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Nutanix: Try our software for free

Perhaps looking to head off software-only Hyper-convergence competitors down the road, Nutanix will make a free version of its software available beginning next month.

Nutanix will launch a public beta of its new Community Edition software June 8 during its .Next user conference. Nutanix has always maintained that all the value of its technology lies in the software, but it makes that software available only on appliances. Nutranix uses Supermicro hardware for its NX appliances. Dell also sells Nutanix software on PowerEdge servers through an OEM deal.

The Community Edition can run on x86 servers from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Supermicro and other hardware vendors. It can be deployed on one, three or four nodes. Nutanix will issue minimum hardware requirements to run the software. The Community Edition will run on all-flash hardware, or in a hybrid configuration with SSDs and hard disk drives.

Nutanix requires a minimum of a three-node configuration for its paid product, but will allow the free edition to run on one node for testing.

The Community Edition only runs with KVM hypervisors, unlike the NX appliances that also support VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V. If users like the free software, they cannot upgrade it to a licensed version of the product. They must buy a new appliance form Nutanix or Dell. There will be no official support for the free product from Nutanix, but users can seek help through the Nutanix NEXT online community.

However, the Community Edition has all the features of a paid Nutanix appliance.

“It’s our entire feature set. Customers are empowered to take full advantage, there are no limitations to applications or workloads they can run,” said Greg Smith, Nutanix senior director of product and technical marketing.

Smith said he expects the free edition to be popular among application developers and prospective channel partners who want to test the technology before committing to the paid version.

While hyper-converged pioneers Nutanix and SimpliVity bundle their software on appliances, others sell software that can be packaged on commodity hardware by customers or channel partners. VMware is the major software-only rival to Nutanix with its Virtual SAN (VSAN) that is sold by major vendors through an EVO:RAIL OEM program. Maxta also sells hyper-converged software.

Still, Smith said the vendor is sticking with the appliance model for its commercial products for now. “Right now, [a software-only paid version] is not in our plan,” he said. “Customers tell us they like the convenience of appliances. Our efforts are devoted to making our appliances and Dell appliances as easy to use as possible.”