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Nutanix .NEXT 2017: AHV takes on VMware; product roadmaps

Notes from last week’s Nutanix .NEXT 2017 user conference:

 One knock against Nutanix is that its hyper-converged appliances cost more than competitors’ products. But Nutanix executives say using their AHV hypervisor can help customers save money by avoiding VMware enterprise license agreements, or by convincing VMware to discount its ELAs.

 “We have a joke about the $2 million Nutanix coffee mug,” said Sunil Potti, Nutanix chief product and development officer. “It’s a regular mug that says ‘Nutanix.’ You take that mug and put it on the table when the VMware sales guy comes out for the yearly renewal. Two million dollars comes off the ELA immediately, because there’s a threat [to VMware] for the first time. You’re saying ‘If I use Nutanix, I can choose to not use VMware.'”

 At least a few customers at Nutanix .NEXT 2017 said they’ve used that strategy. During a user panel at the show, Fairway Independent Mortgage CIO Bob Orkis told his version of the $2 million mug story.

 “We’re testing AHV now,” he said. “We had one use case that it really didn’t support, but that issue has now been resolved. Then VMware snuck in and gave us a blue light special at the end of the year. So there’s a little less pressure for us to do it now, but we’re headed in that direction.”

 Joshua Lukes, senior manager of computer services at technology services firm Itron, said his company decided to migrate from VMware to AHV hypervisors and saved a bundle on VMware licensing.

 “We’re doing a complete migration, and actually funding the project by avoiding ELA costs of our VMware contract,” Lukes said. “Between that and the footprint reduction of our colocation facility after installing Nutanix, we will be able to fund a complete hardware refresh.”

 Lawrence Lozzano, senior DBA for Los Angeles law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, said his team switched to AHV for different reasons. He said he is migrating from Microsoft Hyper-V to AHV on a Nutanix cluster because the integrated hypervisor is easier to manage and has Acropolis File Services built in.

 “To manage Hyper-V, the skill set needs to be broad,” Lozzano said. “You need to know Hyper-V Manager, you need to know Windows guest clusters, you need to know Virtual Machine Manager. If you don’t know one of these three components, it’s overwhelming to run Hyper-V. Because AHV is integrated, the hypervisor is not a conversation.”

Looking at Nutanix’s next product launch

Nutanix executives laid out pieces of the vendor’s roadmap during Nutanix .NEXT 2017, including a NX-9030 NVM Express (NVMe) flash appliance. The NX-9030 — due later this year — will support RDMA and 40-Gigabit Ethernet connectivity as the high end of its branded devices.

 Nutanix will also support one- and two-node clusters for remote offices and edge deployments. Nutanix will still require three-node minimum clusters for data centers, Potti said. The one- and two-node clusters will be solds in 10-packs, or 20-packs for organizations with many remote sites.

 “The cost between two-node and three-node isn’t much different,” Potti said. “The one- and two-node configurations are mainly about the form factor — people say ‘I just can’t fit it in my closet’ with three nodes.”

On the software side, Potti provided a look into Prism release 5.5, code-named “Obelix.” That will include AHV Turbo mode for increased file system performance, X-Ray monitoringasynchronous replication, native NFS support in AFS and support for one-click network microsegmentation. The software release is expected around the same time as the NVMe appliance.

 Potti said AHV Turbo uses technology from Pernix Data, which Nutanix acquired last August at the same time it bought Calm.ioNutanix turned Calm into a cloud orchestration feature built into Prism, and will incorporate Pernix Data’s flash and RAM caching technology into its software stack.

“Pernix was a technology play,” Potti said. “AHV Turbo, all the migration stuff, our SQL server migration, VMware ESX to AHV migration, that’s all coming from that team.”

 Nutanix .NEXT 2017 focused on hybrid cloud

Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey said the biggest request he gets from customers is to add hybrid cloud capabilities. “They say ‘Give me the option to drag and drop things between on-prem and off-prem,'” he said. “And that’s easier said than done. Converging the clouds is a massive computer science problem. It’s an operating systems challenge, and also a user experience challenge. You have to work really hard to make the two look like one.”