Nutanix and the Cloud-Based Virtual Data Center

Arthur Cole
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Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017

Nutanix has emerged from the quiet period following its recent IPO with a slew of new features for its automated, cloud-facing data center stack, but it is still confronted by a slew of headwinds, crosswinds and even some uncomfortable tailwinds as it seeks to transition the enterprise to on-demand, virtual architectures.

The company used the first .NEXT Europe Conference this week to unveil new network virtualization, security and orchestration capabilities that streamline both the provisioning and management of cloud-based infrastructure, at the same time laying the groundwork for the “microsegmentation” of resources to better support device-driven and containerized workloads. The platform now incorporates the Brocade Workflow Composer that provides advanced virtual network service delivery, plus new application-centric virtualization in the Prism management system that provides granular oversight of virtual machines and a wealth of new performance data.

On one level, Nutanix is championing the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) movement that seeks to push data architectures onto software-defined infrastructure sitting atop commodity hardware, but as CEO Dheeraj Pandey told Forbes recently, the bigger picture is the advent of real utility computing that places data resources on the same consumption model as power and water. Pandey says the ultimate goal is to allow knowledge workers to provision their own resources with little or no IT experience, but in order to do that the complexity of this process has to be hidden under layers of code. Under the new platform, Nutanix provides the end-to-end monitoring and management capabilities to produce this level of functionality without placing data or processes at risk.


Nutanix is not the only one pushing in this direction, however. Long-time IT vendors like HPE and Dell-EMC are also venturing into HCI and abstract data architectures, and they have the advantage of long-standing customer and channel relationships and healthy installed bases of legacy hardware and software. HPE, for one, says it can compete with Nutanix and other newcomers on both price and capability. The company is combining its converged hardware platforms with the Helion cloud management system, which, as VP Chuck Smith tells CRN, provides better capability and node support, along with high redundancy and availability. (Disclosure: I provide content services to HPE.)

In addition, rival start-ups like SimpliVity are cashing in on the virtual data center wave with software-only solutions that provide a high degree of flexibility when deploying resources on both public and private clouds. At the moment, says CRN’s Kevin McLaughlin, the platform runs primarily on Dell hardware, but the company has recently forged relationships with Cisco and Lenovo, and eventually plans to become hardware agnostic. The company is also said to be working with VMware, which is now part of Dell, allowing customers to deploy full data center architectures on the virtual-layer infrastructure that exists within most enterprise and cloud environments.

This is all heady stuff for today’s IT executive. On the one hand, rapid and largely self-serviced deployment of resources will do wonders to improve productivity and quickly capitalize on emerging market opportunities. On the other, there are serious questions regarding security and the loss of control that come from elevating data architectures onto distributed, virtual infrastructure.

At the very least, however, the broad outlines of the transition from static, integrated data systems to distributed virtual environments seems clear – even if many of the details must still be worked out.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

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