Andrea Danti - Fotolia

Building firm buys Nutanix cluster after failing to break it

Langs Building Supplies IT manager said he didn't want to take Nutanix's word for it, so he gave its hyper-converged cluster a thorough working over before buying it.

Before he bought a hyper-converged Nutanix cluster, Langs Building Supplies' IT manager, Matt Day, tried to kill it. Only after that failed did the Australian company become a hyper-converged customer.

Day was looking for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) storage back in 2013, after years of an austerity budget coming out of the 2008 global financial crisis. Langs needed to refresh server, storage, desktops and switching simultaneously. Day said he used VMware hypervisors and VMware Horizon View for his virtual desktop infrastructure, and VMware recommended Nutanix as a one-stop infrastructure.

"I didn't know who Nutanix was," Day said. "We were traditional, three-tier architecture. We attacked this from the VDI area first."

He said Nutanix's appliances looked good on paper, but he needed to see them in action. He brought in a three-node Nutanix cluster and treated it as his worst enemy.

"They had to deliver me a block, and I had to try and kill it," he said. "I had the block for about a month on a proof of concept. We did some nasty things to it. We were pulling nodes out in the middle of upgrades; we were taking disks out, just yanking power cables trying to kill this thing. Every time we got it back up, the whole cluster came back up and it was happy days. After doing that for about a month, we decided, 'OK, this is a platform we can live with.'''

That aggressive testing paid off after installation when a storm caused a power outage in the Langs data center with 100 virtual machines running on its Nutanix cluster. Day said he had it all up and running again in 20 minutes.

Looking back, Day said: "It was a very high-risk maneuver on my part. There was a personal risk, so I wasn't going to take their word for it. It was going to touch all of our business. The VDI thing by itself is transformation in nature. Then, I'm going to use a vendor that no one's heard of in Australia. That's a gambit maneuver where you're extending your neck. If you buy Dell or IBM and it fails, they don't say, 'Why'd you buy that?' If you bought Nutanix at that time and it failed, you'd lose your job."

Nutanix cluster quadruples, becomes primary storage block

I had the block for about a month on a proof of concept. We did some nasty things to it.
Matt DayIT manager, Langs Building Supplies

Langs started out with Nutanix NX-7000 appliances, with Nvidia GRID graphical processing unit cards for graphics. The original plan was to use Nutanix only for VDI and buy a SAN within two years, but Day said he kept expanding the Nutanix cluster -- and he now has 70 TB of flash and hard disk drive capacity.

The Nutanix cluster expanded to 12 nodes within a year, and it remains that size. Langs now runs all of its applications on a mixed Nutanix cluster of NX-7000, NX-6000 and NX-3000 appliances.

Although he finds Nutanix pricey, Day said his Nutanix cluster is simple to set up and manage.

"We can expand Nutanix with no forklift upgrades," he said. "There are no professional services involved. Get a new node, plug it in, hit expand cluster, and 15 minutes later, it's all there. You don't have to sit there with a whiteboard and say, 'How am I going to plan this all out?'"

Mixed hypervisor load becomes a possibility

Langs still uses VMware for virtualization, despite Nutanix adding its KVM-based Acropolis hypervisor (AHV) a year ago. Day said he looks forward to trying AHV, but he is waiting for his Rubrik backup appliance to support AHV.

"In the best of both worlds, I would use a mixed hypervisor cluster, with Horizon View on [VMware] ESX and all other workloads on AHV," he said. "But it's a unique challenge to get high availability to work between hypervisors on the same cluster. I thought of splitting the cluster into two, with AHV on one and ESX on the other, but then you start adding complexity that I don't want to add."

Day chuckles now when he recalls how he came across Nutanix, considering it now competes with VMware hypervisors and Virtual SAN hyper-converged software.

"VMware said to me, 'Do you know who Nutanix is?'" he said. "That's really quite interesting in the current scheme of things. I think that's because it was a really good platform for VDI, and it helped them with Horizon. And it certainly helped Nutanix."

Next Steps

Nutanix sets sights on cloud at .NEXT conference

How to scale hyper-converged infrastructure clusters

Hyper-converged buyer's guide: Use cases

Dig Deeper on Hyper-Converged Vendors and Products