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Nutanix completes phase two of dedupe plan for hyper-converged storage

Nutanix upgrades operating system for its hyper-converged storage platform, adding post-process deduplication for data on hard disk drives.

Nutanix Inc. rolled out version 4.0 of its hyper-converged storage operating system today, adding data deduplication for data on hard disk drives and centralized management of multiple clusters and snapshots.

Nutanix, fresh off a $101 million funding round in January, sells Virtual Computing Platform systems that combine storage, compute and hypervisors in the same hardware package. The Nutanix OS works across the startup's four hardware configurations.

Post-process dedupe for hard drives is the second data reduction phase for the vendor. Nutanix added inline dedupe for flash and memory tiers last August in its OS 3.5.

Suda Srinivasan, Nutanix's director of product marketing, said the two types of dedupe give the vendor data reduction for performance -- flash and memory -- and capacity -- hard drive -- tiers.

"They go hand-in-hand," he said. "This is a complement to what we offered in version 3.5."

Nutanix calls its post-process reduction technique MapReduce Deduplication because it distributes data across nodes in a fashion similar to the Hadoop MapReduce algorithm.

SimpliVity, Nutanix's closest competitor, built dedupe into its OmniCube from the start, using a PCI Express card to handle inline dedupe with minimum performance impact. Because it uses software to dedupe on spinning disk, Nutanix takes a different approach and performs the reduction after the data is read to disk.

"If they tried to do it inline without hardware assistance, something would have to give and that something is performance," said Arun Taneja, consulting analyst at Taneja Group. "That's why they do it post-process."

Nutanix OS 4.0 also includes a new management interface called Prism Central, which allows customers to manage clusters from remote offices and data centers through one pane of glass -- previously, customers had to manage each cluster individually. They can also schedule snapshots and recover data from local and remote snapshots through Prism Central. In addition, a one-click OS upgrade feature lets customers upgrade the OS on all nodes of a cluster non-disruptively in minutes.

Greg Smith, Nutanix's senior director of product and technical marketing, said the goal of the upgrades is to make it easier to manage and maintain large clusters. Although Nutanix sells appliances, "we're a 100% software-driven architecture," Smith said. "We never rely on hardware crutches. Our policies are late binding; they're not defined in the system when they ship from our factory. They're defined by the customer and applied at runtime."

Nutanix claims it passed $100 million in revenue in its first two years on the market, which would almost certainly make it the early leader among hyper-converged storage vendors. Its main competitors are Maxta, Pivot3, Scale Computing and SimpliVity, although VMware entered the market last month with its virtual SAN (VSAN) software that aggregates compute and storage across server nodes.

Taneja said vendors who sell more mature hyper-converged platforms such as Nutanix and SimpliVity still have an advantage over VSAN for enterprise customers.

"VMware is making storage more efficient with its vSphere hypervisor for small and midsize companies," he said. "To that degree, VSAN will impact low-end storage companies. But I think SimpliVity and Nutanix will appeal more to midsize and larger companies than VSAN. VSAN is making storage more efficient, but hyper-convergence is a different matter -- it's infrastructure in a box."

Taneja also said Nutanix's support of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor gives it access to companies that don't use VMware.

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