Category: VMware

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 🙂

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.

 

Loser

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.

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”

– http://blogs.citrix.com/2014/11/07/dell-launches-new-appliance-solution-for-desktop-virtualization/

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”

   – http://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2014/11/vmware-horizon-6-dell-xc-delivering-new-economics-simplicity-desktop-application-virtualization.html

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?

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