.NEXT up for Nutanix storage: Bare metal, containers, cloud

At its .NEXT user conference in Las Vegas, hyper-convergence leader Nutanix adds storage for bare metal databases and persistent storage for containers.

LAS VEGAS – Instead of rolling out any new products at its user conference, Nutanix is concentrating on building out its current platform.

The hyper-convergence pioneer is moving beyond storage for virtual machines with new support for block storage on bare metal servers and persistent storage for containers. It is also adding the ability to self-provision and manage resources for public clouds.

The new Nutanix storage features were annoucned today on the opening day of its .NEXT user conference.

The Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform is a hyper-converged platform combining compute, storage and virtualization in one chassis. But as the hyper-converged market gets crowded with large vendors such as EMC, Cisco, VMware and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) entering the market, Nutanix is looking to broaden its software stack. A year ago at .NEXT, Nutanix introduced its Acropolis data fabric that included a native hypervisor called Acropolis hypervisor (AHV). It added file services, analytics and predictive modeling in February.

New features for Nutanix storage platform

With today's new features, Nutanix now supports storage for VMware virtual machines, blocks, files and persistent storage for containers.

"We're becoming the enterprise cloud platform," said Suda Srinivasan, Nutanix director of product marketing. "We have an infrastructure solution that supports all enterprise workloads and delivers a cloud-like experience in the data center. We started out with hyper-convergence that provides compute and storage, and last year we added built-in virtualization."

Acropolis Block Services (ABS) and Acropolis Container Services (ACS) are part of the 4.7 release of the Nutanix operating system due in July. ABS allows Nutanix storage customers to store information on databases running on bare metal Cisco, Dell and HPE servers. It exposes block storage as an iSCSI mount to access as if it were on a SAN. 

"Some customers have block storage on workloads that may need to run on bare metal," Srinivasan said. "It might be a transitional plan where you want a bridge to hyper-converged, or, for licensing reasons, you might want to keep them on physical servers."

ACS provides persistent storage for containerized applications such as Docker and other microservices. That allows developers to run virtualization and containers on the same Nutanix storage platform.

At .NEXT, Nutanix also previewed self-service capabilities for provisioning and managing storage and applications on private clouds, and the addition of scenario-based modeling for what-if analysis before customers make changes to their infrastructure. Nutanix is expected to add those features in late 2016, along with OpenStack drivers.

On the hardware side, Nutanix will make all-flash nodes available for all of its hardware models in August. Currently, only the NX-9000 supports all flash.

Is cloud the .NEXT thing for Nutanix storage services?

Eric Slack, senior analyst at the Evaluator Group IT analyst firm, said Nutanix doesn't need a shiny new product at .NEXT because it already has a wide range of hardware models and a lead in the hyper-converged technology race.

"They're doing a lot of little things," he said. "They keep adding features and support for different platforms. I think they have the strongest feature set of the hyper-converged players."

But Slack said it might be a stretch for Nutanix to position itself as an enterprise cloud platform. "I have to give them credit for trying that," he said. "Is it a scalable elastic architecture? I don't think you'll see a lot of hyperscale customers using it."

Not everyone agrees with that assessment. Arun Taneja, president of the Taneja Group consulting firm, said Nutanix's core technologies provide the building blocks for cloud.

"If you want to build an Amazon or Azure cloud in the enterprise, this is the way to go. You're not going to do it with EMC," Taneja said. "Nutanix originally thought of hyper-convergence as infrastructure replacement because it would be a new way of doing things. Now they're executing on that broader theme."

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