Unlocking Performance and Seamless Operations: Exploring New Features and Enhancements in Nutanix AOS 6.8

Improved Database Performance, User-Friendly Self-Service and Enhanced Data Protections

By Allan Waters

May 15, 2024 | min

Introducing the Nutanix AOS 6.8 software, the latest evolution of the Nutanix Cloud Platform (NCP) hybrid multicloud solution. With a focus on improved performance, streamlined self-service cloud operations and enhanced business continuity, AOS 6.8 software sets a new standard in hybrid cloud platforms. These stand-out features improve and simplify deployments of all sizes.

Unleashing High Performance for Large-Scale Database Workloads

This release introduces the latest performance improvement to the core AOS data fabric. Building upon the foundation laid by our pioneering distributed architecture, AOS 6.8 software delivers the next significant performance boost by leveraging key enhancements from previous releases, such as AES, Blockstore and SPDK. These advancements continue to solidify NCP as a fit for business-critical workloads with continued improvements in performance.

This key improvement delivered in AOS 6.8 software – Autonomous Extent Store (AES) Optimized Metadata – lies in its ability to handle sustained random writes to the extent store more efficiently. The streamlined metadata mechanism reduces CPU consumption and improves performance, especially in scenarios where workloads generate sustained random writes.

Internal testing showed a remarkable 17% increase in IOPs and 16% lower latency, providing a more predictable and scalable experience for large database workloads. This feature helps system efficiency and drives consistently high performance with demanding databases, such as the Oracle or Microsoft SQL databases.

Internal Nutanix testing*:

AES Optimized Slob Performance AES Optimized Metadata

Hypervisor Innovations for Enterprise Scale Deployments

Virtualization is central to modern IT environments. However, managing large-enterprise virtual environments has its own challenges, particularly related to capacity planning, rightsizing, and deployment strategies. They must be actively managed in order to optimize resource efficiency and workload performance.

NCP and the Nutanix AHV hypervisor have long addressed these challenges with automated management features, such as resource inefficiency detection, AI-driven capacity planning and rightsizing.

AOS 6.8 software delivers new features that optimize the largest enterprise deployments. This includes managing VM placement across an environment with multiple clusters and migrating VMs as quickly and efficiently as possible as resource consumption grows and changes over time.

VM creation showing new
Automatic Cluster Selection option:

Create VM

Automatic Cluster Selection

Automatic Cluster Selection makes it easy for Nutanix administrators to deliver a cloud-like experience to their users with minimum management overhead. Many Nutanix customers have general-purpose environments with multiple clusters managed by a single Prism Central instance, but the utilization of the different clusters needed to be managed by an administrator.

The new Automatic Cluster Selection feature intelligently determines the optimal cluster for VM deployment based on resource availability, host affinities, project specifications, and image distribution policies.

This capability ensures that resources are automatically balanced across the clusters as new VMs are deployed. It also saves valuable time and ensures that workloads are evenly distributed for maximum performance and utilization across the infrastructure.

Faster Live Migrations with Micro Stunning

With this release, migrations are faster and more efficient with the introduction of micro stunning. Live migration is the process of replicating the memory state of a VM from the source VM host to the destination VM host, and then cutting over state to the destination.

However, highly active VMs may make changes to VM memory faster than can be replicated to the destination host, which prevents the migration from finishing. In order to complete the migration, VMs are temporarily stunned, or paused momentarily to prevent memory updates while the active state is moved to the destination host.

The new micro stunning enhancement substantially reduces this impact. This is achieved by focusing control on vCPU cores that are performing high rates of memory updates and only in scenarios where their writes to memory outpace the replication to the destination host. The result is substantially faster migrations for highly active VMs and more consistent application performance in highly dynamic environments.

X-Small Prism Central for Edge and Small to Medium Sites

Introducing Starter to X-Small Prism Central environment, a lightweight version of the intuitive management interface, Prism Central. A Prism Central instance includes cluster and workload management across multiple clusters and serves as the interface for advanced cloud management features like self-service, capacity planning and automated operations.

With a Starter to X-Small Prism Central instance, set up now requires fewer resources and is simpler than ever. This means improved TCO and more room for workloads, and an easier and more economical way to manage Nutanix clusters globally. 

Designed to manage fewer than 500 VMs, support fewer than five clusters, and accommodate up to 10 users (three concurrent), a Starter, to "an X-Small" Prism Central environment offers cost savings and efficiency gains by utilizing just four vCPUs and 18 GB of memory for the control plane. This streamlined version represents a significant step forward in empowering small- to medium-scale and edge deployments.

More Versatility with Hardware and Storage Options

Cluster Upgrades Get Improved CPU Compatibility and More Options

Advanced Processor Compatibility (APC) is a release feature designed to streamline upgrades and transition clusters to the latest generation CPUs. Clusters are no longer limited by the lowest common denominator CPU. This means VMs can now accurately identify and utilize the CPU features available to them, enabling improved migrations.

APC offers flexibility in a few different ways. First, clusters can be leveled for consistent CPU presentation to guest VMs. Next, baseline CPU models can be set for on demand cross-cluster live migrations to different generations of hardware.

Finally, specific CPU models can be set to leverage advanced features like CPU-based encryption. With the new APC feature and modes, cluster upgrades become easier, unlocking the full potential of your hardware investments while simplifying operations for maximum efficiency.

Managing Storage Is Even Easier

Managing storage is now easier than ever with two new features.

The first one builds upon the foundation of a feature currently available called Storage Policy. The new Default Storage Policy simplifies storage operations by providing a readily available system-defined policy within every Prism Central instance.

Now, users can attach this default policy to their entities, including Virtual Machines (VMs) and Volume Groups (VGs), with just a single click. This streamlines storage management and makes configuration easier at scale.

The second feature is enhanced role-based access controls that introduce additional predefined roles – Storage Admin and Storage Viewer – enabling users to handle storage entities with ease. These new roles allow administrators to create, update, read, and delete volume groups and storage containers, significantly simplifying the management process of storage.

Create VM

Better User Experiences with Advanced Management

The following section introduces new innovations that focus squarely on elevating user experiences. With a suite of enhancements designed to improve scalability, reporting, and even support for dark sites, AOS 6.8 brings numerous advancements that dramatically enrich the user experience. 

Dark Site Support with Prism Central (PC) Security Dashboard

Prism Central Security Dashboard for dark sites is now available to meet the security needs of customers in air gapped environments with no outside connection to the Internet.

Organizations can now use PC Security Dashboard to monitor their Nutanix infrastructure's security posture within a single, comprehensive view, enhancing their ability to identify and mitigate potential threats effectively.

This expansion of support for dark sites represents a continued commitment by Nutanix to provide robust security solutions to federal, financial services and other key industries.

Unlocking Efficiency with Nutanix Cloud Manager (NCM) Intelligent Operations

New features are now available for NCM Intelligent Operations, ranging from increased scalability, enhanced reporting, and streamlined self-service operations. These updates show continued improvements in automation for your cloud environment and are represented in every aspect of NCM Intelligent Operations. Here’s a summary of new features:

  • Scalability Improvements for Application Monitoring: NCM now scales up to 10,000 external vCenter VMs and 100 (small PC) or 200 (large PC) SQL endpoints and 100 DB each for SQL Server Monitoring, ensuring seamless management of large-scale environments.
  • Playbook Enhancements – Post Action Execution Flow (PAF): New PAF automates tasks post-playbook execution, allowing IT admins to take actions based on playbook status without manual intervention.
  • Reporting Enhancements – Additional System Reports: Simplify report creation with a curated set of 18 predefined templates for common use cases, enabling customers to effortlessly generate, edit, schedule and share reports without creating from scratch.
  • Configurable VM Rightsizing: VM rightsizing for overprovisioned, inactive, and constrained VMs previously had a lookback period of 21 days. This time period has been extended to longer fixed durations, 30/60/90 days, for more precise reports.
  • Self Service – AI Ops X-Play integration: The new X-Play integration streamlines automation by enabling the call of self-service run books and facilitating complex orchestration actions through modeling and execution within X-Play actions.

24/7 Operation Excellence with Seamless Business Continuity

Ensuring uninterrupted operations is paramount in today’s rapidly changing business landscape. Virtual networking and business continuity are often forgotten until disaster strikes.

Protecting against potentially disastrous events requires support for customers' recovery time objectives (RTO) and RPO while enabling them to overcome demanding situations with confidence. 

AOS 6.8 software brings advancements for more replication options and streamlined processes. These features strengthen protection and ensure that your business meets the most challenging SLAs and network requirements.

AHV Metro for Volume Groups (VGs) with Zero RPO and Near-Zero RTOs

AHV Metro for VGs brings new levels of protection to the datacenter. AHV Metro and AHV Synchronous can now be configured within a single protection policy and will allow those VGs to extend across two Nutanix clusters.

This new feature is another advancement to protect mission-critical applications that rely on VGs, such as Windows Failover Cluster-protected databases. The new feature works in conjunction with the AHV hypervisor and enables businesses to meet stringent failure-tolerance targets and regulatory requirements.

NearSync Support for Volume Groups (VG) and Consistency Groups (CG)

Continuing the replication theme, there are now even more ways of meeting diverse SLAs for critical applications. Traditional solutions like Sync Rep (0 RPO) may introduce unwanted delays, especially for high-throughput workloads. Relying solely on Metro replication may not always suffice, leaving organizations vulnerable to data loss threats such as ransomware.

NearSync support for VG/CGs bridges this gap, offering RPOs ranging from 20 seconds to 15 minutes. This enhancement complements existing Continuous Data Protection (CDP) capabilities for VMs, providing a comprehensive data resilience strategy that is both robust and easily adaptable.


Example of schedule beings created
with Recovery Point Options:

Edit schedule

AHV vTPM Enabled VMs Now Supported with Backup and Replication

AHV and vTPM for VMs running Windows 11 with Credential Guard is now supported with backup and replication. With this release, vTPM-enabled AHV VMs are fully supported for backups by third-party software, replication and restore. Now, users can confidently deploy and manage these VMs knowing that their data is safeguarded and accessible for backup and replication processes.

Prism Central Environments and High Availability Protection

Continuing the theme of resilience and business continuity, another feature is the integration of Prism Central instances with the node failure mechanism in AHV. This enhancement ensures that if a node hosting a Prism Central instance experiences a failure, the high-availability functionality in AHV will immediately activate to protect Prism Central environments.

With this mechanism in place, a Prism Central instance resumes operation on another node, ensuring seamless access and functionality without interruption. This addition boosts resilience in Prism Central instances, offering users the protection that their vital management platform remains safeguarded and operational at all times.

VPCs Now Supported by Synchronous Replication and Cross Cluster Live Migration

New Synchronous Replication and Cross Cluster Live Migration (CCLM) support for Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) is also being delivered. This feature makes it simple to deploy workloads on VPCs while achieving a zero RPO.

CCLM allows the ability to expand across clusters without requiring network mapping. Synchronous replication and CCLM will both improve resilience and recovery times.

Secure Snapshots Provide More Protection Against Ransomware

Secure Snapshots highlights additional advancement in safeguarding against ransomware attacks, while increasing IT security.

This feature allows administrators the capability to shield any snapshot linked to a disaster recovery policy from being deleted. In essence, it can provide another barrier against compromised administrator IDs, rendering them incapable of tampering with crucial snapshots needed to recover from ransomware threats.

Now, with Multi-Party Authorization, deleting snapshots requires multiple administrators’ programmatic approval before it can be compromised or deleted. By ensuring zero admin compromise while maintaining a regimen of regular immutable snapshots, new Secure Snapshots offer more resilience in the face of evolving cyber threats.

Simplifying Cloud Operations

The next set of features show advancements in cloud operations and are aimed at streamlining more aspects of managing cloud environments. Among the highlights is the integration of the AWS EBS Storage option in Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2), providing users with enhanced flexibility and efficiency in storage management.

Additionally, more integration with the Nutanix Flow Virtual Networking (FVN) solution enhances workload protection and unifies the control plane. These features help ensure better and more secure operations across cloud environments.

AOS Support for EBS Storage

Additional storage options for NC2 on AWS are also being delivered. The integration of AWS EBS GP3 volumes offers improved resilience and can store more data with fewer nodes.

These dynamically attachable EBS volumes are a great fit for workloads that have higher storage requirements, but lower compute. This also allows rightsizing to be more accurate without the need to add more nodes in order to increase capacity. The new feature represents a great advancement in NCP storage options.

EBS Storage Deployment:

Capacity and Redundancy

Cloud and Edge Networking Easier with Full Stack Flow Virtual Networking (FVN) and Transit VPCs

This release continues to streamline cloud and edge networking, expanding upon previous support for on-premises and Azure by incorporating full FVN with AWS integration.

It seamlessly unifies networking and simplifies control planes across these diverse cloud environments. This integration enhances connectivity and streamlines application migration and cloud deployments by making FVN VPCs available in NC2 on AWS.

Additionally, AOS 6.8 software introduces Transit VPC connectivity for on-premises FVN, enabling the linkage of multiple VPCs and facilitating resource sharing. This feature streamlines the creation of hub-and-spoke topologies, simplifying network management and integration to the physical network while scaling operations across various cloud infrastructures.

Protecting Workloads with Flow Network Security NG and NC2 on Microsoft Azure

Full stack FNS Next Gen support for NC2 on Azure environments is now available, allowing customers to protect their Azure-based workloads effectively even within the same subnet.

This feature ensures the seamless extension of FNS NG on-premises capabilities to NC2 on Azure, offering customers a consistent and comprehensive approach to workload protection across both on-premises and cloud environments, including previous support for AWS.

In addition to the integration with Azure, FNS has been validated to support 10k VMs for both VLANs and VPCs on-premises within a Prism Central instance, providing more scalability.

These two features mark a commitment by Nutanix to delivering robust security solutions and scalability across clouds.

Example of creating a policy and selecting
either VLAN or VPC, and Hit Logs if needed:

Scope of Secured Entities

Backup and Restore for Prism Central with AWS S3

Nutanix has always understood the critical importance of backup and replication, especially in the face of potential data corruption or ransomware attacks. Prism Central (PC) Backup with AWS S3 integration is a great new feature addition for the platform.

With this new feature, users can now seamlessly backup their on-premises and AWS Prism Central instances to AWS S3, ensuring data resilience and providing the capability to restore to a precise point in time when needed. This feature completes the Prism Central resilience story, offering comprehensive protection against cluster, site, and PC failures.

Seamless Application Inspection with Traffic Mirroring

A new Traffic Mirror feature simplifies inspecting and capturing traffic from VMs, regardless of the traffic redirection destination. With AOS 6.8 software, Traffic Mirroring supports capturing traffic from any VM in the Nutanix AHV cluster and forwarding that traffic to a VM on another host in the cluster through a tunnel. This reduces the number of capture or inspection VMs required and simplifies traffic inspection management.

VLAN to VPC Migrations Now Even Easier

This release also simplifies Flow Virtual Networking VLAN to VPC migrations. Seamless VLAN to VPC migrations for all VMs can now be done, including those protected with disaster recovery policies. With this feature, you can ensure smooth migrations without compromising data integrity or workflow continuity.

Floating IP Assignment and Replication for Flexible Security

Customer-chosen source network address translation IPs (SNAT IP) and Floating IPs (FIP) are now available with support for asynchronous (async) FIP replication for FVN. Rather than randomly assigning an SNAT or FIP, users now have the freedom to select their own, streamlining administrative tasks and enhancing overall management efficiency.

Floating IPs also now support Virtual Private Clouds (VPC) async replication during failover scenarios between VPCs. Users can pre-select (or maintain current) far-side Floating IPs, enabling seamless integration with load balancers before any failover occurs.

A great approach for organizations like managed service providers, this feature streamlines the failover process, ensuring minimal downtime and uninterrupted service availability. 

Bulk Operations Support for Flow Network Security

FNS introduces another time saving feature with support for Address Groups Bulk Operations. This update streamlines the configuration of IP/subnet ranges within Flow Network Security policies, particularly focusing on the convenience of managing Address Groups.

With the new Address Groups Bulk Operations feature, FNS users can configure IP addresses and subnet ranges with ease. For example, configuring in the same row using comma delimiter or using CSV file import.

This feature greatly simplifies the configuration process and enhances overall workflow efficiency, which enables users to efficiently manage network security policies in bulk.

An example of bulk operations by creating a single
address group and entering each X.X.X.X/mask or range:

East coast

Elimination of Foundation Default Passwords

As part of our platform-wide commitment to improving security, AOS 6.8 software has implemented steps to mitigate risks associated with default passwords. Default passwords, while initially provided with software for convenience, can inadvertently become vulnerabilities if left unchanged.

With this feature, during the deployment of Foundation, non-default passwords must be selected from the beginning. The benefit is the improvement of the Nutanix security posture and safeguarding against potential breaches.

New Nutanix V4 APIs

This release not only brings forth many new advancements in self-service operations but also introduces new V4 APIs Release Candidate (RC), continuing the v4 Rest API journey.

These new APIs build on previous releases and provide robust support for various endpoints, clusters, and operations, all created with a commitment to open standards. With this release, developers receive a dynamic toolkit that aligns with industry standards, fostering innovation and efficiency.

  • Storage Container v4 API (RC)
  • Volume Group v4 API (RC)
  • ESXi v4 API (RC)
  • Disk v4 API (RC)
  • VM Revert(GA) API (RC)
  • VG Revert(GA) API (RC)
  • Recovery Point API (RC)
  • Protected Resource API (RC)
  • Data Protection - Consistency Groups API (RC)
  • FLOW v4 API (RC)
  • V4 API of Alerts, Events, Audits, Alert Policy, Email Config (RC)

Upgrade Today

The release of AOS 6.8 software marks significant advancements in performance, cloud self-service operations, business continuity, virtual networking, and V4 APIs. With these new capabilities across crucial areas, upgrading is an opportunity to enhance your infrastructure and stay ahead in today's dynamic IT landscape.

Take advantage of the latest and greatest features - You can find the release notes here (login required).

New to Nutanix?

Give the Nutanix Community Edition a try. It is ideal for learning to manage Nutanix infrastructure on your own hardware. Included is Prism, the user-friendly interface that provides unified management. Find it here.

*Testing environment: 4 nodes each with 2x Intel Xeon 8280 (28c, 2.7 GHz), 8x NVMe INTEL 3.68 TB, 1.5 TB Memory, 2x Mellanox CX-4 25 GbE cards, Network connection 2x 25-Gbit/s LACP active-active, SQL Server 2022 and Oracle Enterprise Edition 19c, HammerDB 4.6

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