The Rise and Rise of Nutanix

It’s a pretty exciting time in IT right now, but it has been a struggle recently it is fair to say.

My place of work has gone through several restructures in recent years resulting in headcount reductions. The standard rate of employee turnover was still there and continues to be. Additionally, the current economic environment means cost cutting is the new norm for IT budgets; an yet the modern data centre has some very complex and expensive systems that allow the business function as it should – and costing some serious coin to run!

All these things are combining to place pressure on the remaining staff to continue to deliver the IT outcomes the business has come to expect (perhaps even take for granted). But what about innovation? When is BAU and ‘keeping the lights on’ not going to be enough? Does IT management simply expect to keep the same old technology and renew maintenance contracts for these expensive systems without paying a much bigger price in say 2-3 years?

I was pondering this about 8 months ago when I saw where this trend was heading – and I didn’t like it. Something had to change.

The data centre world is converging in terms of technology *and* personnel – and it will benefit both the employee and business as a result. Good people are hard to find and even harder to keep. Consequently, the traditional idea of skill ‘silos’ must start to break down to drive efficiency (and to overcome the fact that there are less people to do the same work) but with the side effect that staff who are keen to learn new skills will get the opportunity to expand their knowledge – perhaps in areas they had not previously considered. Personally, I’ve never wanted to be ‘siloed’ (is that even a word?), nor wanted to be a one-skill engineer. All the best people I’ve worked with were of the same mindset.

While the people side of the equation is important, a lot of this is ultimately up to the individual to have the drive and ability to improve. The business can certainly help by creating a good environment – but that is a deep subject for another time. The point is that as much as the technology will converge, so too must people. Perhaps it is the age of the technology ‘generalist’ who can get the best out of the equipment for a reliable, functioning solution for the end-user within the business (so they can get on with making money).

But what about the technology?

I decided to find out about the technology options around ‘converged infrastructure’. The same-old way of providing compute, storage and networking really wasn’t delivering benefits in terms of cost and certainly not simplicity for the administrator. EMC/VMWare have been saying that they want to see one sysadmin for every 10,000 VM’s but with the current crop of technology from the big vendors I really could not see how that could be a reality.

Then I stumbled on a company that I thought might have the answer.

I’ve been following the rise and rise of Nutanix for a while now. I think they are on a winner. I’m very partial to their primary message of “NO SAN”, if nothing else that it promises to help eliminate a massive recurring and yet growing part of data centre budgets. No one is reducing their storage footprint even after staff are cut! When has your storage budget ever reduced in the last 10 years? Do you expect anything different? Didn’t think so. So when I saw a company saying they could ‘eliminate the SAN’ from your data centre I was going to pay attention.

Nutanix offers an all-in-one appliance. Think Cisco UCS for the compute side, but also heaps of storage integrated into the same appliance. And it has been designed from the ground up for virtual environments. And it provides a SAN-like distributed storage for that environment. And it is easy to administer (could this finally realise EMC/VMWare’s vision?). And it all comes in a 2RU block. And it has inbuilt data redundancy. And – well… I was keen to check it out.

If you’ve never heard of Nutanix, head over to their web site and view their 90 second summary video.

Last week I got my hands on our first Nutanix block for our End User Computing trail – one of the first in Australia. I’m proud to be involved.

A few things have impressed me on the Nutanix journey thus far.  I’ll be going into detail here in the coming weeks, but as a summary:

  1. Simplicity of the administration/setup of the block – up and running in minutes
  2. From sales to support staff, there is a level of responsiveness and eagerness to please I have not seen from a vendor in a long long time
  3. The technology solution is elegant, simple and priced well especially when you consider you get the storage included. It is modular, scales out extremely well if not infinitely (according to their whitepapers)

Nutanix is the duck’s nuts. Do yourself a favour and check them out. I’m lucky enough to be visiting their headquarters in San Jose to get the full story via some technical training and I’m looking forward to meeting some of the smart people behind it all.

I think it will be like visiting the future.

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