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Nutanix and Microsoft Private Cloud: We continue our journey with Microsoft (Part 2)

 

By Tim Isaacs

Earlier this month, we published Part 1 of our journey with Hyper-V discussing the value we bring to customers deploying Hyper-V. We also discussed details around our differentiated and synergistic implementation. This article continues where we left off and discusses our most recent software release, Nutanix OS 4.0, which shipped last month. Nutanix OS 4.0 is feature rich comprising integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem including Windows, Hyper-V and Azure. Highlights include the following:

  • Native Backup with VMCaliber or VM-centric snapshots
  • Native VMCaliber Thin Replication for DR
  • VSS support for application consistent backups running on Hyper-V
  • Windows PowerShell Toolkit
  • Non-disruptive 1-Click upgrades
  • Prism Central

These features are complemented by our Reference Architecture (RA) on Azure pack and Performance tuning on Hyper-V virtual machines. All this in just 6 months after our first Hyper-V release. Nutanix is the only infrastructure vendor releasing capability at such an accelerated pace. Shown below are some of the Microsoft-related areas where Nutanix is innovating:

  • VSS, Backup & DR: Admins may create application consistent backups of Hyper-V VMs using 3rd party backup software, with minimal impact to system resources, by leveraging the Nutanix (Volume Shadow copy Service(VSS) provider. VM-centric backups may then be efficiently replicated to remote Nutanix systems for disaster recovery.
    VSS enables application consistent backups through the interaction of VSS requesters, writers and providers. VSS requestors are typically 3rd party backup applications (Eg: Veeam, Commvault) requesting an application consistent backup. Achieving application consistency requires VSS writers — the applications — to put themselves in a suitable state for backup by halting IO, flushing memory and truncating logs. The VSS provider, Nutanix OS, proceeds to create a backup (snapshot) of the SMB 3.0 share and hands off sequence completion to the backup application. Backup or snapshot creation is critical to an optimal VSS sequence, since extended backup times result in degraded client performance. Nutanix snapshots are instantaneous and cause minimal impact to system resources. Once created, snapshots (backups) may be replicated to a remote Nutanix system. Nutanix VM-centric replication follows the “one baseline, forever incremental” model of replication where only changed blocks are sent over the wire. Data transfers may be further thinned down using global deduplication and compression, saving storage and bandwidth. These efficiencies hold true even on re-sync, when data from the remote system travels back to the primary cluster. DR Operations — replication, failover, failback, resync — are managed through our single pane, RESTful API based tool, called Prism.
  • PowerShell cmdlets: Powershell users may now manage their Nutanix infrastructure from the PowerShell command line using Nutanix Windows Powershell cmdlets. These cmdlets are auto generated from our RESTful API. PowerShell has emerged as the management standard in large Microsoft shops where administrators typically manage multi-vendor infrastructure and software through the Powershell command line. Our Powershell cmdlets are automatically generated wrappers over our Prism APIs. Nutanix cmdlets have a similar look and feel to the native Nutanix command line, creating a consistent end-user experience.
  • Non-disruptive software upgrades: Nutanix clusters spanning multiple server nodes running Hyper-V can now be upgraded using a combination of Nutanix 1-click upgrades and the Windows Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) feature. Nutanix 1-click upgrades, invoked from Prism, are responsible for upgrading Nutanix software on all nodes in the cluster. Nutanix is the only infrastructure vendor allowing the upgrade of complete cluster environments comprising several server nodes with a single-click operation, demonstrating the power of our truly distributed scale-out architecture. Our upgrade simplicity is comparable to smartphone upgrades:

The Windows Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) feature patches or upgrades hyper-v hosts in a failover cluster. When used in concert with Nutanix 1-click upgrades, admins may upgrade their infrastructure and virtualization environment without downtime and with little manual intervention.

  • Integration with Azure Pack: Nutanix may now be configured as the infrastructure enabling Microsoft Azure private clouds offering ease of deployment, centralized management, seamless scale-out and high workload densities. Microsoft created Windows Azure Pack to allow the design of Microsoft Azure cloud environments on privately owned customer infrastructure (private clouds) using the same APIs and control mechanisms available on the Windows Azure public cloud. We recently announced our Reference Architecture on Windows Azure Pack discussing best practices and architectural considerations to optimize Windows Azure private cloud environments on Nutanix. Download a copy for details. Take note of the ease of deployment, centralized management, linear scale-out of system resources and the minimalistic hardware footprint enabling unmatched workload densities 5-10X better than the competition. An interesting synergy involves invoking our RESTful API from System Center Orchestrator via Powershell, enabling leverage of Nutanix data management capability, like quick cloning of VMs, directly from System Center. No doubt, all these differentiators are key in Private cloud environments running the gamut of IT workloads with unpredictable resource consumption patterns. We are also the first software defined storage vendor certified under Microsoft’s private cloud fast track program. This certification validates and complements our work on Azure pack.
  • Hyper-V VM performance tuning: We concluded that, on average, Hyper-V VM performance is at par with other hypervisors. We measured Hyper-V VM performance at various stages during the development cycle and compared the results to VM performance on other hypervisors. All tests showed performance at par with other hypervisors. Performance boosts were achieved by enabling the Hyper-V high performance plan. We expect further improvements once we incorporate new storage and network drivers from Microsoft into our Hyper-V software stack over the next quarter.

New customer interest picked up in just a few days following the release. Our goals for Hyper-V on Nutanix are quite aggressive. We have established a presence in many different Microsoft Technology Centers spanning the globe and plan to expand over the next few months. Needless to say, the Nutanix solution with Hyper-V and the Microsoft ecosystem will continue to evolve. We have a packed roadmap over the next couple of quarters including, amongst several other things, unique capability like snapshot based, data reduced, Backup and DR to Azure. Drop us a line if you have a question or want to learn more — info@nutanix.com.