l Prior to last week’s Nutanix.NEXT conference in New Orleans, there had been some suggestions that the company’s multi-cloud management system, Xi, was to be the Nutanix attempt at beating Amazon AWS at its own game. But according to Nutanix President, Sudheesh Nair, that is to miss the point. The point is to leapfrog the best technology that is out there.
But really, the more important point is that its development moves the central argument for users one step further away from technology as a key issue and towards what might be termed the meta cloud model – the management environment for the cloud of clouds.
This is now a key component of the multi-cloud environments that most businesses are now starting to create and operate in. Many are already doing it and facing up to the issues of hand-engineering the relationships and interactions between their multi-cloud environments, says Nair:
The objective of Xi is to make all the clouds used by any business effectively invisible by bringing them under one management environment, which is effectively an abstraction layer.
Xi is being hosted as a Nutanix SaaS service. It is being first launched this year in the USA, with launchesaround the world following in short order as necessary localisation work is completed. The company will be working with facilities management business, Digital Realty, to build out the core datacentre resources.
One factor of some importance here is the emergence of more detail surrounding the partnership betweenNutanix and Google, which first mentioned, en passant, last year. This, as Nutanix CEO, Dheeraj Pandey told diginomica, is real win/win of a deal.
For Nutanix and its user community, the win is access to Google’s global fibre network and networking resources, it’s prodigious compute resources around the world, it’s comprehensive range of cloud service and applications development tools, and it’s expertise in developing, deploying and managing Kubernetes container orchestration services.
The quid pro quo for Google s that it gets some real help in breaking into the enterprise marketplace. This is one market sector which, when compared to its major competitors AWS and Microsoft Azure, Google has not managed to penetrate with any great effect. Its long-standing focus on search services and consumer-oriented tools and applications has prejudiced much of its potential in business management circles.
The key in using Nutanix, according to Nair, is that much of the technology stack for both the on premise and cloud implementations is exactly the same, allowing applications to be moved between them dynamically, without re-engineering.
This is something Xi has been developed to manage. There are some differences in the shared stack covering networking, security and manageability. This is to provide management capabilities across multi-tenanted, multi-cloud environments, with full security between different applications and users.
Nair suggested that one of the most common requirements is likely to be the ability to expand significantly the resources available to the business in response to temporary demand peaks, such as running a special project:
You may want to increase staff numbers temporarily, and you will want them to have access to the resources they need, but you won’t want them to have access to the entire system. What you need is the ability to rent the services for n hundred more staff for a month or so without having to create profiles for them, break compliance rules or put data security at risk.
One of the first applications for this approach is disaster recovery as a service, where Nutanix on premise customers can access the cloud service using Xi and run the primary applications there, should there be a problem with the on premise systems.
Filling in more gaps
As might be expected, with its switch from being a hardware+software systems-oriented business to an increasingly cloud focused management systems-focused software business, Nutanix spent a goodly amount of its keynote presentation on introducing new additions to its management toolset, with Chief Product and Development Officer, Sunil Potti, leading the charge.
One target has been to expand the range of services available for aiding legacy applications, such as those from SAP and Oracle to move into hyperconverged environments, as well new services for working with containers and Kubernetes orchestration. It is also introducing an object storage service capable of working with billions of objects, provides encryption, RBACm quotas, and WORM, and can operate in standalone mode or be consolidated with VMs, files and blocks.
The main thrust of new development effort, however, has gone into three new tools, Beam, Flow and Era. The first two are available now, while Era is still in beta test with some selected customers. It is expected to be released later this year.
Beam is a software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tool designed to provide basic governance over spending, security and regulatory compliance across a multicloud environment. It is based on Nutanix's recently-acquired Minjar Botmetic service and provides IT teams with control over all aspects of cloud costs. It provides tools to identify unused and underutilised resources and move workloads to resources more appropriate to size or cost criteria determined for each application.
It also provides continuous cloud security and regulatory compliance to customer-defined custom policies, while real-time scans for risks and violations can identify compliance breaches.
Flow is a software-defined networking (SDN) solution that provides application-centric security to protect against internal and external threats. It is particularly aimed attack vectors not normally detected by traditional security products.
This comes from the company’s recent acquisition of Netsil and is fully integrated into Acropolis software. for easy deployment and provides network visualisation tools that give IT teams at-a-glance views of network performance and availability for each application. It also provides application-centric micro-segmentation to aid management and governance for sensitive workloads and data. In addition, it also provides tools for streamlining and automating common network configuration changes based on application lifecycle events for VMs.
Era, due to be available sometime in the second half of this year, marks something of a departure for Nutanix in that it is a Platform as a Service tool aimed at managing the operations of a specific application group – databases. Indeed, it is aimed specifically at automating many Oracle and Postgres applications operations. One of the first targets for this will be managing multiple copies of databases across a multi-cloud and on premise environment.
Support for other database engines is planned and the technology will also be extended to include full database provisioning. The goal is to end up with a complete lifecycle management solution for all databases across multiple environments in an organisation.
Finally the company has developed a habit of talking, almost en passant, about some new product or other, and this year it is a technology aimed at being a cloud service for the edge. Its target is nothing if not impressive – the provision of `planet scale’ services – and will include tools with which to develop applications remotely and port them to edge systems and services. Its name, for the moment at least, is Project Sherlock……..no sh*t.
If this was an end of year school report it would probably include phrases such as ‘Nutanix has made good and steady progress this year’ and at a time when cloud is starting to take over the centre stage and the inevitability of issues for users as they realise working with multiple hybrid cloud environments is not just going to be an advantage but also an inevitability, that is probably a very good report for most customers to read.
But there is much to consider in the potential that may spring from the partnership with Google that could be of real benefit to a large number of users and potential customers. Imagine being able to run a large SAP or Oracle process on the prodigious compute resources available in Google, without necessarily being a direct customer of Google, and have the company pleased to see you there. That type of ‘cross-pollination’ is just the start of what by soon become the new normality.