Nutanix AOS 6.7 Delivers Expanded Functionality for Nutanix Cloud Platform
New release expands enterprise virtualization capabilities, offers denser and faster storage, and enables more resilient hybrid multicloud deployments
By Steve Carter
Available today, the Nutanix AOS™ 6.7 and Prism Central™ 2023.3 software releases include an extensive set of new functionality for the Nutanix Cloud Platform™ (NCP) solution. With expanded enterprise virtualization capabilities, denser and faster storage, and more resilient hybrid multicloud deployments, this release exemplifies our continued commitment to regularly bring new innovations to Nutanix Cloud Platform.
As you delve into the specifics of this release, you’ll discover our dedicated focus on strengthening support for business-critical applications and databases, including an emphasis on storage, disaster recovery, virtualization, and networking. Our solution is now even more tailored to meet the evolving needs of our users,with expanded configuration options and streamlined hybrid multicloud operations, while providing a comprehensive suite of features to tackle (and simplify) the most challenging IT scenarios. Additional resources in this blog provide deeper insights into specific capabilities, as well as guidance on where to go to start the upgrade process.
Expanded Enterprise Virtualization Capabilities
Nutanix Cloud Platform includes the built-in AHV® hypervisor, designed to support high performance enterprise workloads with the management simplicity Nutanix is known for. This release includes AHV 9, which delivers an expansive set of new capabilities to make globally distributed hybrid multicloud deployments easier and accelerate application performance.
One-click cross cluster live migration for AHV
Workload mobility is one of the most compelling benefits of virtualization. The ability to move a virtual machine to a different physical server, or host, simplifies maintenance and makes it easy to balance workloads across an environment without the need for extensive planning. The live migration process involves replicating a VM’s memory to a destination physical server, and then cutting the state of the CPU over to the destination host. This is a fairly straightforward process, and has been supported on AHV since it was first launched in 2015. Migrating VMs to a different cluster requires also replicating the underlying storage, which is a significantly larger amount of data. Until this release, live migrating VMs to a different cluster required configuring synchronous storage replication (typically used for disaster recovery via the Nutanix Metro Availability™ solution) between the two clusters for the VMs to be migrated. With AOS 6.7, it is now possible to live migrate VMs across clusters on demand without the need for any disaster recovery configuration. The platform automatically performs all necessary pre-checks and will alert the user if live migration isn’t possible or if remediating action is needed.
Faster live migrations
The process of live migrating VMs is also now faster in environments with ample networking bandwidth. This is particularly important when migrating many VMs at a time, for example when upgrading the underlying AOS software. The time it takes to migrate a VM is limited by the amount of network bandwidth available to replicate the memory state to a new host, but also by the CPU that is needed to send the memory state across the network. In particular, for environments with more than a single active 10GB network link, such as dual bonded 10GB or higher bandwidth links such as 25GB, a single CPU core can’t send data fast enough to saturate the network. With AOS 6.7, the VM migration process can be multithreaded across multiple CPU cores and network streams, enabling the system to utilize more of the available network resources. The result is faster VM migrations, leading to more efficient and responsive operations.
Deploy Nutanix Guest Tools securely and at scale
The Nutanix Guest Tools™ (NGT) software package is deployed within user VMs and enables communication with the underlying Nutanix Cloud Platform. This is particularly important when managing environments at scale, enabling administrators to drive in-guest operations without needing to remotely login to the VMs themselves. To simplify the installation of NGT at scale, NGT now supports installation with package management tools without needing to automate SSH or WinRM into each VM. This is accomplished with the introduction of installers for Windows (exe) and Linux distributions (deb and rpm), which can be automated with third-party tools like the Microsoft Intune® and HCL BigFix® endpoint managers, or custom implementations using Ansible® automation software.
Maintain host affinity policies and vTPM integration with disaster recovery
In a disaster scenario, it’s critical that workloads be recovered quickly in order to maintain business continuity, and this happens most effectively when the failover process is automated. This release adds Disaster Recovery (DR) support for two important features: Host Affinity and vTPM. Host affinity ensures that VMs with specific host requirements are placed on the correct hosts within a cluster. An example would be an AI workload utilizing GPUs, where only a subset of the nodes in the cluster are equipped with NVidia® GPU cards. Host affinity can be configured to ensure that VMs requiring GPU acceleration aren’t moved to nodes without GPU cards. vTPM, a virtualized implementation of the Intel® Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and a requirement for supporting Microsoft Windows® 11, was introduced in the last AOS release, Nutanix AOS 6.6. As of this release, both Host Affinity Policies and vTPM are maintained after a DR failover.
Improved enterprise application support with Generation ID
There are a range of applications that use the Generation ID to access a virtual machine identifier to validate if the VM was cloned or duplicated for licensing or functionality verification. With this release, AHV creates a Generation ID for each VM that is created, which applications running inside of that VM have access to. Applications can then make decisions on how it wants to behave based on whether the correct Generation ID is present. One notable example where this is important is in the case of Windows domain controllers, which can create problems if accidentally cloned or rolled-back without proper safeguards. Generation ID is a mechanism that provides this information to a VM, allowing these restrictions to be tested and enforced by the app.
Denser and Faster Storage
Nutanix AOS delivers enterprise storage to workloads running on Nutanix Cloud Platform, based on an advanced distributed systems architecture with a full suite of enterprise features. This release builds on a continuous stream of advancements to both storage performance and density, while further decoupling storage policies from the underlying data.
Increased storage performance for AHV
Nutanix AOS storage is optimized for high performance at scale, enabling organizations to modernize and simplify their infrastructure even for the most demanding enterprise applications. The underlying architecture is uniquely optimized to benefit from the continuing advances in storage performance technology, including data locality, user-space I/O path that avoids disruptive interactions with the operating system, and fine-grained metadata management. AHV is further optimized to maximize the data path efficiency with AHV Turbo Mode™ technology, which implements multiple I/O queues in user space in order to maximize parallelism of storage operations and to minimize CPU utilization. Communication with AOS is via the iSCSI protocol.
This release introduces a fast path connection between AOS and AHV that leverages iSER (iSCSI Extensions for RDMA), an extension of the iSCSI protocol over RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) transport. RDMA allows data transfer over the network through DMA (Direct Memory Access) operations to target memory without interrupting the processing of the CPU(s) on that system. Not only does this utilize zero-copy to prevent the need for memory to be copied, it also results in reduced CPU utilization, enabling lower latency and increased storage throughput.
Denser storage configurations
AOS 6.7 significantly increases the supported storage density as well as the number of NVMe drives that can be configured for a single node. The benefit is lower TCO due to lower node count requirements for storage heavy deployments as well as improved support for storage heavy applications such as large databases and data warehouses. Nutanix® nodes can now be configured with up to 212TB for Hybrid and 216TB for All Flash configurations, a 55% increase from previous maximums. When configured to these maximums, the minimum supported Recovery Point Objective is 24 hours. More NVMe drives per node is also supported, with a maximum of 24 drives on some server models.
Storage policies for Volume Groups
With the Nutanix Storage Policies™ feature, users can configure storage settings per VM, making it possible to set parameters like encryption, compression, or replication factor without depending on the policies of the underlying storage container or LUN like legacy storage products. Policies can also be changed without needing to migrate data, a significant boon to management agility and infrastructure efficiency. This abstraction is a key capability for enabling self-service application management to users by untethering the specifics of the underlying infrastructure from the application configuration. With this release, Storage Policies can now be applied to the Nutanix Volume Groups™ feature as well. Volume Groups enable AOS storage to be exposed directly via iSCSI and is common with business critical databases.
Optimized Database Solution for lower TCO
The Optimized Database Solution utilizes Volume Groups in conjunction with the Nutanix Database Service™ (NDB) database-as-a-service product to expose storage to databases. With the Optimized Database Solution, customers can deploy databases to compute-only nodes running either the VMware ESXi™ or Nutanix AHV hypervisors connected to AHV storage-only nodes. The benefits include optimized performance and licensing costs without compromising operational simplicity with NCP. A new tech note will be available soon detailing the best practices for configuring the Optimized Database Solution.
More Resilient Hybrid Multicloud Deployments
The Nutanix Cloud Platform enables businesses to implement a cloud operating model by extending to public clouds and distributed edge with centralized management and self-service operations. With this release, customers can more easily protect data and workloads running across clouds, and streamline operations with new management and orchestration capabilities.
NC2 Cluster Protect with Multicloud Snapshot Technology
The Nutanix Cluster Protect™ feature makes it easy to protect workloads and data running on Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) on the AWS® public cloud. With NC2, organizations can extend their environment to public clouds with the same licensing and operations as the rest of their global Nutanix deployment. NC2 is powered by the same NCP software deployed in the datacenter or at the edge, but runs on public cloud bare metal instances. NC2 delivers enterprise functionality and unified management for running enterprise applications across hybrid clouds.
Cluster Protect introduces a simple and cost-effective solution for protecting clusters running in the cloud, which in case of AZ failure or other unplanned outage can be quickly re-hydrated to another cluster. Powered by the Nutanix Multicloud Snapshot Technology™ feature, which allows AOS snapshots to be written directly to S3-compatible object storage and can later be restored to a Nutanix cluster. When Cluster Protect is enabled on a cluster, snapshots of cluster data will be replicated to AWS S3 Buckets™ storage containers with as low as a one hour Recovery Point Objective, which can then be recovered to other clusters as needed. This helps mitigate the differences in SLAs between enterprise datacenters and public clouds.
Nutanix Cloud Cluster integrations
Integration with public cloud services and capabilities has been a key part of the Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) development. In contrast with competing hybrid cloud products, NC2 was designed to integrate into a customer’s existing public cloud accounts, enabling seamless blending with native cloud services. NC2 on Azure now supports higher resiliency with the Flow Gateway, allowing multiple gateways to be configured to gracefully handle gateway failure and increase throughput. Additionally, AWS Multicast is now supported via the AWS Transit Gateway, as well as AWS security groups to protect NC2 clusters at the AWS VPC level, cluster level or as granular as an individual subnet level.
Expansion of NCM X-Play
The Nutanix Cloud Manager™ (NCM) X-Play™ (pronounced “CrossPlay”) application is a simple low-code/no-code automation tool that gives you the ability to automate routine tasks by defining a trigger and a set of actions that are carried out when the trigger is fired. This release introduces an extensive new set of actions that compound what X-Play can be used for. In addition to simple VM tasks like “Eject CD-ROM”, X-Play can now run health checks, run custom SQL queries, distribute query results, alert ticketing systems, or restore VMs from a specific recovery point. More complex logic is also now supported via newly supported Math Operations that enable the use of math formulas using static values or variables.
Reporting and planning enhancement
The Prism Central (PC) 2023.3 release comes with numerous enhancements focused on reporting and planning. With 1-click reporting, our customers can perform reporting actions like saving an entire dashboard/page as a report configuration, saving widgets as report views, and downloading, and emailing these reports. Furthermore, users can now export report configurations and import them into another PC instance, enabling the sharing of report configurations across PC instances with the click of a button. Up to 50 report configurations can be imported or exported simultaneously using a common .rpt file. Additionally, customers can now generate reports for critical alerts, playbooks, and audits in either PDF or CSV format on a scheduled basis.
In scenarios where resource usage increments are planned in advance—such as workload migrations between clusters—capacity planning algorithms should ideally exclude these occasional occurrences. With a new enhancement to the capacity planning feature, users can now define a blackout period during which capacity planning will disregard such behaviors. This means that the data from these periods will not factor into the runway calculation for future predictions.
Notable User Experience (UX) updates
Notable user experience (UX) updates have been made to Prism Central (PC). In 2022, Nutanix Cloud Manager (NCM) integrated the formerly-separate Intelligent Operations™ (formerly Prism Pro™), Self-Service™ (formerly Calm™), Cost Governance™ (formerly Beam™), and Security Central™ applications under the umbrella of NCM. With the latest PC release, all NCM applications are consolidated under the Cloud Manager tab within the App Switcher. This streamlined approach offers customers seamless access to all NCM apps, eliminating the need for multiple clicks. Moreover, various elements, including the Product UI, SaaS portal, billing references, API Descriptions, Support, and Documentation portals, have been updated to align with the new naming conventions.
Increased cluster management capabilities via Prism Central
Prism Central (PC) centralizes hybrid multicloud management, enabling administrators and users to easily control their infrastructure and applications across clusters from a single place. PC works with individual clusters by communicating to each cluster’s Prism Element™ (PE) instance, which is integrated into cluster services. With this release, additional cluster management capabilities are now supported in PC that previously would have necessitated logging into PE. Nodes can now be added to or removed from clusters with PC, further simplifying scaling and especially so in highly distributed hybrid multicloud deployments. New storage widgets were also introduced to PC, including the storage summary widget, giving users the ability to view usage and resiliency information of all clusters managed by PC. Recycle Bin and Rebuild Reservation widgets were also added, giving administrators additional control of the underlying storage operations from PC. These widgets can also now be used to create custom dashboards.
Simplified scale-out for Prism Central
As deployments grow in size, the needs placed on Prism Central (PC) increase correspondingly. Much like AOS, PC was designed for scalability so customers can start with what they need today and scale out the environment as their needs increase. In large enterprise environments, it's not uncommon to host multiple PC instances on a single management cluster. Customers can now scale out these instances with a new simplified, streamlined workflow.
Centralized network management
Hybrid multicloud network management is also moving to PC. Centralized network management simplifies the operations for networking and security compliance teams, and creates the foundation for advanced networking capabilities that are critical to hybrid multicloud operations. With this release, the Network Controller that resides within PC is now more efficient from a CPU and memory perspective, deployable on small, large, and extra large PC types, and can support VLAN subnets in addition to VPC subnets. It is also now capable of traffic mirroring from Prism Central, simplifying integration with third-party networking applications.
Supercharge your Nutanix Cloud Platform and take advantage of these latest enhancements by upgrading to AOS 6.7 and Prism Central 2023.3 today!
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