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Nutanix Xi Cloud Services revealed at Nutanix .NEXT 2017

Xi Cloud Services brings hyper-converged vendor Nutanix into the public cloud game as it seeks to tie on-premises data to the cloud with the help of Calm orchestration software.

OXON HILL, Md. -- Nutanix laid out the next phase of its cloud vision at Nutanix .NEXT 2017, introducing a set of public cloud services the hyper-converged vendor will host beginning in 2018.

Nutanix's strategy is to build its market-leading hyper-convergence technology into an enterprise cloud platform. At Nutanix .NEXT 2017 in June, the vendor previewed its Nutanix Xi Cloud Services and Calm cloud orchestration software.

Nutanix will manage Xi Cloud Services on its public cloud, beginning with a disaster recovery (DR) service in early 2018. The Nutanix Xi DR Service will tie into the Nutanix Prism management interface, which lets customers set up protection for applications and data on whatever hardware they use with Prism, as well as on popular public clouds. The Nutanix hyper-converged software stack can run on its branded appliances or servers from Dell EMC, Lenovo, IBM, Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Nutanix also supports Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform public clouds.

Nutanix executives said they will enable hybrid cloud services by tying on-premises data to a public cloud.

"How we meld the Xi Cloud Services with on-prem is basically beginning the journey of hybrid cloud services," said Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey during the .NEXT opening keynote.

Nutanix Calm is another piece of its multicloud strategy.

Calm, which comes from Nutanix's acquisition of Calm.io a year ago, is an orchestration tool built into Prism. It captures an application in a blueprint with all of the app's containers, virtual machines, binaries and run book orchestration. The blueprint can be provisioned, managed and scaled in AWS or on Nutanix appliances on-premises, with support planned for Azure and Google Cloud Platform soon after the initial release. Calm is scheduled for availability near the end of 2017.

"We think the hybrid cloud needs a reboot; a fresh approach," said Greg Smith, Nutanix senior director of technical marketing. "One challenge of the hybrid cloud is that the different public and private clouds are built with different technology stacks, different tools and different management constructs. You wind up with separate IT silos. The public cloud does not meld with the private cloud."

Nutanix customers already moving toward cloud

In user panels and interviews, Nutanix .NEXT 2017 attendees talked about using the vendor's platform to build private clouds and to move data to public clouds.

Lawrence Lozzano, senior database administrator at Los Angeles-based law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, said one reason his team picked Nutanix was that the vendor "had already started with [the] hybrid cloud/public cloud approach, and that's where the firm was headed."

Lozzano said his firm uses Nutanix Cloud Connect for Azure software, which runs on Azure compute and uses Azure Page Blob storage. He said he had only passing knowledge of the Xi Cloud Services announcement, but would "be interested in what Nutanix has to offer for the cloud.

"The important details for Nutanix customers are how can we use the cloud and move our workloads, how is it all integrated, and how do they connect the dots?"

Another .NEXT attendee called the Nutanix cloud news "very intriguing," despite his organization's decision to get rid of its data center and move everything to AWS by 2020.

"I want to see more, but it's AWS for us," said Matthew Frew, IT director of enterprise services and solutions for the Wharton School of Business. "We made a decision to go with AWS because of how rapidly they innovate and how they can help us by deploying platforms as a service rather than servers as a service."

That move to AWS will likely cause Nutanix to lose this particular customer.

"It's going to go away at some point," Frew said of his school's Nutanix cluster. "At some point, our entire virtual environment is going away. But we feel Nutanix is aligned with helping us deploy things automatically and being much more scalable for workloads."

Jeff Kato, senior storage analyst at the Taneja Group, said Nutanix's "bold vision" is to build out a public cloud built solely on its technology with Nutanix Xi.

"Its strategy is to do the entire stack," Kato said. "It's going after the orchestration layer and getting into application modernization with Calm. They want to build a good private cloud ... while the trend is that people are trying to bridge this gap between private and public clouds, but in a heterogeneous way."

Nutanix Xi competes with other storage vendor clouds

Nutanix isn't alone in extending its on-premises technology to the cloud: Dell already has a private cloud of its own in Virtustream, which EMC acquired in 2015, before the Dell merger. Kato compared Nutanix Xi Cloud Services to the VMware Cloud on AWS, which launched in late 2016. That partnership allows VMware to be sold on AWS as software as a service, which lets VMware customers move images back and forth between on-premises and cloud. Microsoft is trying something similar with Azure Stack.

Software-defined storage vendors, such as Hedvig, SoftNAS, SwiftStack and Scality, are also getting into the multicloud act.

"We're looking at storage companies doing multicloud storage at the data service level," Kato said. "They're just now moving there and allowing data service to run in the cloud, not creating another public cloud. [IBM's] Cleversafe does it, but it's Cleversafe in a public cloud. Others layer data services into AWS. Even part of HPE's strategy with Nimble was that you can run Nimble in the public cloud. The question is, how do you get data movement across these clouds in a consistent way?"

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