The Nutanix Solution

The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform is a converged infrastructure solution that consolidates the compute (server) tier and the storage tier into a single, integrated appliance.

Nutanix uses the same design principles and technologies that power IT innovators such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. It tailors these for mainstream enterprises and government agencies.

The Nutanix solution is radically simple compared to traditional datacenter infrastructures.

  • Rapid time to value: deployment in under 30 minutes
  • No disruption to ongoing operations
  • Easily scales
  • Powerful off-the-shelf, non-proprietary hardware
  • Reduces the cost and complexity of storage
  • Works with legacy components, protecting investments you’ve already made
  • Delivers advanced, enterprise-class storage capabilities

How Nutanix Works
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The modular building-block design allows your organization to start with small deployments and grow incrementally into very large cluster installations. With one appliance, you can move from a small operation to handling large-scale server virtualization deployments, virtual desktop initiatives, test and development applications, big data (e.g. Splunk, Hadoop) projects, and more.

The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform integrates high-performance server resources with enterprise-class storage in a cost-effective 2U appliance. It eliminates the need for network-based storage architecture, such as a storage area network (SAN) or network-attached storage (NAS). The scalability and performance that the world’s largest, most efficient datacenters enjoy are now available to all enterprises and government agencies.

Enterprise Storage Capabilities

Data Protection

Before Nutanix acknowledges any write I/O, it synchronously replicates the data to other nodes in the cluster. All nodes participate in replication to gain full utilization across the system. Only after the data — and its associated metadata — is replicated, will the host receive an acknowledgment of a successful write. This ensures that data exists in at least two independent locations within the cluster and is fault tolerant.

Nutanix allows administrators to dynamically configure different levels of data redundancy for applications running in a cluster. True to the underlying principle of software-defined infrastructure, system policies that define which applications get what level of redundancy are late-bound and applied dynamically to achieve different levels of fault tolerance.

Compression

The Virtual Computing Platform incorporates the popular Google-developed Snappy compression algorithm to increase the effective storage capacity of the system up to 4X. Unlike traditional storage solutions that perform compression for entire LUNs or disks, Nutanix compresses data at the sub-block level for increased efficiency and greater simplicity.

Compression policies can be configured to compress data in-line, as it is written to the system. Nutanix can also compress data post-process, or post-ingest, to eliminate any performance impact on the write path.

Snapshots & Clones

Snapshots provide production-level data protection without sacrificing performance. Nutanix utilizes a redirect-on-write algorithm to dramatically improve system efficiency during snapshoting.

Closely related to snapshots is the concept of a clone, which is essentially a writable snapshot. Nutanix uses the same underlying mechanism for performing cloning as it does for snapshots, allowing it to benefit from the same metadata optimizations. The main difference is that when a clone is taken, both the clone and the original become children of the snapshot, meaning the parent snapshot will now have two writable children.

Additionally, Nutanix fully integrates with popular off-load capabilities, including the VMware API for Array Integration (VAAI), Microsoft Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) and SMI-s.

Shadow Clones

Shadow Clones enable distributed caching of VM data in a multi-reader scenario. VDI deployments, where many linked clones forward read requests to a central master (base VM), is a prime example. In the case of VMware View, this is called the replica disk and is read by all linked clones. Similarly, in Citrix XenDesktop deployments this is called the MCS Master VM. Shadow Clones improve performance in nearly any multi-reader scenario (e.g., deployment servers, repositories, etc.).

With Shadow Clones, Nutanix actively monitors vDisk access trends. If there are requests originating from more than two remote CVMs, as well as the local CVM, and all of the requests are read I/O, the vDisk will be marked as immutable. Once the disk has been marked immutable, the vDisk is then cached locally by each CVM so read operations are now satisfied locally by direct-attached storage resources.

Thin Provisioning

Storage for virtual machines is thinly provisioned in the system. Administrators can set the capacity of a vDisk, but physical storage is allocated only when required. Administrators can also set a minimum reservation parameter that guarantees the specified amount of storage for a collection of vDisks. This provides for less overprovisioning of storage and more granular control to the administrator.

Download the Nutanix System Reliability Tech Note

Performance

Data Localization

As a converged (compute + storage) platform, Nutanix improves cluster and VM performance via I/O and data localization. All read/write IOs are served by the local Controller VM (CVM), which runs on each hypervisor next to the VMs. Data is served from local HDD and flash-based SSD resources, under the CVM’s control.

When a VM migrates from one Nutanix node to another (e.g., live migration, vMotion or HA event) the data for the newly-migrated VM will be served by the now local CVM. When reading the original data (stored on the now remote Nutanix node) the I/O will be forwarded by the local CVM to the remote CVM. Nutanix will detect that the I/Os are originating from a different node and will migrate the data locally allowing for all read I/Os to now be served locally. This re-localization occurs in the background and only as reads occur so as to not flood the network.

Data Tiering

Nutanix intelligently places data in the optimal storage tier — flash or HDD — to yield the fastest possible performance. Information lifecycle management (ILM) technology ensures that the most frequently accessed data is available in the SSD or cache tier. As data becomes ‘cold,’ it is demoted into the higher capacity HDD tier. This is ensures that SSD and cache capacity remains available for new ‘hot’ data.

Elastic Deduplication

The Virtual Computing Platform integrates advanced data de-duplication — spanning both the capacity tier (HDD) and the performance tier (SSD and memory). Data is fingerprinted using SHA-1 on ingest, with fingerprint information stored in the Nutanix metadata layer. Deduplication operations are software-driven, and leverage the hardware-assist capabilities of the Intel chipset for SHA-1 hash generation to ensure the fastest possible performance.

The Deduplication Engine continuously analyzes read I/O access patterns and granularly de-duplicates data to deliver the highest possible performance. For applications with large common working sets, such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, Nutanix deduplication increases effective flash and memory resources by up to 10x and delivers nearly instantaneous application response times. The same data reduction technology will also optimize the storage of ‘cold data’ in the HDD capacity tier, increasing effective capacity. MapReduce Deduplication in the capacity tier is automatically distributed across all nodes in the cluster, and enables cluster-wide capacity optimization without imposing significant overhead. As more nodes are added to the cluster, deduplication functionality automatically scales out as well.

Server-side Flash

Nutanix incorporates high-performance flash SSD directly into the server architecture. Flash SSD yields dramatically faster performance than traditional hard disk drives, delivering lower storage latency and higher data bandwidth. Using local flash storage to service VM I/O eliminates the performance penalty incurred when I/O requests traverse a dedicated storage network. By eliminating the network from the I/O path latency can be reduced from milliseconds to microseconds.

Further, the Nutanix Distributed File System pools server-attached flash capacity across all Nutanix nodes into a single shared resource it is accessible to all virtual machines in the cluster. Unlike competing flash-based storage solutions, Nutanix maintains a fully persistent data tier in flash — not just a cached copy.

Download the Nutanix Performance Tech Note

Reliability & Scalability

Disaster Recovery

Nutanix eliminates the need for additional 3rd-party tools for VM management and disaster recovery. The Nutanix solution is natively integrated enabling simple VM-centric backup, recovery and replication. Unlike traditional solutions which perform backups and recovery is done at the LUN level, the Nutanix solution provides all of these capabilities at the VM and file level, greatly increasing efficiency and simplicity.

Replication topologies are flexible and bi-directional, enabling site-to-site, hub-and-spoke or full-mesh deployments. During replication, data is compressed and replicated at the sub-block level for maximum efficiency and lower WAN bandwidth consumption.

Additionally, Nutanix DR capabilities support application-level consistency for snapshots by leveraging volume shadow services (VSS), and can fully integrate with third-party tools including Veeam and VMware SRM.

Snapshots and replication tasks can be scheduled on a periodic basis, and retention policies can be set for local and remote backups. The Prism interface offers a simplified view of all local and remote snapshots, allowing administrators to restore state at VM granularity from a snapshot with a single click.

Dynamic Add Node

Nutanix enables IT to quickly add (or remove) server and storage capacity one node at a time to precisely meet business demands and eliminate costly overprovisioning. Newly powered-on nodes are instantly discovered by the running environment and can be added to the cluster within minutes while the cluster remains active. At this point the compute nodes can be added to the cluster and tools like VMware’s DRS or Microsoft’s PRO can dynamically balance the workload to the newly added nodes.

Nutanix takes care of all of the data and metadata movement in the backed, enabling IT to be agile and adapt to the growing demand of end users.

Software Resilience

The Nutanix platform is a fully distributed system designed to be fault resistant and eliminate any single points of failure or bottlenecks. In order to do this a shared nothing approach was taken where all components composing the platform are distributed to all nodes within this cluster. This eliminates any potential bottlenecks or single points of failure and ensures the system can provide consistent and reliable performance at scale.

All processes running in the CVM are designed to fail fast when an error is encountered Components are continuously monitored, killed and restarted in the event of an error in order to recover as quickly as possible, rather than linger in non-responsive or corrupt state. Each host relies on its local Controller VM to service all storage requests. NDFS continuously monitors the health of all CVMs in the cluster.

If a Controller VM were to fail, Nutanix auto-pathing automatically re-routes requests from the host to a healthy Controller VM on another node. This re-direction will continue until the local Controller VM failure issue is resolved. Since the cluster has a global namespace and access to replicas for all of the data on that node, it is able to service requests immediately. This in effect provides N-way full fault-tolerant failover for all VMs in a Nutanix cluster.

Hardware Reliability

Each Nutanix appliance provides complete hardware redundancy to eliminate single points of failure in the system. Redundancy includes dual power supplies, fans and network interfaces.

Rigorous validation and testing is done for all hardware platforms and components. By performing testing up front, Nutanix increases hardware reliability and longevity. This allows IT to rest assured that the solution is validated and hardened and spend more time on value-add services than mundane hardware decisions.

Download the Nutanix System Scalability Tech Note

Virtualization

Multi-hypervisor Support

Nutanix supports the growing majority of enterprises that are running, or planning to run, more than one virtualization technology in their environment. Nutanix software is hypervisor agnostic, and runs on all popular hypervisors, including VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and open source KVM. This open approach delivers a common data fabric to power hybrid enterprise datacenters running different workloads across multiple virtualization technologies.

Full Support for Virtualized Environments

Nutanix supports popular virtualization capabilities, including VMware features such as vMotion, High Availability (HA), Dynamic Resource Scheduling (DRS) and Fault Tolerance (FT), as well as similar Microsoft technologies such as Live Migration, Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO), Failover Clustering and HA.

This allows enterprises to migrate virtual workloads to Nutanix without sacrificing any key virtualization capabilities.

Storage Offload

Nutanix supports full integration of the snapshot and cloning capabilities of VMware by supporting both the VMware API for Array Integration (VAAI) and View Composer for Array Integration (VCAI) standards as well as Microsoft’s Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) and SMI-s. This integration increases the speed of operations by offloading them to the Nutanix platform.

Management

Prism Central

Nutanix clusters around the world can be centrally managed from a single pane of glass via Prism Central – a management product that offers a rich interface for multi-cluster management. This product gives administrators an aggregate view of health and resources across multiple clusters, allowing them to seamlessly zoom in and manage individual clusters as required. Prism Central is hypervisor-agnostic, and can be used to manage heterogeneous clusters with different hypervisors.

Cluster Health

Cluster Health is a powerful capability in Prism that gives administrators comprehensive, end-to-end visibility of VMs, nodes and disks in the cluster. Cluster Health runs a suite of automatic health checks and proactively flags potential issues in the converged infrastructure stack. An intuitive diagnostic interface gives administrators the ability to visually troubleshoot issues by grouping and filtering resources at the VM, host and disk levels, enabling quick investigation and rapid resolution.

One-Click Rolling Upgrades

As a 100% software-defined solution, new features and capabilities are deployed as a simple software upgrade. There is never any dependence on specialized hardware such as ASICs or FPGAs. New Nutanix software versions are installed into live production environments, with zero downtime and no degradation of application availability. The entire upgrade process is streamlined and zero-touch, requiring no manual intervention from the administrator.

Windows PowerShell Cmdlets

NOS 4.0 comes with Windows PowerShell Cmdlets built on top of the native REST API. Administrators can use these cmdlets to write command line scripts to configure and manage their Nutanix clusters in Windows and Hyper-V environments.