Nutanix Era Review

Helps us cut database deployment times from weeks to hours

What is our primary use case?

We needed to migrate all of our Oracle databases to comply with Oracle licensing requirements. That's what led us to get Nutanix hardware because it's an all-in-one: storage, compute, everything. Oracle accepts that. You only have to license the CPUs within that hardware cluster. Since we were going to have to provision all of these new servers and all of these new databases, it seemed like a great time to automate that. That's what Era brought to the table, the automation of server and database provisioning.

In addition to that, we were very interested in the one-click patching solution. And to automate things, you have to have a standardized offering of templates for the software, the servers, and the database. We were also looking for that standardization.

How has it helped my organization?

Era has helped us to cut deployment times. It used to take 10 days if we had to get a new server, and I can now do it in two hours, and that includes provisioning the database.

What is most valuable?

We have an enterprise-level backup product that we're required to use, so we don't rely on Era's version. But occasionally that other system goes down and I wouldn't have any automated backups except for what I have with Era. For us, it's a great fallback, but for other companies, it could be an awesome first-line backup. It's very elegant the way they designed it. It's quick and it doesn't take up nearly as much storage space as traditional backups. It would definitely help to save on tier-one storage. For other companies, that would be a big selling feature.

When it comes to performance and flexibility with Oracle workloads, it's excellent.

What needs improvement?

The patching should be a one-button function. Also, it works about 80 percent of the time, but 20 percent of the time it requires manual intervention. And sometimes, until you understand the technical underpinnings of that process, you can't fix it. I thought we would move past that. In the last version, they broke a big chunk of that for me, and that's why I'm waiting for the new release because they promised me it would fix the problem.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using Nutanix Era since they released it, which was about three years ago.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Like anything that runs on Nutanix, as a VM, it's a piece of cake to scale it. We've never had to because it was sized properly in the first place. We're not in a growth state for databases, but it's just very simple to scale either way, up or down, which is great.

For our databases that run on Nutanix hardware, which is almost all of our Oracle databases—the ones that can still be patched—we use Era. We use it for all databases except for two that are still running on Solaris for various reasons. The only thing that we haven't done, and have no plans to do, is to expand use of Era for non-Oracle database engines, because we're moving those to the cloud.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their customer support post-deployment is knowledgeable and helpful. I might have had special access to people because we were one of the first customers and I developed a relationship with them. I feel that I was helping them beta-test some things.

But if you called up and opened a ticket today, especially if you're used to Oracle support, you would find that Nutanix support is excellent.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We didn't have a previous solution. Nothing was automated before we brought on Era. We were looking to migrate, consolidate, automate, standardize, and reduce maintenance costs. 

And there's an additional challenge that all IT departments have now: finding database administrators. Nobody is coming out of school wanting to be a database administrator. In the workforce, I would estimate that the average age of DBAs is at least 55. We can't find people to train or hire and half of our database staff retired within a two-year period. We had hundreds of databases that had to be migrated and Era was really crucial to that effort. The only way we could see to train new people was to make things as simple and automated as possible. 

We chose Era because we were using Nutanix hardware.

How was the initial setup?

On a scale of one to 10, the complexity of the setup was an eight. You need to have a consulting partner from Nutanix to help set it up. A lot of the backend connections have to be created to the Nutanix cluster and that's going to be outside of the skill set of the DBA.

We had all of it set up in two and a half days of working sessions.

We have two Nutanix clusters that are in geographically separate data centers. Originally, we had to deploy one Era per cluster. Then, as part of continuously improving the product, they centralized Era's administration and went to more of a central server with agents. That way, we could have one deployment of Era with two agents, one for each cluster. So we really went through two implementations.

What about the implementation team?

A consultant from Nutanix was part of the purchase. We didn't have to pay extra for it. We had some issues during our deployment, but they were all resolved. It wasn't perfectly smooth, but what deployment ever is? On the whole, they are dedicated and knowledgeable and they were there for us until it was right. I couldn't have asked for more than that.

What was our ROI?

I don't think it saves time on the patching, but if we had not had this solution to migrate all those databases, it would have cost us at least $1 million in salary for the entire migration. Using Era it cost us only $50,000.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's priced fairly. It follows the Oracle model based on CPUs or the number of databases. It's not too expensive and it's not inexpensive. It's a good value. Of course, I'm not paying for it, and I'm the one that it's helping by reducing my work. But I haven't heard managers say, "Oh no, we can't get that, it's way too expensive."

When you go looking for something from Oracle that automates things and makes your life easier, it's always going to be a minimum of $500,000. Era's nothing like that. For something that works on Linux or Unix, and Oracle databases, you expect to pay more than you would for something that runs on Windows, but you get what you pay for.

What other advice do I have?

My advice would be to engage with the Nutanix Era team as soon as possible to plan the implementation and to learn what you need to know about it. Make sure you read the documentation and work with the team so that you're comfortable troubleshooting any problems. In addition to the product being good, the support for Era is excellent. Take advantage of that to make it easy on yourself.

We don't use it for snapshots and to clone databases, but if we did I believe it would decrease the time it takes to do those things.

In our organization, there are three people who use the solution on the Unix team, and there are three DBAs who are the primary users.

Overall, I don't know anything else that does what it does and I would give it a 10 out of 10.

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Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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