The Nutanix Solution

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

Nutanix uses the same web-scale principles and technologies that power the IT environment at innovative web companies and cloud providers such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Nutanix makes web-scale accessible to mainstream enterprises and government agencies without requiring an overhaul of their IT environments.

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

  • Rapid time to value: deployment in under an hour
  • No disruption to ongoing operations
  • Predictable, linear scaling
  • Powerful off-the-shelf, non-proprietary hardware
  • Lower cost and complexity of storage
  • 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 enterprise deployments including server virtualization, virtualized business applications, virtual desktop initiatives, test and development environments, 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.

Core Data Services

MapReduce Tiering: Intelligent Distributed Data Tiering

Flash storage is used both as a cache and as a persistent data tier in a Nutanix system. Data is intelligently placed in the optimal storage tier — flash or HDD — to yield the fastest possible performance. MapReduce tiering 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.

Inline Compression

Nutanix incorporates the powerful 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. Chunk sizes up to 128 KB enable very high compression ratios.

To learn more about the benefits of Compression, download the solution brief.

MapReduce Compression: Distributed Post-process Compression

Administrators can set policies to run the Nutanix compression feature post-process to eliminate any performance impact on the write path. MapReduce Compression is distributed across all nodes in the cluster and scales out as the cluster grows.

Elastic Deduplication: Fine-grained Inline and Post-process Deduplication

Nutanix systems offer two flavors of data deduplication, together called Elastic Deduplication – Inline Performance Deduplication in the content cache (SSD and memory) reduces the cache footprint of the application working set yielding significant performance improvements, while global, post-process MapReduce Deduplication in the capacity tier increases the effective storage capacity of a cluster.

Data is fingerprinted using a SHA-1 hash 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 for the fastest possible performance.

For applications with large common working sets, such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, inline deduplication increases effective flash and memory resources by up to 10x and delivers nearly instantaneous application response times. MapReduce Deduplication is global and distributed across all nodes in the cluster, effectively minimizing any performance overhead.

For a more in-depth overview of Elastic Deduplication, download the technical guide.

Read the MapReduce Deduplication Capacity Summary to understand how much capacity optimization to expect

Heterogeneous Clusters: Mix and Match Nutanix Appliances

Customers can mix different models of Nutanix appliances with different ratios of storage and compute in a single cluster. This allows them to effectively scale compute and storage independently in a cluster depending on growing needs.

Thin Provisioning for Storage Efficiency

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.

Flexible Block Size for Performance and Metadata Efficiency

End-to-end support for a wide range of I/O sizes, from 512 bytes up to 1 MB ensures optimal performance across wide range of workloads and delivers application-tuned metadata efficiency. Unlike traditional storage systems that may need to break up and store large incoming I/O requests into 4KB chunks, Nutanix can handle block sizes of variable length across the entire write path.

Shadow Clones: Distributed Localized Caching of VM Data for Performance

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.

To learn more about Shadow Clones, download the tech guide.


High Availability of Service through Data Path Redundancy

The Nutanix platform is a fully distributed system designed to be fault resistant and to eliminate any single points of failure or bottlenecks. The system uses a shared-nothing approach where all components and services are distributed to all nodes within the cluster. Individual components are designed to fail fast to enable quick system recovery. 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.

High Availability of Data with Tunable Redundancy

Before the system acknowledges any write I/O, it synchronously replicates the data to one or more other nodes in the cluster. This ensures that data exists in at least two independent locations within the cluster and is highly available. Administrators can dynamically configure different levels of data redundancy for applications running in a cluster.

Availability Domains: Bulletproof Protection from Catastrophic Failures

Availability domains offer robust protection from even catastrophic hardware failures by allowing Nutanix clusters to survive the failure of entire physical appliances without loss to data or service. By combining powerful data redundancy with intelligent data placement, the system automatically ensures that both data and data access will always be available.

For a deep dive of failure analysis of storage system architectures, download the tech guide.

To learn more about how the Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform delivers system reliability, download the tech note.

Data Protection

Continuous Availability with Metro Availability

Nutanix provides continuous data availability for applications during planned maintenance activities and unplanned site failures with the Metro Availability feature. Data is simultaneously written to two Nutanix clusters at different locations in real time, ensuring that data is always available to applications in the event a site fails or needs to undergo maintenance.

With simple and intuitive management using Prism, it takes a few steps to setup Metro Availability and failover can be initiated with a single click.

Watch this video to learn more about Metro Availability.

VMCaliber Snapshots: Quick Snapshots at VM Granularity

Snapshots provide production-level data protection without sacrificing performance. Nutanix utilizes a redirect-on-write algorithm to dramatically improve system efficiency for snapshots. Unlike traditional storage systems that snapshot data at a volume or LUN level, Nutanix VMCaliber snapshots happen at VM granularity for more fine-grained data protection.

VMCaliber Clones: Writeable Copies of Active Volumes Using VMCaliber Snapshots

Closely related to snapshots is the concept of a clone, which is essentially a writable snapshot. Nutanix uses the same underlying mechanism for creating clones as it does for snapshots, allowing it to benefit from the same metadata optimizations. Integration with popular off-load capabilities, including the VMware API for Array Integration (VAAI), Microsoft Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) and SMI-s allows clones to be created in a matter of seconds with minimal overhead.

Unlimited Converged Backups in Primary Storage with Nutanix Time Stream

Nutanix Time Stream allows customers to create local backups with VMCaliber snapshots. By mixing NX-6000 series capacity-rich nodes with regular application nodes, they can in effect create unlimited backups in their primary cluster

Cloud Connect: VMCaliber Backups to Public Cloud

Nutanix Cloud Connect allows customers to create efficient and long-term backups to public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). The functionality is seamlessly integrated into the data protection capabilities offered by Nutanix, allowing customers to backup to and recover from the cloud with just a few clicks. Data transfer to the public cloud is WAN optimized, reducing the storage footprint and networking bandwidth by over 75%.

Integrated Disaster Recovery and Remote Backups

Nutanix offers a natively integrated solution for disaster recovery that enables simple VM-centric backup, recovery and replication. Unlike traditional solutions, which perform backups and recovery at the LUN level, the Nutanix solution provides all of these capabilities at the VM and file level, making backup and DR simpler and more efficient.

Replication topologies are flexible and bi-directional, enabling many-to-many (e.g., hub-and-spoke, 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.

To learn more about Integrated Disaster Recovery, watch the video.

Storage Offload with VAAI, VCAI, Microsoft ODX and SMI-s Integration

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.

Cluster Shield: Cluster Lockdown for Additional Security

Lock down access to Nutanix clusters in environments with heightened security requirements. Cluster Shield restricts access to a Nutanix cluster by disabling interactive shell logins

Two-factor Authentication

Nutanix web-scale solutions enforce two-factor authentication for system administrators in environments with stringent security needs requiring additional layers of security for administrator login. When implemented, logins require a combination of a client certificate and username/password. Administrators can use local accounts built into the Nutanix UI, or use Active Directory for user names and passwords.

Management and Analytics

Nutanix Prism: Comprehensive Cluster Management and Analytics

Nutanix Prism is a comprehensive management framework that brings powerful control and radical simplicity to the Nutanix management experience. Prism includes an elegantly simple HTML5 interface and native REST-based API for integration with cloud and datacenter orchestration systems. Using Prism Element for single-cluster management and Prism Central for multi-cluster management, administrators can get end-to-end visibility and control of their Nutanix clusters, allowing them to easily deploy, maintain and scale their infrastructure.

To learn more about Prism, watch the video.

Nutanix Prism Central: Global, Integrated Multi-cluster Management

Manage Nutanix clusters around the world centrally from a single pane of glass with Prism Central. The rich interface gives administrators a bird’s eye view of resources across multiple clusters, and lets them zoom in to manage individual clusters as required.

To learn more about Prism Central, watch the video.

Nutanix Pulse: Data-infused Support Service

Get proactive, context-aware support from Nutanix based on diagnostic data and unobtrusively collected and automatically sent from your cluster. Pulse gives the Nutanix Support team the data required for quick and timely resolution of issues often even before customers are aware of them.

Nutanix Cluster Health: End-to-end Monitoring and Proactive Issue Resolution

Get comprehensive, end-to-end visibility of VMs, nodes and disks in the cluster. Cluster Health proactively flags potential issues in the converged infrastructure stack, gives administrators the ability to visually navigate issues by grouping and filtering resources at the VM, host and disk levels using an intuitive interface. This enables quick investigation and rapid resolution, giving administrators total control over their infrastructure.

Zero-touch, Non-disruptive Software Upgrade in a Cluster

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.

Programmatic Control of Nutanix Clusters with REST API

Nutanix REST API allows for complete automation of the converged infrastructure solution. Beyond basic capacity provisioning, the API enables infrastructure operators to automate every aspect of cluster management including deployment, upgrades, data protection, monitoring, troubleshooting, and performance management.

Nutanix Toolkit for Windows PowerShell

Configure and manage your Nutanix cluster in Windows, ESXi and Hyper-V environments with PowerShell Cmdlets. The Cmdlets are wrappers around the entire Prism REST API and provide comprehensive control over the Nutanix solution.