What do you do after you've successfully hyper-converged multiple stacks of complex physical infrastructure to simplify IT and then built out a full enterprise production-quality hypervisor offering a cost-effective alternative to VMware? If you are Nutanix, you take on the next big challenge and help IT get into the cloud. Nutanix is no longer a leading hyper-converged infrastructure vendor with a suite of Nutanix hyper-converged products. It has now set its sights higher to help IT hyper-converge horizontally across both hybrid and multi-cloud locations.
At the Nutanix .NEXT 2018 conference, Nutanix unveiled a raft of cloud-related offerings designed to simplify IT at the next level up and out from the physical data center. Stepping outside the Nutanix hyper-converged environment, these new products and services include Nutanix Flow for policy-based network segmentation and security, Nutanix Era for automated database cloning and migration operations, and Nutanix Beam for multi-cloud cost modeling and compliance.
The first step toward successful enterprise multi-cloud IT operations requires tackling network concerns. Setting up production networks and then assuring data center network security are hard enough, but the complexity and risk multiply exponentially when you add in both hybrid cloud and multiple cloud segments.
Flow is Nutanix's answer to complex networking, offering distributed microsegmentation, provisioning, security and an ecosystem of third-party network services in a cloudlike manner. Microsegmentation isn't exactly a new idea, but Nutanix aims to support and essentially encapsulate all the complexities of setting up bulletproof application-level microsegmentation inside Flow's relatively simple DevOps-friendly cloud services.
Flow enables control of application-specific networking concerns through policies. Still, good network policies are hard to create and maintain accurately on a large scale, much less customize for each critical application. Flow helps with good policy creation by analyzing and visualizing all application interactions so that a policy admin can easily whitelist exactly what's necessary. Enforcement then follows that application wherever it might be provisioned or deployed across any number of different supported on-premises or cloud environments.
In addition to expanding to networking, Nutanix is also climbing into application management, starting with databases. Nutanix Era is intended to evolve into a whole suite of database-related services for a wide swath of databases aiming for a full lifecycle database as a service, but it is available now with a core set of copy data management (CDM) capabilities for Oracle and Postgres.
These native CDM capabilities utilize Nutanix OS and storage snapshot features to enable the fast cloning, migration and refresh of database data sets. Nutanix claims this provides database administrators and developers a much desired "database time machine"-like capability and can reduce the number of online database copies significantly.
CDM and database data management are also not new ideas, but adding them as a type of PaaS layer on top of Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and cross-cloud capabilities elevates and broadens HCI's enterprise appeal.
With Flow handling complex multi-cloud network security and Era paving the way toward more PaaS offerings, cloud application deployments become much easier. But as more applications drift -- or are born -- into a hybrid or cloud hosted environment, IT becomes additionally responsible for controlling and managing both cloud cost and compliance.
Nutanix Beam is designed to provide a complete multi-cloud management control dashboard. It first provides visibility and analysis of how applications are consuming cloud resources but also enables IT admins to take active management steps. For example, Beam can highlight unused cloud resources and enable direct reclamation actions. Beam can also make optimizing cloud redeployment recommendations for immediate implementation easier.
Beam is designed to enable several IT governance tasks as well. Overall, the combination of cost optimization and IT governance at the application level enables IT to help minimize spending, while assuring security across multiple cloud providers and complex multi-cloud/hybrid cloud application deployments.
Nutanix hyper-converged climbs the stack
We already know what's coming next. Nutanix has agreed to purchase Frame -- whose official name is Mainframe2 -- for cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI was a common early use case for HCI and still remains a big piece of Nutanix's business. With Frame, Nutanix can offer desktop as a service for cloud-based VDI.
It's worth mentioning that Nutanix also preannounced Xi in 2017. Xi, a new kind of multi-tenant disaster recovery as a service, is promised for later this year. Xi should support a full cloud-side IaaS hosted target for failover of any on-premises or hybrid HCI cluster, with full failback and live disaster recovery testing options.
It's clear that Nutanix isn't satisfied with the immediate simplification that comes with on-premises data center HCI but is striving to deliver simplification of all IT across both hybrid and multi-cloud architectures. These new services might at first all seem like arrows going in different directions away from the core Nutanix hyper-converged offerings. But, taken together, they begin to add up to a set of services designed to eventually converge away all the complexities of operating IT.
I expect Nutanix and others to begin talking about a superset of these capabilities taken together as a cloud OS. That means they will start working together intelligently – powered, no doubt, by advanced machine learning and AI -- and integrating on the back end into a smarter, simpler hyper-hybrid IT architecture.