main VMware cluster sizing

Main VMware rack

SQL VMware Cluster

SQL VMware cluster

SQL VMware Rack

DMZ VMware Cluster

DMZ VMware Cluster

DMZ VMware Rack

 

So there you go.  5 racks down to 20U.

I’ll add some more notes to this about the various models and you can probably tell the the first cluster is using our new compute-lite 6035-C KVM nodes to bump up the total amount of storage.  We’re doing this because they need far more storage than compute and to add more nodes just wouldn’t make commercial sense.  But that’s the beauty of Nutanix, you just add what you need.

 

Anyway dinner and beer is calling.  Enjoy and stop buying SANs, for your own sake.

 

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