Nutanix starts thinking outside the VM – with extra help from Dell

Brings its storage stack to AWS's EKS but still has time to improve its hypervisor

NEXT Nutanix used its annual NEXT conference to reveal it has started thinking outside the VM by making its storage stack available as a native service on Amazon Web Services' Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS).

This move marks the first time the hybrid cloud outfit has done anything that doesn't run on a hypervisor it provides or manages, a decision made in recognition that there are a few hundred thousand orgs reliant on conventional datacenters, but millions of entities building cloud-native apps that run either in a public cloud or on-premises.

Nutanix wants those orgs to consider its storage stack for their apps – and will over time ask customers to consider more of the same as this containerized storage offering was delivered under "Project Beacon." Beacon is an effort announced a year ago with the aim – as we wrote at the time - of creating a range of PaaS products that run on any cloud and don't require the presence of Nutanix's hybrid cloud infrastructure stack.

CEO Rajiv Ramaswami told The Register Nutanix will work on off-prem database management, and streaming services, as it expands its portfolio to deliver the services that applications need in cloud-native form.

Which is not to say the debut of Nutanix storage on EKS is a shift away from the company's roots, because AWS also offers EKS Anywhere, which runs on-prem.

Dell sends a signal

Dell has deepened its partnership with Nutanix and will offer a hyperconverged appliance combining Nutanix Cloud Platform running on Big Mike's boxes.

Dell will sell both hardware and Nutanix's stack. Dell's PowerFlex software-defined storage rigs will also be part of the joint solutions.

Joint engineering of solutions is also on the cards, but that's always necessary when vendors bring their wares together. This deal is therefore not a replacement for the friends-with-benefits deal that Dell used to enjoy with VMware despite Nutanix CEO Rajiv Ramaswami sugesting the new offering could be called "NX Rail", a play on the VXrail product Dell and VMware created before Broadcom decided to shuffle the deck.

Remember, too, that Dell builds pretty much whatever its customers want, even when that creates products that compete with some of its own offerings.

But this is still very good news for Nutanix as Dell is the largest enterprise hardware player, and therefore an ally of unmatched prowess.

Yet Project Beacon is clearly Nutanix's coming thing, as another nugget of news announced at NEXT was the debut of the Nutanix Kubernetes Platform (NKP), a product derived from its late 2023 acquisition of an outfit called D2IQ (formerly Mesosphere).

NKP is claimed to be unusually easy to implement and tuned to the needs of ops teams. But perhaps its most interesting feature is that it can manage clusters running in non-Nutanix environments. That capability could even allow NKP to manage air-gapped clusters, probably to entice K8s shops in the military and national security capers.

Ramaswami rated Beacon as the essence of Nutanix's long-term tech strategy, and its business strategy too as he feels most future apps will be cloud-native. Nutanix needs to be relevant in that world.

VMs aren't forgotten – nor is attacking VMware

Nutanix may have taken big steps towards cloud native but it has also found time to work on its AHV hypervisor to make it run on more hardware.

One such target is VSAN Ready Nodes, the storage-centric servers OEMs create to run VMware's virtual storage arrays. Nutanix is ensuring AHV can run on those boxes on the off-chance their owners want to repurpose them – an obvious off-ramp for those who may wish to discontinue or diminish use of VMware now that it's owned by Broadcom.

Ramaswami told The Register the decision to support Ready Nodes was made because VMware customers are asking for it. In the past, Nutanix sold to VMware customers when they evaluated the market as their hardware reached end of life. Now the CEO sees an opportunity to pounce. And as Ready Nodes are storage servers from the same OEMs Nutanix already works with, the effort to support the boxes isn't major – although Ramaswami said it will mean Nutanix has to support some configurations and components it previously chose not to on the grounds they're not at the quality it wants underpinning its own stack.

Support for Cisco's UCS blade servers are another target, as Nutanix wants AHV to run on compute-only nodes, bigger hosts of the sort typically used to run multiple VMs, or storage-centric servers. Again, repurposing older hardware is part of the plan.

AHV has also been tweaked to allow creation of secure snapshots that will be immutable until changes are authorized by multiple authentications. Another change will allow asynchronous copying of data to a third site, alongside synchronous copies between two sites. Doing so will satisfy users bound by the European Union's Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), we're told.

Live migration across nodes will also be improved, a standard feature of virtualization stacks on which Nutanix had a little catchup to do.

It's an important capability especially for database workloads, which can't tolerate downtime. And as it happens Nutanix told The Register that databases are now the most prevalent workload running on its platform, displacing desktop virtualization, which arguably made the company. Ramaswami said the shift in usage reflects the fact that Nutanix is now considered sufficiently mature – technically and as a business – to host mission-critical apps.

Also announced at the conference was a second version of Nutanix's GPT-in-a-Box solution, plus relationships with HuggingFace and Nvidia to make it happen. Nutanix will also deliver metrics on server power consumption and pump them into a dashboard. That's a timely announcement as analysts from Gartner today predicted half of all organizations will adopt sustainability-enabled monitoring by 2026.

"Organizations have strong carbon reduction goals to achieve and expect their infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams to launch sustainability initiatives that align their current IT carbon footprint with corporate goals," said Padraig Byrne, VP Analyst at Gartner and Conference Chair of the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference in Sydney this week. ®

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