Before I kick off, lets just clear this point up. I do not work for Nutanix and they have had no part in this blog post being commissioned. Nor do these views reflect any of my employer.
We have recently undertaken a VDi POC. Being that storage is the fabled killer of VDi, we have decided to look at a different option. Enter Nutanix, for those who have never heard of it think of it like this.
You have one box that has all of your storage and compute onboard. No more SAN fabric is required as your hypervisor (ESXi) actually installs onto the hardware and has a direct interface with the storage.
Pretty cool huh, clearly this is a very simplistic view, but I don’t want to delve deep here, as I want to discuss our experience with the product.
I want to start with an event that happened about half way through our POC. The rack we had the Nutanix sat in was going to be decommissioned. Far from ideal, but we set about moving it. When we had finished I just had this thought, we had lifted our entire desktop environment in under an hour! Damn… that’s cool and very powerful too.
Onto our hardware, we had a single block with three nodes on board. First impressions were mixed, these are just Super Micro boxes with multi core CPUs and 192GB (max) ram. Storage was in the form 300GB SATA drives and a host of SSD storage, all bundled with the rather tasty Fusion IO cards. Network connectivity was 10GB to a core switch.
In my mind all of the above was clearly something I could build but I knew that there was some good stuff to come.
Enter the Nutanix software and web interface. This is where the magic happens. The web interface itself is pretty slick and was very easy to navigate. Sadly I didn’t get to set the box up as they came preconfigured, personally I would have really like to have at least shadowed the setup 😦 However a quick nose around the interface and you can very quickly get a feel for some of the configuration items.
The real benefit for me was how simple it was to get performance stats from the system. I am by no means a storage guru and performance troubleshooting certainly takes me a while to do, however on a Nutanix this becomes simple. Both real-time and historic stats are all there, IOPS, BW, Latency, all can be viewed at the click of a button per node, per host or per VM. Its awesome!
We had a total of 12TB on board all presented to the ESXi hosts as a single NFS data store. We have only had block storage here, with NFS only serving templates and ISOs. Suffice to say that the Nutanix has proved to the powers that be, NFS can perform and is by no means a SMB only protocol.
The performance was blistering and it really shocked a few of our NetApp admins, especially when they saw that it was all coming from a tiny box. In fact I will go as far to say that performance testing that we carried out actually showed a considerable performance increase running our desktops on the Nutanix vs our 3200 series NetApp filers running of FC disks over a 4GB fabric.
My final take home(s) from this experience were that we could be witnessing the end of the monolithic SAN in the enterprise, we all know that they cost a bomb and are expensive to run, however there are still some features that Nutanix does not have, once we have full parity Nutanix really does become compelling.
Also, I started to think that my server roadmap that was heading down the Cisco UCS path on the next refresh could be wrong, and in actual fact I should look at Nutanix units for my server compute and not just the desktops.
Time will tell as maybe by the time we get to that refresh we will be on Liquid storage or some fancy hologram storage, as storage seems to change so quickly!
All I can say is my eyes are now wide open and the storage space is really interesting at the moment, and Nutanix have my vote!