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Nutanix liberates NFS from the Network – Reincarnating it as NDFS



Nutanix, the first company to offer a SAN-Free datacenter platform for VMware virtualized workloads, announces the general availability of NDFS (Nutanix Distributed File System), a bold new distributed filesystem that eschews conventional network storage communications, harnessing the speed of hypervisor-based virtual switches and server-attached Fusion-io (NYSE: FIO) flash memory.

The Network File System (NFS), developed by SUN Microsystems and popularized by the market success of NetApp, has undergone a rebirth from dormant back-office file services to the Ethernet storage protocol of choice. “The adoption numbers for NFS are steadily increasing as more vendors support the file protocol and more storage managers want the simplicity, self-service capabilities for app admins, and the cost advantages of standard Ethernet,” wrote Andrew Reichman, Principal Analyst with Forrester Research in a report1.

However, NFS’s heavy reliance on already congested networks has placed unanticipated strains on the protocol’s ability to keep up with the proliferation of highly randomized I/O.

Nutanix NDFS, the soul of Nutanix’s Complete Cluster platform, breathes new life into NFS, fine tuning it to be proximity-aware while preserving the elegance and simplicity of single namespace file storage. NDFS accomplishes this by placing virtualized NFS controllers on each VMware host, absorbing heavy I/O read & write requests at the point of origin with high-speed low latency PCIe SSDs such as Fusion-io ioDrives.

By shifting the NFS datapath away from the network directly onto the VMware vSphere™ host, NDFS bypasses network communications that have historically been fraught with multiple high-latency hops between top-of-rack and end-of-row switches. Because each vSphere host contains a high-performance, flash-based virtualized NFS controller, NDFS localizes NFS client-server communication onto the vSphere host, maximizing the impact of the direct-data path and parallelizing I/O requests across server-attached flash on all vSphere hosts, delivering a massively parallel datacenter architecture. Nutanix is the only server-attached flash solution on the market that accelerates both read and writes for any workload, whereas other products only deliver read caching while still relying on costly external SANs.

“The NFS chatter between the client and the server never leaves the vSphere host. Traditionally, file protocols such as NFS have been easy to use and manage, but have been slower than block protocols because of overheads and high-latency, loosely-coupled, multi-hop GbE networks. Tuning NFS for the network has been one of the biggest nightmares for the virtualization administrator. By collapsing the network and providing a zero-hop path between the NFS client and the server, we bring a technology to the masses that is easy to use, highly distributed, and fast,” says Mohit Aron, CTO of Nutanix.

Redundancy and availability are achieved by data mirroring across high-speed 10GbE switches to Nutanix NFS controllers on adjacent vSphere hosts. Furthermore, Nutanix intelligently and continuously monitors VM placement, gracefully moving associated data to new destinations based on operator-invoked or automated live migrations.

“ESG Lab validated tightly integrated support for advanced VMware functions such as vMotion, DRS, and HA failover in a package that is simple, flexible, and highly scalable,” said ESG Lab Senior Engineer and Analyst Tony Palmer.

Big data and MapReduce techniques enable Nutanix clusters to horizontally scale to hundreds of nodes, allowing administrators to expand both server and storage resources symmetrically, one node at a time, without sacrificing performance. This single-tier, incremental, grow-as-you-go philosophy helps to smooth out uneven purchase timelines, costly redesigns, and forklift upgrades common with traditional multi-tier platform architectures that depend on monolithic storage arrays ill-equipped to scale out as business needs grow.

“I was looking to remove the whole storage piece from the equation. Nutanix lets me expand linearly in a simple grow-as-you-go model, eliminating the see-saw nature of sizing storage and servers as project scopes change. It allows me to immediately start deploying VMs and eliminates the pain points of dealing with I/O patterns that are becoming increasingly random, causing SAN performance to decrease as they handle more workloads. Traditional storage platforms can’t compete. With Nutanix we can move forward without having to expend time engaging with a storage architect or administrator. Ultimately, I’m a dad of four, a husband – I garden, mow my lawn and I like to play sports; I don’t have time to spend 24 hours a day in the datacenter!” said John Lasley, Enterprise Architect at Anthelio Healthcare Solutions.

Nutanix brings peace of mind to IT professionals in this predicament by doing away with the SAN altogether. Nutanix puts storage back where it belongs, directly on the vSphere host where it is fast and scalable and can grow predictably alongside vSphere expansion plans.

“The value in the Nutanix Complete Cluster and NDFS for managing VMs is so simple, we can walk a customer through it within thirty minutes and the customer is ready to go, with great performance at any scale. You don’t need a SAN expert to do your job or manage growth,” said David Able, Principal at Greenpages, a Platinum Nutanix Channel Reseller.

Nutanix harnesses the same distributed system techniques that power webscale clouds such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn clouds into an enterprise-friendly package that starts out as a high-density 2U datacenter. NDFS amplifies the power of Fusion-io (NYSE:FIO) to the realm of enterprise virtualization by combining Google-like high performance, localized storage, and distributed redundancy via high speed Arista Networks 10GbE top-of-rack switches. Nutanix ships with four industry-standard x86 servers bundled with VMware’s hypervisor in a 2U, 75-lb., SAN-Free server appliance.

“SANs haven’t lived up to their promise. SANs also leave application, database, and system administrators at the mercy of storage administrators for all their storage-related need… the possibility of bypassing SAN architectures for a fundamentally cheaper and simpler alternative is in the offing,” wrote Andrew Reichman, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research in a 2008 report.

About Nutanix
Nutanix is a global leader in cloud software and hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, making infrastructure invisible so that IT can focus on the applications and services that power their business. Companies around the world use Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS software to bring one-click application management and mobility across public, private and distributed edge clouds so they can run any application at any scale with a dramatically lower total cost of ownership. The result is organizations that can rapidly deliver a high-performance IT environment on demand, giving application owners a true cloud-like experience. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @nutanix.

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