Nutanix Valuable Features

Samuel Rothenbühler
Lead Architect Enterprise Cloud - Member of the Management Board at Amanox Solutions at Amanox Solutions (S&T Group)
Some years ago when we started working with Nutanix the solution was essentially a stable, user friendly hyper converged solution offering a less future rich version of what is now called the distributed storage fabric. This is what competing solutions typically offer today and for many customers it isn't easy to understand the added value (I would argue they should in fact be a requirement) Nutanix offers today in comparison to other approaches. Over the years Nutanix has added lots of enterprise functionality like deduplication, compression, erasure coding, snapshots, (a)-sync replication and so on. While they are very useful, scale extremely well on Nutanix and offer VM granular configuration (if you don't care about granularity do it cluster wide by default). It is other, maybe less obvious features or I should say design principles which should interest most customers a lot: Upgradeable with a single click This was introduced a while ago, I believe around version 4 of the product. At first is was mainly used to upgrade the Nutanix software (Acropolis OS or AOS) but today we use it for pretty much anything from the hypervisor to the system BIOS, the disk firmware and also to upgrade sub components of the Acropolis OS. There is for example a standardized system check (around 150 checks) called NCC (Nutanix Cluster Check) which can be upgrade throughout the cluster with a single click independent of AOS. The One-Click process also allows you to use a granular hypervisor upgrade such as an ESXi offline bundle (could be a ptach release). The Nutanix cluster will then take care of the rolling reboot, vMotion etc. to happen in a fully hyper-converged fashion (e.g. don't reboot multiple nodes at the same time). If you think how this compares to a traditional three tier architecture (including converged generation 1) you do have a much simpler and well tested workflow which is what you use by default. And yes it does automatic prechecks and also ensures what you are updating is on the Nutanix compatibility matrix. It is also worth mentioning that upgrading AOS (the complete Nutanix software layer) doesn't require a host reboot since it isn't part of the hypervisor but installed as a VSA (regular VM). It also doesn't require any VMs to migrate away from the node/host during and after upgrade (I love that fact since bigger cluster tend to have some hickups when using vMotion and other similar techniques especially if you have 100 VMs on a host) not to mentioned the network impact. Linearly scalable Nutanix has several unique capabilities to ensure linear scalability. The key ingredients are data locality, a fully distributed meta data layer as well as granular data management. The first is important especially when you grow your cluster. It is true that 10G networks offer very low latency but the overhead will count towards every single read IO so you should consider the sum of them (and there is a lot of read IOs you get out of every single Nutanix node!). If you look at what development is currently ongoing in the field of persistent flash storage you will see that the network overhead will only become more important going forward. The second key point is the fully distributed meta data database. Every node holds a part of the database (the meta data belonging to it's currently local data for the most part and replica information from other nodes). All meta data is stored on at least three nodes for redundancy (each node writes to it's neighbor nodes in a ring structure, there are no meta data master nodes). No matter how many nodes your cluster holds (or will hold) there is always a defined number of nodes (three or five) involved when a meta data update is performed (a lookup/read is typically local). I like to describe this architecture using Big O notation where in this case you can think of it as O(n) and since there are no master node there aren't any bottlenecks at scale. The last key point is the fact that Nutanix acts as an object storage (you work with so called Vdisks) but the objects are split in small pieces (called extends) and distributed throughout the cluster with one copy residing on the local node and each replica residing on other cluster nodes. If your VM writes three blocks to its virtual disk they will all end up on the local SSD and the replicas (for redundancy) will be spread out in the cluster for fast replication (they can go to three different nodes in the cluster avoiding hot spots). If you move your VM to another node, data locality (for read access) will automatically be built again (of course only for the extends your VM currently uses). You might now think that you don't want to migrate that extends from the previous to the now local node but if you think about the fact that the extend will have to be fetched anyhow then why not saving it locally and serve it directly from the local SSD going forward instead of discarding it and reading it over the network every single time. This is possible because the data structure is very granular. If you would have to migrate the whole Vdisk (e.g. VMDK) because this is the way your storage layer saves its underlying data then you simply wouldn't do it (imagine vSphere DRS migrates your VMs around and your cluster would need to constantly migrate the whole VMDK(s)). If you wonder how this all matters when a rebuild (disk failure, node failure) is required then there is good news too! Nutanix immediately starts self healing (rebuild lost replica extends) whenever a disk or node is lost. During a rebuild all nodes are potentially used as source and target to rebuild the data. Since extends are used (not big objects) data is evenly spread out within the cluster. A bigger cluster will increase the probability of a disk failure but the speed of a rebuild is higher since a bigger cluster has more participating nodes. Furthermore a rebuild of cold data (on SATA) will happen directly on all remaining SATA drives (doesn't use your SSD tier) within the cluster since Nutanix can directly address all disks (and disk tiers) within the cluster. Predictable Thanks to data locality a large portion of your IOs (all reads, can be 70% or more) are served from local disks and therefore only impact the local node. While writes will be replicated for data redundancy they will have second priority over local writes of the destination node(s). This gives you a high degree of predictability and you can plan with a certain amount of VMs per node and you can be confident that this will be reproducible when adding new nodes to the cluster. As I mentioned above the architecture doesn't read all data constantly over the network and uses meta data master nodes to track where everything is stored. Looking at other hyper converged architectures you won't get that kind of assurance especially when you scale your infrastructure and the network won't keep up with all read IOs and meta data updates going over the network. With Nutanix a VM can't take over the whole clusters performance. It will have an influence on other VMs on the local node since they share the local hot tier (SSD) but that's much better compared to today's noisy neighbor and IO blender issues with external storage arrays. If you should have too little local hot storage (SSD) your VMs are allowed to consume remote SSD with secondary priority over the other node's local VMs. This means no more data locality but is better than accessing local SATA instead. Once you move away some VMs or the load on the VM gets smaller you automatically get your data locality back. As described further down Nutanix can tell you exactly what virtual disk uses how much local (and possibliy remote) data, you get full transparency there as well. Extremely fast I think it is known that hyper converged systems offer very high storage performance. Not much to add here but to say that it is indeed extremely fast compared to traditional storage arrays. And yes a full flash Nutanix cluster is as fast (if not faster) than an external full flash storage array with the added benefit that you read from you local SSD and don't have to traverse the network/SAN to get it (that and of course all other hyper convergence benefits). Performance was the area where Nutanix had the most focus when releasing 4.6 earlier this year. The great flexibility of working with small blocks (extends) rather than the whole object on the storage layer comes at the price of much greater meta data complexity since you need to track all these small entities through out the cluster. To my understanding Nutanix invested a great deal of engineering to make their meta data layer extremely efficient to be able to even beat the performance of an object based implementation. As a partner we regularly conduct IO tests in our lab and at our customers and it was very impressive to see how all existing customers could benefit from 30-50% better performance by simply applying the latest software (using one-click upgrade of course). Intelligent Since Nutanix has full visibility into every single virtual disks of every single VM it also has lots of ways to optimize how it deals with our data. This is not only the simple random vs sequential way of processing data but it allows to not have one application take over all system performance and let others starve (to name one example). During a support case we can see all sorts of crazy information (I have a storage background so I can get pretty excited about this) like where exactly your applications consumes it's resources (local, remote disks). What block size is used random/sequential, working set size (hot data) and lots more. All with single virtual disk granularity. At some point they were even thinking at making a tool which would look inside your VM and tell you what files (actually sub file level) are currently hot because the data is there and just needs to be visualized. Extensible If you take a look at the up... View full review »
Mohammed Alakhouch
Direction Générale des Impôts at a sports company with 201-500 employees
I think that the most interesting features are the replication and redundancy. It is a good solution and it is easy to work on a Nutanix platform. View full review »
William Beckett
System Administrator at a energy/utilities company with 501-1,000 employees
* One-Click upgrades * Software defined storage * The capacity savings One click upgrades are an absolute godsend. Being able to upgrade our entire cluster with the click of a button during business hours with zero downtime has made managing our infrastructure so easy. Previously, we had to schedule downtime to perform upgrades on our infrastructure and that quickly becomes painful and time consuming. Because the entire Nutanix system is contained in a VM, we don't have to reboot physical hosts to apply patches. It's just a restart of a guest VM and we're off. This also brings amazing space saving capabilities (given that it's software-defined) across the hot and cold tiers by way of compression, deduplication, and erasure coding. View full review »
Steffen Hornung
Data Consultant with 501-1,000 employees
* Single click actions is definitely the most important. They were not even aware that they wanted this. * Performance was the main point for buying it. * No virtualization-vendor lock-in is another main point. * But if you ever had good support, Nutanix Support will overwhelm. View full review »
Farhan Parkar
Team Lead Information Management at a tech services company
The Nutanix Prism interface is the most beautiful interface I had ever used in any software. The simplicity and fluency of the HTML 5 interface gives a one-of-a-kind user experience. It provides full visibility into and management of my complete virtual infrastructure. The integration to VMware vCenter gives added value, so you don't have to rely on different interfaces for basic VM management. View full review »
Eduardo Nunes
Technical director at a tech services company with 1-10 employees
Hypervisor agnostic. I can use VMware or Hyper-V license, if I already have. But if I use a similar solution as Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor (AHV) that comes embedded in Nutanix solution, I can manage all my virtual environments with everything I need without spending more money on licenses. View full review »
Allan Basso
IT Infrastructure Architect at a health, wellness and fitness company with 501-1,000 employees
One-click upgrade and data locality are valuable features. The one-click upgrade provides simple management and upgrades. Data locality provides super-fast data access and ultra-low latency. View full review »
Manzeel Uprety
Co-Founder at a non-tech company with 1-10 employees
* The level of statistical performance data that it can confirm in real-time is extremely useful. I can see what my VM’s hosts and guests are doing from a single pane of glass and identify issues before they would otherwise become apparent. * The informatics support for this graphical software is up-to-date with the latest infographic web trends. View full review »
it_user600720
Cyber Security Engineer at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
Hyper-convergence is the most valuable feature for me as it allows me to scale the hardware according to project requirements. View full review »
Leandro Leonhardt
System Architect at a tech services company with 201-500 employees
The Prism interface is valuable. It is very easy to manage, is based on HTML5, and all CVMs are able to assume the management role. They are not the SPOF. View full review »
KamalarajanS
Enterprise Systems & IT Architect at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
* Management is simple * There is easy configuration * The solution is scalable * The product has a compact size that greatly reduces the HW/Datacenter footprint. View full review »
budiezeddin
Manager at a tech services company with 201-500 employees
* Nutanix Distributed File System * Multi-hypervisor support * Erasure coding * Protection domain * Acropolis File Sharing * Acropolis Block Service * Strong support View full review »
AlbertoZampieri
Ingegnere it senior at a tech services company
The solution's performance and high density are most valuable. View full review »
ReunjithDS
IT Engineer
Hypervisor-agnostic: I can use a VMware or Hyper-V license, if I already have one. But if I use a similar solution as Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor (AHV) that comes embedded in a Nutanix solution, I can manage all my virtual environments with everything that I need without spend more money on licenses. View full review »
Oshri Sharon
CEO at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
* Service portal * Self-service restore * Single pane of glass for management. We are a Managed Service Provider and these capabilities make our platform agile and easy to use for our customers. View full review »
Milind S
Development Engineer at a university
* Overall performance of the platform * Scalability * Ease of implementation * Management GUI Prism On storage side, these features are very useful: * Deduplication * Compression * Erasure coding * Snapshots * Asynchronous replication. The One-Click upgrades are awesome and work well. The standardized system check using NCC (Nutanix Cluster Check) performs over 150 checks to determine potential issues. AFS and ABS are just great!! View full review »
Brad Burgess
IT Systems Technical Specialist at a government
* Storage snapshots and replication * One-Click upgrades View full review »
RejithRR
IT Engineer
Nutanix Prism. View full review »
Sean Torres
Systems Architect at a tech services company with 201-500 employees
Scalability is the most valuable feature because it is easy to scale-up and scale-out without impact in performance since it is always online. View full review »
Fred Berrange
IT Infrastructure Manager at a comms service provider with 51-200 employees
* Availability * Scalability * Performance * Redundancy * Excellent Monitoring and Admin Portal View full review »
Jon Seet
Infrastructure Architect at a pharma/biotech company with 1,001-5,000 employees
* Single pane of glass view for all components. * Excellent after-sales support. * Easy updates and upgrades. View full review »
Eric-Miller
Director of IT at a hospitality company with 51-200 employees
* Prism * One-Click View full review »
it_user517800
Chef du service informatique at a healthcare company with 501-1,000 employees
* Simple to use * Ergonomic View full review »
Timothy Walsh
IT Architect, Senior at a energy/utilities company with 10,001+ employees
Prism Central allows managing the cluster from a single pane of glass, and it allows a deeper dive into the solution. View full review »
Brian Lucci
System Adminstrator with 201-500 employees
Simplified storage management. Therefore, we do not have to rely on others to manage storage, which removes wait times in getting tasks done. View full review »
SystemsEng
System Engineer at a tech services company with 501-1,000 employees
Their Google operating system is more mature, so their results are much better. View full review »
Luca De Vincenzi
IT Project Manager with 5,001-10,000 employees
* One-click upgrade * Data locality for performances * Prism central administration console * Metro availbility. View full review »
Shannon Jones
Storage Analyst at a tech services company with 1,001-5,000 employees
SRM capabilities for replication have been proven reliable and very useful for our organization. View full review »
Peter Cheng
Owner at SIS International HK Limited
The most valuable feature is its data locality, as well as the solution's performance. View full review »

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