Category: Nutanix (Page 2 of 3)

Stuff about Nutanix

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

…so said Leonardo Da Vinci.  Why make things hard?  Why make your own life harder when with some effort everything can be simplified and better.  This is our approach and it touches Nutanix employees as well as our customers.Leon says relax

The one thing that still staggers customers about Nutanix is how flipping easy it is to get blocks installed into their environment.  To give you an idea of how I do it and the time it takes from getting a completely blank (or even previously configured proof of concept box) installed, take a look at this:

  1. Image the server.  We and our partners use a tool called Foundation which pushes a vanilla image of ESX, Hyper-V or KVM down to the nodes with Nutanix software configured. This takes 50 mins because we do it over a 1GB switch and is automated.
  2. Configure the new cluster.   Here we just add in IP addresses for the hosts, management ports and Nutanix CVM. This takes 2 mins via an intuitive webpage or you can do it via the NCLI if you want to appear a true geek.
  3. Create the storage pool.  Another 14 seconds.
  4. Create the first container, its policies and present to hosts.  This final stage took me 22 seconds.

That’s it.

Total time for me is under an hour.  Total time for the customer under 10 minutes (if you include racking time!)

Now we’re at the stage where the customer can start building VMs (aka doing the things that matter) while the infrastructure becomes invisible – just as it should be.

At no point do they need to revisit the storage other than to create new containers or change policies.

Go order something from VCE, NetApp, EMC or any SAN and try doing the same thing.  In fact try to do the same thing with any hyper converged competitor as well.

This is the power of simplicity and it’s only going to get easier for our customers.

There’s a storm coming. Big deal…

Remember the ominous end scene in The Terminator (yes there’s a ‘the’ in it) where Sarah Connor is showing how badly prepared she is traveling to Mexico without even a simple Spanish phrase book?  “There’s a storm coming,” says the little boy.  Sarah, looking more than a little nervous, drives off into the future to meet the rain clouds head on.  Smart move?

Bad preparation

To summarise she was badly prepared for where she was going and what was to come.  I didn’t even see a rain coat in the Jeep she was driving and don’t get me started on the blatant lack of a roof.  “There’s a storm coming and you’re wearing the wrong clothes, your car will rust from the floor panel out and frankly you should have learned basic conversational Spanish before you left,” is what the boy should have said.  His dad probably warned him away from people like that soon after.

Anyway, storms are a ballache at the best of times and generally the ones you and I know about in our working life are boot-storms.  Just like the type that’ll soak you to your skin and prove that a fancy bandana is no replacement for an umbrella we need to adopt the right technology to overcome this inevitable problem and that’s what I’m going to address today.

This morning I was with a customer who’s looking to start a VDI deployment with 500 desktops and grow to around 3000 depending on the take-up in the business.  The major headache they’d read about was IOps and in particular the rather nasty side effect booting all their VMs at once has on the systems as a whole.  SANs are not very good at serving IOps.  They’re not that great at anything other than storage really and that’s why there are lots of bandage technologies out there to cover up the holes and disguise how awful the performance can be if you tried to run VMs from them.  Now, I’m all for keeping massive investments going so if you want to throw some further expense in front of a SAN you’re locked into for four more years go right ahead.  Come and talk to me when the steak dinner invites and massive renewals come in.

Thankfully today the customer was ready for real change which is why I was discussing Nutanix’s approach to VDI and all the other wonderful challenges desktop virtualisation brings with it.

Boot storms to us at Nutanix are nothing more than a light shower with a raincoat on.  Preparation to mitigate the IO spikes for any amount of desktops is built in to our product and removes the worry for the customer.  Let me explain…

In a typical compute+SAN architecture you have a bunch of servers running VMs.  They talk down through a bunch of storage fabric to a couple of storage controller heads and then down to the disk shelves.  The shelves can only server up a finite amount of IO.  If you boot 10 machines that’ll be fine.  100 could probably work OK too.  Go to 200 and above and you’re looking at major stress being put onto everything below those servers.  The fabric might not be saturated but you can bet your last weather-proof North Face coat that the disk shelves or controllers will be.  The more VMs that boot, the slower the whole system will become as each VM has to wait for IO to be served.  Now of course you could stagger boot times, do them all at 4am before people come into work but how about the time when you need to fire them all up immediately after invoking DR or applying a critical patch during the working day.  Big trouble, Sarah.  Big trouble.

Because Nutanix is a distributed platform our approach to boot storms are to look to tackle it per node.  If we assume 80 to 120 VDI VMs could  run on a single node that’s the only thing we need to calculate for.  Once we know how many VMs each node can handle in terms of boot and general density (I’ve had IOmeter tests show 25,000 random reads and 18,000 random writes on regular 3000 series nodes a couple of weeks back) then all we have to do is add more of the same node type to get to the desired total VMs.  That’s how we scale and design clusters.  It’s that easy.

Here’s a diagram from The Nutanix Bible on how Shadow Clones work.  Click it to go to the article.

Shadow Clones

Because we read and write locally, or in some cases read over the 10GiB switch, the majority of all IO is done locally to the VMs and via the SSD tier.  Even better is that if we see blocks of data that are required by lots of VMs on a node we’ll kick in Shadow Clones to ensure that all VMs get that data localised right away.  Data locality is the key here but it’s only one of the technologies we use to make sure the cluster as a whole is predictable and efficient.  The best part is all of this is done on the fly without any administration.  We take care of it invisibly and without disruption.

So next time you start to worry about storms, just select the right clothing before you go playing in the rain and you’ll be just fine.


Gracias por leer.


Robocop_Mediabreak_Casey_Wong_jpg_878×473_pixelsYou may well be a loser.  If you look after a SAN for virtualisation you’re a loser.

Now, you’re going to take that the wrong way, I know that.  My point is you’re losing time.  Time from doing more productive things like shopping on Amazon, getting a high score on Forza or making a cup of tea.  You may even be better suited to getting some real work done.

Anyway, to show you just how flipping easy Nutanix makes creating storage for your hypervisor I recorded a very simple video.  In it you’ll see how to provision a container which to ESX is a datastore.  I’ll also show you how that presents itself to ESX, how to unmount it from a particular host and also add some policies around dedupe and compression.

If you can use an iPhone you can use Nutanix.

“Simplify, then add lightness”

Colin Chapman

I’ve been working with an organisation for the past few months and I’m pleased to say they’re now a Nutanix customer and on the way to becoming a case study too.  They face challenges that more traditional customers would never experience but are critical hurdles to the way they run their business, so I thought you’d like to know a bit more about it and why Nutanix was such a great fit for them.

Colin Chapman, who founded Lotus (no they’re not the customer in question!) in 1948, had a brilliant way of describing his philosophy for motor cars:  “Simplify, then add lightness.”  It typified the approach Chapman took to achieve maximum performance without the anchors opposition cars were still proverbially dragging around behind them on road and track.

In many ways this reflects how Nutanix operates as well; we cut away the fat from administration, unnecessary complexity from the architecture and use commodity components (a bit like an Esprit then?) to ensure the best performance and reliability (so not an Esprit after all…)

Anyway, back to my customer.  They operate out of a site here in the UK but have ‘remote offices’ across the world.  The big difference to the shops you and I have worked in is that their IT systems are constantly traversing the globe.  Nothing stays still for long and while they’re online they have to be at maximum performance for a wide variety of workloads while also being in constant communication back to the UK.  It’s a very testing environment to say the least.  Before we put our arm around them they were a NetApp shop with all of the usual bits of hardware, administration and software costs that go along side it.  They also used the SAN to host their virtual machines on (I know, how 2003) which was just not giving them the performance they needed.

The first task was to show how we stacked up against their current architecture so I built a small three node cluster in around 10 minutes (including making two cups of tea) at their headquarters and within half an hour we had VMs migrated and running IOmeter and SQL benchmarking.

“It’s around ten times faster,” they said, after a week of testing.  Not bad for a single 2U block, huh?

By the way, setting up IOmeter in our distributed architecture is a bit different to the usual way of hammering a SAN so if you’re interested to know how just let me know and I’ll see if I can publish it.

So performance was a given and something that I had very little worry about and through these tests and a few failure simulations (cable kicks!) we showed them that our software could be relied upon in a far more volatile environment than a cosy datacenter.  We began to talk about the remote sites and that’s where the fun began and, coming back to todays theme, why I’m talking about lightness.

Exactly half of their Nutanix investment was to be in transit  and for the pleasure of doing so the customer is charged around $290 per KG by the shipping companies.  That’s a very expensive bag of sugar, don’t you think?  Now, imagine three racks filled with UPSs, switches, fabric, servers, NetApp controllers and disk shelves.  How many bags of sugar would you need to buy to balance all that?  A hell of a lot.

What if you could remove more than half of that weight instantly?

What if by using Nutanix you could save $150,000+ per year just in transportation costs?

That tastes rather sweet, don’t you agree?

The staggering fact is that by saving such a massive sum of money, in just three years the cost of the Nutanix solution is practically zero.

Ten times the performance, zero single points of failure, no limitations of scale and a constantly evolving platform to meet the needs of today and and the demands of tomorrow.

For nothing.

*** UPDATE ***

The customer in question is Williams Martini Racing and here’s a link to the case study.

PVS vs MCS (again)

Your move, creep

A few weeks back a colleague of mine, Martijn wrote an article regarding Citrix Provisioning Services.  Recently Citrix came across, by accident, a rather natty new feature where by the write cache could be homed in RAM but also spill over into HDD should it become saturated.  Quite clever and obviously blisteringly fast if all the writes and reads sat in RAM all the time.

Some of the comments on his blog are really interesting and, as I found when I was at Citrix, the PVS vs MCS debate has many sides.

I think the point Martijn is trying to make is while there are many ways of doing things the majority of people are striving to do things better which could be less complexity, more integration to the application and systems that are easier to implement.

I was at Citrix long before Ardence was acquired and while it’s a great technology to deploy servers and VMs from it’s not one to implement unless you are 100% in control of it and all the other ancillary services it needs. If you are then great but the upgrade path was a real pain before and when it’s the core system keeping things working that can be a bitter pill to swallow.  MCS was driven by a requirement for simplicity, actually by how easy Linked Clones were to push out.  It used to take several days to get a small XD POC up and running and that was all down to PVS.  MCS reduced that to a few hours because we were doing things the way customers understood.  MCS has grown up a lot since the first FMA implementations too and scales just as well as PVS, with a lot less moving parts.  It’s without complexity, integrated into XD and is overall a simple concept to adopt by customers.

PVS is non of the above. DHCP, networking, target config not 100% spot on? Potential issues. That’s before the PVS config even gets implemented.

To address the latest feature in PVS, while sticking everything RAM sounds good you have to be extremely accurate on how it’s implemented and know pretty well how things will change in the future. There’s also the question about the HDD that it still needs – place that back on a SAN and you’re back to square one, put it on a local HDD and no easy live migration, at least not out of the box*. A rather large issue if upper management have a session on the XA at risk after a hardware failure on a host.

Hoenstly I couldn’t care less whether someone uses PVS or MCS so long as it works but in my experience technology needs to be easy to adopt, change and grow. Stick PVS on a Nutanix cluster and we address some of those things. Put MCS on anything and it does the same. Put MCS on a Nutanix cluster and all of them go away.

There’s a place for both and the customer should decide which they want and a consultant (vendor or not) should be there to support and advise regardless of whether it benefits them or not.

We’re all in the same fight and the enemy is not change.


*Thanks to Jarian Gibson for pointing out that you could do a vMotion/live migration with a local HDD through other means using this sort of thing.  Additional steps we mitigate in PVS or MCS 🙂

A marriage made of convergence

MAWAGEDearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two former foes.  Through the church of Dell and the readings of the Nutanix Bible we bring together Citrix and VMware who, after many years of agreeing to disagree, have found a common ground from where both can smooth their once choppy waters.

While both of our (possibly unaware) fiancees argue and bicker at times, they crave the same things in life; happiness, prosperity, a more simple existence and one that extends further than before, and I’m pleased to announce the nuptials appear to be well under way.  Even if they’ve been mailed in rather than being completed in person.

In case you weren’t already aware Dell signed an OEM agreement with Nutanix to ship a new range of servers, powered by our software, called the XC Series starting in November this year.  For me this is really great as Dell has a huge reach and dependable name and for them to take on a reletively young upstart such as ourselves to lead their own charge into the hyper-converged world, it is a real tip of the cap to what we’ve done so far.  But anyway, back to the chapel…

Today a couple of blogs came out from Citrix and VMware praising the new XC which is odd on a few of levels but very pleasing on many more.  You see from the Citrix side of the church they have some really good things to say:

citrix-580x224_tcm21-26525“the new Dell XC Series of web-scale converged appliances combines server and storage hardware technology with Nutanix software-defined storage into a single chassis”


OK, we’re much more than just SDS, and I’ll let that go, but look at what VMware are saying too:

vmware-logo“The world’s most widely deployed, feature-rich, software-defined platform for server, network and storage virtualization”


Now that’s more like it! Nutanix is the most widely deployed software defined platform in the world and it’s great to see our friends at VMware and Citrix putting us up so high on their guest list on such a special occasion.  VMware are also kind enough to ask “So what makes this solution better than the alternatives?” Lots, actually :o)

But what about the other most important guests at this gathering?  You know, the ones who actually buy and implement all this technology?  That would be you then, dear reader.  What do you get out of all of this?

Again both Citrix and VMware see the value of Dell servers powered by Nutanix.  Check out these examples of the spooky love-birds almost finishing each others sentences (awwww!):

Predictable performance with scaleFaster time to value, with a streamlined process, from design, to ordering, to install/provision…Simplified, unified manageability across every layer in the solution, spanning data center to end-point”

VMware on the Dell XC

“As simple and fast to purchase and deploy as Dell laptops; you can get the maximum number of seats up and running in a matter of hours instead of days….Predictable scaling…This lets you grow incrementally…add additional units to increase seats or scale up to a different configuration to increase performance….Monitor and manage…through a unified management console.”

Citrix on the Dell XC

It all sounds like they’ve been wanting the same thing all along, don’t you think?  In fact it’s the same thing all our customers have been doing for many years now; a simple, scalable, high performance platform for all their virtualisation needs.

Read more about the new Dell XC here and take a look at the blog posts from Citrix and VMware while you’re at it.  Is there finally a common ground for these both to work towards?  It certainly seems that way.

Oh and if you want to know more about the vows they’re all taking just have a look through the Nutanix Bible written by the Right Reverend Steven Poitras.

Anyway, has anyone seen the ring?



When you work for a global technology company who focuses on activities that sit behind big sound proofed walls it’s often the case that the organic bit consuming your service gets forgotten.  In my past life at Citrix, both in internal IT and in pre-sales, I always used to look after the end user first as that’s when things become much easier.  Deal with the human element and the rest sort of falls into place.

At Nutanix we’ve got a similar approach, even though from the outside we’re still locked away in that datacenter.  But really it’s the people that matter.

Those could be our fellow Nutants being generous with their time and experience by helping others or it could be offering our great support to customers and partners when they need it most.

This week though something was announced that really put all of that in clear perspective; it’s what technology enables that counts but also who it can affect.

Yesterday Nutanix announced “Web-Scale Wish” which is our commitment to donate our software, hardware, support and professional services to non-profit organisations around the world to make their work easier and more effective and you can make a difference yourself by nominating your own favourite non-profit organisation.  For this time at least it’s only open to the UK, where I live, North American (including Canada), New Zealand and Australia.  I really hope we can extend it if we do it again but apologies if this means you can’t nominate who you’d want.

For me this is a very easy way of relieving the burden on charities and other organisations working to give everything back to the people they’re trying to help.  For every pound spent on IT it’s one that could, and should, be going back into the charity and if we can make even a small dent on their bills and expenditure that’s a great thing.  Do more with less and make it cheaper once it’s in.  This is one of the main messages I talk about when discussing what we do and it’s of no greater importance for non-profits.

To nominate just got to and listen to my CEO Dheeraj announce the initiative and then scroll down to either nominate your own organisation or suggest one close to your heart.

Every nomination gets a T-Shirt to show your support

Every nomination gets a T-Shirt to show your support

The first prize is an NX-3350 including 2 days installation and advice, 3 years support and 3 years Ultimate edition software meaning for those three years EVERYTHING we release gets to the winner for free.  Joint second prize is an NX-1350, again with 3 years support and 3 years of Ultimate software.

I’ve already contacted Dementia UK to offer my nomination as my gran suffered with this horrible disease during the last few years of her life.

Every nomination will get a T-shirt sent to them  and I’d be very grateful if you could show yours by spreading the word on twitter using #webscalewish.

I’m very proud to be part of a company that does something this great out of the blue so please join me in making a Web-Scale Wish.




WebScale & the SAN Hangover

A three node cluster

A three node cluster

Before I joined Nutanix one month ago I was trying to explain the concept of WebScale to a friend and as with most things I used the analogy of going for a beer.  It’s currently 27 degrees in the UK with nothing but blue sky and there are few things better to help along an English summer along than a cold pint.

The traditional way of buying storage + compute is like ordering ten pints of very strong ale all at once because you might possibly, over the next several hours of an evening, drink that much.  And, as with most IT SAN purchases, you may as well buy the strongest and most expensive one on the menu because you don’t want to be left thirsty – or out of grunt and capacity.  The reality is most organisations either don’t know their final requirements – because things change rapidly in this world – and run out of resources or more likely they never actually use it all and end up wasting their money.

In short, SANs are like a table of warm stale beer.

There’s also so much complexity in the old ways as well with fabrics, bespoke hardware, LUNs, RAID groups,

A three node cluster with a node or CVM failure.  Oh look the data is safe and available!

No loss of data

aggregates, zoning, configuring failover, presenting it all to the hypervisors and actually getting your SAN team to talk to the virtualisation guys.  Back at the bar you’ll have to learn how to pull a pint, build the brewery, take up farming to grow the hops and maybe even employ another farmer and barman for when you go on holiday or fall ill.  Worse still if you don’t like the taste after a year then you have to do it all over again because upgrading means a disruptive replacement process.

The Nutanix approach to scaleability – one part of what we define as WebScale – is paying for one drink at a time.  If you feel thirsty after the first pint – you need more compute and storage – you just order another node, plug it in, do a couple of clicks in Prism and you’re done.  Another cold pint of Nutanix goodness with minimal effort and a Nutanix cluster expanded in moments with zero down time.

A three node cluster expanded  to four, with no downtime.   Wonderful!

A three node cluster expanded
to four, with no downtime.

If you decided to change from beer (NX3000) to Redbull (NX1000) to wine (NX6000) to Jager (the NX7000) Nutanix also allows you to mix your drinks…without the hangover of having to re-do all that work.  Come to think of it a few customers have mixed the NX1000 with a couple of NX7000s for GPU acceleration to make Nutanix Jagerbombs 🙂

Managing a SAN, especially speccing it and scaling it to last over several years as a business or project grows, seems like a lot of hard work to me.  Unnecessarily so.  The Nutanix platform is predictable and scalable and that’s just one thing that Webscale means to me and is enjoyed by our customers and partners.




A place called Change

Change is a scary place to tread for many reasons.  Doubt is a close and ever-present climate and the clouds overhead are filled with nothing but droplets of potential disaster.  The grass is a darker ominous hue and the ground is filled with cracks of famine.

Not only is the weather somewhat inclement but beware the monsters waiting to unsheathe their claws and reveal their teeth to keep you in check.

Change is not a nice place to be.

By far the most evil inhabitant of this world is the ever present lizard.  He stalks you wherever you tread, sitting on your shoulder tapping into your fears, telling you where is safe, where is best, where is easy.  Turn around and it’ll be better.  There, there.  Don’t worry.  The lizard will make it all better.  No more Change, no more fear and isn’t that grass green where you were anyway?

The lizard in question doesn’t walk next to you, it’s carried with you on every journey in every step.  It’s a personification certainly but it’s actually part of every one of us.  You see the lizard is you, more specifically it’s your Lizard Brain.  This concept has been around for a while but no-one has done a better job of explaining it than the writer, CEO, marketing God and amazing story teller Seth Godin.  In a brilliant book I read a few years ago called Linchpin, he describes the Lizard Brain as the part left by early man that wants to save us and keep us away from what it decides is harmful.  This could be the sabre tooth tiger, it could be the berry we shouldn’t taste or the unknown over the hill we definitely, completely, unquestionably should never look beyond.

The Lizard Brain crops up in modern times just as much as it did when your scruffy looking caveman ancestor was running away from that tiger or towards that cavewoman who looked like Raquel Welch.  If you want to do anything in the slightest bit different you can hear it saying “don’t do it.”  “Think about what you will lose and what will go wrong.”  “Everyone will laugh at you.”

Some people will be controlled by this from the day they’re born to the moment they die and I have no doubt they’ll live a happy life, after all their Lizard Brain is kept quiet.

Everyone says that IT is a permanent resident of Change and in some ways that’s true but I’m quickly seeing that many people are clinging to old ways because it’s easy and comfortable.  It’s how we’ve always done it and besides can’t you hear the Lizard Brain screaming at me?  I literally cannot hear myself think!

For me, I don’t like being shouted at and over the last few years I’ve learned to identify and fight back, sometimes just to show I can do it (try not scratching an itch if you want to test yourself – it’s very hard), but most recently because I have a firm belief that I want to do something different for the betterment of myself and those around me.  My Lizard Brain told me I shouldn’t change job, that there was too much to fear and lose and right up to the day I started he was getting louder and louder.  But I stopped listening.  I’ve learned to control him and focus on the possibilities of what is over that hill.  It can be a beautiful place with none of the clouds you heard about and those monsters are actually new friends who feel the same way and want to embrace change too because they also see the limitless benefits it can bring.

Take the example of Nutanix and the traditional SAN.  One is the way you’ve always done it so why not just repeat the process and be comfortable?  Buy another SAN.  Go ahead.  Don’t change.  But there are so many positives and wonderful things to be had from trying something different, especially when it comes to what we at Nutanix are passionate about with concepts like WebScale and a running your world on a true Hyper-Converged platform.  Maybe all you need to do is learn to turn that little sod into a nice wallet skin once in a while.

Whatever you do, even if that’s not approaching IT problems like SANs and choosing a Nutanix solution, even if it’s just identifying that he’s there trying to stop you achieving what you want, try to embrace change because it’s the best thing I’ve learned to live with and I’m very happy being a disruptor rather than the puppet of my own Lizard Brain.

A very transparent place

I joined Nutanix earlier this week and like any savvy potential employee, I did a bit of reading and research before I signed up for the ride.  Part of the attraction to someone like me, who’s lived and breathed the corporate life for the last thirteen and a bit years, is the open attitude everyone here displays toward sharing and being as open as possible with both the business and the technology.

The Nutanix culture embraces ideas and encourages transparent thought not only internally, but also with customers, partners and the wider community.  For evidence, you need look no further than the excellent blog of Mr Leibovici, the surprisingly open and informative Nutanix Bible, or what I first read, SDS for Dummies (they must have known I was coming).

We’re not the only people to provide insight into our most prized innards though.  Nutanix’s legacy stems from Google which is a very transparent company – even publishing papers on their foundation file system, GFS.  Here let me Google that for you and you’ll see just how much information is freely available to you.  Google knows that sharing ideas, even with competitors, makes them stronger.

Another obviously transparent company is the American electric car manufacturer, Tesla.  A few days ago, CEO Elon Musk pledged to donate all their patents to the industry.  To many this was rather surprising since, well, surely that’s their business and their future, right?  Why would anyone in their right mind do something so crazy, so…selfless?  The answer is that Musk understands that really gaining traction in an emerging market requires that others follow Tesla’s lead.

Bob Metcalfe, who co-invented ethernet, explains this principle with ‘Metcalfe’s Law’: “The value of a network increases with the square of the number of nodes on the network.”  What this means in plain English is that as more people use a network, its value to the users increases exponentially. This idea also applies to new industries such as cloud providers, electric car manufactures, and web-scale converged infrastructure providers. Perhaps sooner rather than later, it becomes the way everyone does it. Offering up a better way of doing business is, to me, where the real excitement comes. That’s where I think Nutanix is leading and that’s one of the reasons why I joined.

Nutanix believes that seeing the world from the virtual machine outwards, through a converged software defined solution, leads to huge benefits.  Web-scale is something we eat, breath and sleep – but it’s not a single feature that just popped up out of nowhere.  Web-scale was born out of looking at the problem, data centres and storage, from a different angle and consequently seeing a way of doing things better.  The Googles, Facebooks and Amazons of the world have already done this effectively; we’re really just porting their infrastructure concept into the private data centre.  But the shared idea is what carries this change into the wild and that’s where it can make the most difference.


(Special thanks to Steve Kaplan for proof reading this to ensure any Noobisms were addresssed)


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