As should be expected, the recent Nutanix .NEXT conference offered up a clutch of developments and additions to the capabilities of its hyper-converged, multi-cloud platform, and it is the area of enriching the services available has got some of the most important attention this time round.
Two that stood out were the announcement of a new partnership with Citrix, and the other a new tool, called Data Lens, that adds new levels of data governance that is capable of stretching across multi-cloud operations.
The new Citrix partnership comes at an interesting time which suggests that increasing levels of pressure – from both companies and governments – to get staff to return to their old places of work may, at least in part, be failing.
The partnership was the first of an almost simultaneous pair for Citrix. The Nutanix announcement has been rapidly followed by a similar agreement between Citrix and Google, a move that is nicely circular as Nutanix and Google are already close partners, and there is continued speculation that Google may even acquire Nutanix to significantly fill out its business services capabilities.
Citrix is, of course, not only the longest serving player but the accepted de facto big gorilla in Virtual Desktop Integration (VDI) marketplace, and VDI is now one of the key technologies capable of not just supporting and securing the operations of remote workers. Having this available across both Nutanix and Google cloud services – and therefore the other service providers that those two already partner with – could extend the reach and capabilities of Citrix and, in the case of Nutanix at least, indirectly extend its reach over the types of user that can exploit it.
Nutanix launched its own VDI capabilities, Xi Frame, two years ago with far greater capabilities than then available with Citrix, such as realtime editing of 4K-level graphics. This filled a weakness often cited against Citrix, that it was good for the mundane levels of office but could not satisfy the needs of the power user: this was where Xi Frame was pitched. The new partnership suggests that the Nutanix hope that it would also soak up some of the existing and yet-committed VDI market that would have gone to Citrix has not truly come to pass.
For users that is probably all to the good as now they will be able to use both, and have support in getting them to collaborate with/complement each other more closely. In addition, that combination will also be available to use over Google cloud services as well, where it can in addition couple with the engineering-oriented services which have been part of Google’s services portfolio. This multicloud environment has the potential to fill a significant market need for VDI services with both high-specification services and wide global reach, at a time the marketplace for it looking strong and far less transitory than some employers and Governments might like to see, but is likely to be permanent regardless of their wishes.
Multi-cloud stretches governance
The more businesses come to depend on cloud services the more central it becomes to their core business operations. It then follows that issues less concerned with technology and more concerned with fundamental business management, such as Governance and Compliance with the growing and ever-changing regulatory environments now have operate under.
This is particularly the case where oversight and management of corporate data is concerned, and is already an area where the more widespread use of cloud services is straining existing levels of governance that can be applied as data gets used well beyond the reaches of the old network firewall and onto collaborative business processes running across multiple cloud services. This issue is now being compounded by two factors: one, the increasing direct use of unstructured data generated, and used, across all aspects of business operations and management, and two the increasing use of multicloud operations.
This is the Nutanix target with the introduction of Data Lens which, as company CTO Rajiv Mirani explained, aims to give users insights into their unstructured data such as ageing data types, access patterns, who's reading what data, who's writing what data and so on:
This which means that you can now implement much better policies around data Lifecycle Management, giving you audit and compliance capabilities, and data literacy.
At launch, Data Lens will support Nutanix Files, so customers leveraging these on-premises or on AWS, through Nutanix Clusters, will be able to have a global view, with associated insights, into unstructured data stored on Nutanix Unified Storage across a hybrid cloud environment. This is going to be an area of significant challenge for users as they increase the simultaneous use of multiple cloud services, particularly with unstructured data.
As a cloud service, the Lens also provides for some security capabilities. An important one, especially at this moment of heightened incidences, is the provision and upkeep of a database of ransomware signatures. This currently stands at over 4000 signatures, dynamically updated, that gets pushed down into the platform. The idea is simple – detection, prevention and recovery services that look for potential ransomware attacks happening on a user’s system and automatically preventing them from succeeding. It obviously won’t stop all attacks but it should stop many ‘old favourites’ being re-used by those of a malicious persuasion and keep them investing time and effort is generating new approaches.
The current goal of Data Lens is that it can be deployed anywhere in the public cloud, in the data centre - with partner, AWS, as the first third party service - or on the edge, regardless of the structure on the edge. Future plans are to open it up to other platforms so that insights from a far wider range of third party unstructured data is available. This will be particularly important as more businesses start to exploit third party data sources as integral parts of their core data mix. Mirani explained:
In that scenario, I think what happens at the edge, or what happens anywhere, is extremely important. If you think about it today, data governance is becoming a harder and harder problem with all the new capabilities that vendors are adding. With backups to cloud at all, you essentially have data proliferating everywhere, so if you discover a security vulnerability, say on AWS S3, you even know which parts of your data are in S3. I think it's a very interesting problem.
Other tools and service developments announced at the conference include a virtual networking capability for use on HP-based systems, complete with overlays and multi-tenancy for HP customers. This can be used on-premise to carve the network into smaller segments as well as cloud-based multi-tenant operations; new capabilities around Metro clustering on HP, so that two data centres within the same metro area can replicate storage between them in real time, offering real time failover capabilities; and a partnership with Qualys to help with risk assessment scanning network workloads against the latest security threats wherever they exist, together with prioritising patching for an identified risk profile.