As we wind down 2019, I’m looking back at an incredible first calendar year for Frame as a part of Nutanix. The year was marked with a long list of major product milestones starting with the release of our new front-end platform called Xi Frame. With this post, we’ll cover those key releases and kick off a whole new series of technical blogs dedicated to keeping you up to speed on the latest Frame features, tips, customer stories, best practices and more.
Note that if you found this post from within the main Nutanix blog, head over to nutanix.com/frame-blog to quickly find all Frame-related posts going forward.
Xi Frame: New UX, RBAC, and so much more
It was December, 2018. Just a few months earlier, in late August, Nutanix completed the acquisition of Frame. For over five years, we’d been operating our core platform (now dubbed “Classic Frame”) to deliver Windows apps through a browser for some of the biggest ISVs and enterprises in the world: Adobe, Autodesk, Siemens, and the US Government to name a few. We learned a lot over the course of those years and fed our customers’ inputs directly into our continuously evolving cloud platform. But now, as a part of Nutanix, we had the opportunity to implement a major step forward and roll out an entirely new UX and authentication model that would take our platform to a whole new level. And so, Xi Frame was born.
While many of our backend components remained largely the same, Xi Frame introduced a whole new user interface built with Elixir and an entirely new role-based authentication model. Both of these changes gave us far more flexibility to meet both the increasing demands for enterprise scale and the flexibility required of a modern cloud service. In addition, this new front-end made it easier for us to integrate with a variety of Nutanix systems, services, and software.
Xi Frame gave us the opportunity to make the user experience more intuitive while maintaining similar concepts and terminology from Classic Frame to make it easy for both new and existing customers. A big part of our UX redesign was to make common integrations, completely self service. For example, with Classic Frame, our support team had to get involved in order to set up customers to use their own IaaS accounts vs. Frame’s. With Xi Frame, it only takes a few clicks.
Similarly, using an external identity provider (IdP) for enabling access to Frame, used to take quite a bit of hand-holding. Now, an admin can self-serve to hook up a wide variety of IdPs in a couple of minutes (e.g. OKTA, Ping Identity, any SAML2 provider, Sign-in-with-Google, etc.). And this includes configuring role based access controls (RBAC) with a few clicks.
Traditional Enterprise Features for a Cloud Platform
As we entered 2019 with Xi Frame, word was spreading fast about our unique cloud service that delivered desktops and apps into a browser, now under the Nutanix umbrella. Feedback rolled in quickly from a whole new set of enterprise customers that were embracing cloud-first approaches, but still needed to support traditional enterprise workflows. While we launched Xi Frame with a variety of enterprise features, there were still many on our roadmap at the start of the year. Customer feedback helped shape our priorities and building on the flexibility of Xi Frame we were able to roll out the following features throughout the course of 2019:
- Non-persistent desktops and apps: this feature makes the most efficient use of infrastructure by letting a group of users share a common pool of stateless VMs. It also reduces support requirements, since every user’s session starts from a “fresh and clean” standard image.
- Persistent desktops: this feature gives every user their own dedicated VM. It’s typically used when the end user needs to be able to install applications and completely customize their desktop environment (e.g., developers).
- Support for both non-domain joined and domain-joined VMs: while many desktop-as-a-service platforms can only do one or the other, Xi Frame gives customers the choice to join the end-user VMs to a domain with classic Active Directory or not.
- Utility Servers with Backups: this feature lets admins easily setup a client-server application all within a Xi Frame account. It also enables a variety of other use cases (license servers, databases, etc.).
- Personal Drives: this feature gives end users their own, separate, persistent drives for primary data storage -- all within their Frame account. It’s best used with non-persistent desktops.
- Enterprise Profiles: this feature pairs with non-persistent desktops to give users a persistent experience, while still giving IT the manageability benefits of shared non-persistent VMs. It was rolled out in partnership with Liquidware Labs, where their ProfileDisk feature is integrated directly into Xi Frame (included at no additional cost with your Frame subscription). Currently, it’s fully supported for domain-joined environments with non-domain joined support coming (stay tuned for lots more on this).
- Private Networking: this covers a variety of deployment topologies that support hybrid environments. Most enterprises have some infrastructure in the cloud and some on-prem. Bridging the two typically results in some very specific network requirements to meet with corporate security policies. We’ve built a number of features to support these kinds of environments in working with our customers. Stay tuned for more blogs on this topic in the future.
Frame on Nutanix AHV
As you would expect, no sooner than Frame joined Nutanix, the most popular question we heard was: “when will you run on Nutanix on-prem infrastructure?” So this was a natural new capability for us to launch at our biggest annual customer event .NEXT in May. It was actually a very significant milestone, as it was the first time that we were able to deliver a true hybrid capability from our cloud-based service. With a single Xi Frame control plane our customers can now run workloads in public clouds as well as in their own data center on Nutanix infrastructure running AHV. Nikola Bozinovic, Frame’s original founder and CEO covers the announcement best in this blog post from May: How to Build a True Multi-cloud Service.
Frame on Google Cloud
Our next big milestone of 2019 was launched at another NEXT conference - this time Google’s NEXT conference in London in November. Frame has supported workloads on AWS and Azure for many years. But increasingly, enterprises have asked for support of Google Cloud. We embraced many Google technologies early on. We built one-click integrations with Google Drive and Sign-in with Google and Chrome has always been one of our favorite browsers - especially when running on ChromeOS devices like Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. So it was a natural thing for us to add support for Google Cloud. For more on this announcement and all the cool integrations we’ve built for the Google ecosystem, check out my post from November: Xi Frame for Google Cloud Platform Now Generally Available.
Onwards to 2020
While I’ve taken you through some key milestones for Xi Frame in 2019, there’s lots more to be found in our public documentation and our change log. As a cloud service, we’re updating our platform on a weekly basis, so as we go forward into 2020, we’ll be populating this new Frame blog with more regular updates on features, tips and tricks, best practices and customer stories.
Of course if you haven’t tried Xi Frame yet, head over to our 2-hour Test Drive or sign-up for a 30-day trial at my.nutanix.com. Lastly, we love getting your feedback so reach out to your local Nutanix rep and Frame specialist or just tweet us at @frame. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!
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