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Nutanix Acropolis and Prism 4.6: The Rise of the Enterprise Cloud

By Suda Srinivasan

We announced the latest release of the Nutanix software – Release 4.6 – this morning. As with every release from Nutanix, this one is packed with new features and big improvements that will get customers excited. While each of the features is significant in itself, when considered together, the features tell a story that’s bigger and even more compelling than the sum of the parts. This release is a big milestone in the company’s journey to deliver an enterprise cloud platform that makes infrastructure invisible.

What Is An Enterprise Cloud, Anyway?

Let’s take a step back and look at the broader context in which businesses and organizations operate to understand what an enterprise cloud is. Businesses increasingly rely on technology to stay ahead of competition and to better engage with their customers and partners. Brick-and-mortar retail companies such as Best Buy and Home Depot are using technology to provide their customers with a more holistic shopping experience that merges online and offline shopping. Fashion companies use real-time information to better manage their logistics and inventories and stay on top of ever-changing fashion trends. Government organizations such as the County of San Mateo are transforming themselves with technology to better serve their residents. Business leaders are looking for IT architectures that will allow them to test new business models, roll out new services and applications, and get more efficient. As technology becomes more important to long-term success, the expectations on IT go up as well. IT needs to move at the speed of business; for example, if a competitor comes up with a mobile app that delivers a superior shopping experience, a business needs to respond by rolling out its own apps and services.

Businesses love public cloud services for their agility, simplicity and pay-as-you-grow economics. Application owners and users are able to provision resources they need within minutes and scale incrementally on demand without limits, paying only for resources they use. But business still rely on on-prem infrastructure using legacy infrastructure and virtualization solutions for enterprise applications when they need greater control over performance, availability and security, allowing IT to deliver SLAs to its business users for a wide range of enterprise applications such as databases, messaging and collaboration, and next-gen big data applications.

There is a critical void between public cloud experience from the likes of Amazon AWS that customers want, and the on-prem experience from vendors such as VMware that customers need, and this is the gap that the enterprise cloud bridges. An enterprise cloud is an infrastructure model that gives businesses the agility, simplicity and fractional consumption of Amazon AWS along with the security, control and predictability of VMware for all their traditional enterprise applications as well as their next-gen applications. With an enterprise cloud, enterprise IT no longer needs to choose between the agility of the cloud and the security, predictability and control of on-prem infrastructure — they get both benefits and the flexibility to run their applications where they choose based on business considerations.

What Goes into Building an Enterprise Cloud?

The enterprise cloud has four key elements:

  1. Web-scale infrastructure fabric that is 100% software-defined, resilient, distributed and delivers predictable performance across a wide range of enterprise applications
  2. Control fabric with consumer-grade design leveraging machine intelligence, extensive automation and rich analytics to make operations invisible
  3. Technologies that allow applications to be deployed in a variety of virtual and cloud environments, and to be seamlessly moved between these environments when needs change
  4. Security-first design, where security is not a bolt-on concept but integral to how infrastructure is built

Nutanix is best known as a leader of a new category of infrastructure that it created – hyperconvergence – that natively brings together compute and storage in a turnkey, scale-out solution. But from the start, we have seen hyperconvergence not as an end goal but as a stepping stone to the bigger vision of making infrastructure invisible by delivering an enterprise cloud.

Not only the Nutanix product but the entire customer experience is built around this vision. This includes award-winning support for the entire infrastructure solution that has earned the industry’s highest Net Promoter Score as well as rich set of services designed around customer needs and a broad ecosystem of technology partners.

What’s New in The Latest Release?

The new 4.6 release of the Nutanix software furthers this mission in several ways. There are three big rocks in the 4.6 release, in addition to a number of other improvements:

  1. Delivering continuous value with up to 4x better performance: Enterprise clouds, like public cloud services, need to pass value back to customers in an ongoing basis through continuous innovation. This release has over 25 software enhancements that deliver up to 4x better performance, allowing current customers to run more applications faster on the same infrastructure with a simple non-disruptive software upgrade without any additional spend.
  2. Eliminating hypervisor lock-in and enabling choice of environments: IT professionals need the flexibility to pick the right virtual environment for their applications, and more importantly, should able to change their decisions when circumstances – business or technical – change. But changing the hypervisor running on infrastructure has been a many-month process fraught with risk and costing thousands of dollars in consulting fees. IT managers have also balked at the cost of retraining and retooling their teams.This release includes new features in the App Mobility Fabric that make it easy and risk-free to pick the right hypervisor for each site and application and to change the hypervisor when needed. New features include:
    1. One-click hypervisor conversion
    2. Cross-hypervisor backup
    3. Cross-hypervisor DR
  3. Making datacenter operations invisible: In order to deliver cloud-like ease of use and simplicity in the datacenter, enterprise clouds must incorporate machine intelligence and automation that simplify complex operations from many clicks to a single click, and eventually from a single click to zero-touch management. This release includes a new datacenter automation solution, Prism Pro, that radically simplifies a broad range of IT operations using powerful machine learning and automated decision-making. New features in the release include:
    1. New entity browser
    2. Capacity planning using X-fit™ technology
    3. Capacity optimization
    4. Customizable dashboards
    5. Search-first interface

Nutanix has adopted a holistic approach to infrastructure security, building security specification and testing into the software development lifecycle. The fully integrated infrastructure stack eliminates security risks associated with legacy solutions that involve many vendors with a narrow, fragmented view of security. Nutanix has also developed a security baseline for hardening a deployment tailored for the converged infrastructure stack. Encoded in a machine-readable format, this baseline allows for automated validation, ongoing monitoring, and now self-remediation to automatically fix any deviations. This security-first design is essential for a robust enterprise cloud.

In addition to these highlights, the 4.6 release is packed with a number of other features:

Converged Infrastructure (Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric, AHV)

  • General availability of self-service restores, allowing users to restore individual files from snapshots without needing to spin up VMs or requiring admin involvement
  • Volume groups that allow storage to be mounted directly by the guest bypassing the hypervisor. This is useful for applications such as Microsoft Exchange that require iSCSI storage for official support
  • Native Nutanix VSS provider that allows applications to be quiesced faster than before, significantly reducing disruption to app performance and I/O overhead for snapshots
  • Support for VLAN trunking

App Mobility (Acropolis App Mobility Fabric)

  • OpenStack drivers that allow customers to integrate Nutanix into their current OpenStack deployments and provision infrastructure through OpenStack interfaces
  • Guest customization

We will get into each of these capabilities as well as others in the 4.6 release in more technical detail through blogs in the coming weeks. You can experience all the goodness in this release through our non-disruptive one-click upgrade. Please take it for a spin and let us know what you think.