Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Introduction to Next-Gen Apps on Nutanix

I spent the first decade of my career doing managed and professional IT services around SAN and NAS for EMC, and I remember rigorously checking the EMC compatibility matrix to ensure an environment was ready to go before it was even built in the datacenter. But, did that actually guarantee no issues?

Of course not. There were still plenty of support calls filed—from lack of consistency in the environment, to firmware issues, to independent hardware failures that still incurred faults in other parts of the solution. Part of a project sign-off involved getting a HEAT report, a scripted check against the EMC support matrix, that didn’t show any mismatches or configuration issues. Then came E-lab advisor and many other iterations trying to solve the interoperability problem, but they were fundamentally unable to outpace the exponential growth of an HCL for a best-of-breed approach. Opposite this perspective, you have the undeniable acceleration of public cloud providers where you only pay for a virtual form factor. The underlying hardware is (and should be) irrelevant to what you, the customer, concentrates on—the software you want to build.

Customers have an abundance of software stacks to deliver, from traditional web/app/database platforms to more loosely coupled platform components designed for rapid iteration. The expectation of quick and constant evolution in any given constituent component at any given time is, in my opinion, the defining characteristic of the next generation of app environments, or “cloud-native apps”.  For a far more rigorous rubric and definition, see http://12factor.net/. I’ve seen firsthand with Hadoop and HPC environments as customers evaluate virtualization and try to decide whether to go with a siloed bare-metal approach, internal virtualization, or a service provider.

If you take the evolution of Hadoop with regards to Big Data for example, traditionally product management, marketing or R&D business units would provide input for a data warehouse with arbitrary expectations set a year or two in the future, and the DBAs would design for that without the same stepping-model insight that you only get with experience. Compare that to HPC programmers, who may be building and tuning code for hardware that hasn’t even hit a datacenter floor yet, trying to optimize compilers for potentially theoretical working sets and hardware-accelerated solutions. In HPC and Hadoop, it has been very exciting to witness a shift in perspective. Customers are able to learn and scale their approach constantly. This gives them more options to experiment and grow along the way because their business goals and technical roadblocks are always evolving as well.

Nutanix aims to give these environment owners more time to focus on their specialty and less on infrastructure as more than Yet-Another-Hyperconverged-Vendor by:
·      A distributed management layer across the cluster for resiliency and durability of meta-data. This also becomes the distributed endpoint for API calls and stacking of higher-level services. A quickly changing environment means a lot of API interaction, so this by necessity is fault-tolerant and without bottlenecks.
·      A distributed logical storage space for performance, availability, and durability. At the same time the storage pool is a singular abstraction for transient and persistent data across any VMs, containers, or applications (or app-building platform).

While simplifying the management and storage layers, customers are allowed to choose:
·      Their virtualization hypervisor and tooling available.
·      Their hardware form factors from Nutanix and Supermicro and Dell

Holistically, the Nutanix platform is designed to support all of these ideals to minimize bespoke architectural designs and provide straightforward manageability and scalability. In the next of this series of blog posts I will review deploying Pivotal Cloud Foundry on Nutanix, here:

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