Surviving in an ever-evolving and fast-changing industry like IT requires companies to understand the landscape, see where the trends are going, and be willing to adapt to what’s happening in front of them.
IBM has been a master of this. Punch cards are long gone, and while the company still has a profitable mainframe business, it long ago shed its PC business and six years ago sold its X86 commodity server unit to Lenovo for $2.3 billion. With plans underway to shed its infrastructure services business, IBM is now is looking at a future of artificial intelligence and hybrid clouds with Red Hat safely tucked into the fold.
Similarly, other infrastructure vendors like Dell Technologies, Cisco Systems, Lenovo, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are rapidly morphing into companies that are less about the upfront hardware deal and more about software and solutions, recurring revenues, hybrid clouds, subscription and similar financing models, and offering much of their portfolios as a service. They’ve moved from embracing virtualization to talking about containers and Kubernetes.
Nutanix has been undergoing its own transformation for several years, since it decided to morph from being a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) hardware and software vendor to using that foundation to build a platform that enables enterprises to build private clouds in their own datacenters, creating an environment where they can experience many of the benefits of public clouds – from agile and responsive infrastructure to automation and flexible payment models – on premises.
But even that wasn’t enough, not in a world where organizations are quickly adopting hybrid cloud models – even more quickly in the wake of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – where they run workloads and store data both in their datacenters and in multiple public clouds. In addition, the edge is now becoming a hotbed of infrastructure innovation and demand.
In August, Nutanix made the next step, unveiling Nutanix Clusters and announcing a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world’s largest public cloud provider. Nutanix Clusters is a way for enterprises to run their Nutanix environments – including HCI and software solutions – in the public cloud, echoing what VMware offers with VMware Cloud Foundation. Nutanix initially is offering Clusters on AWS initially but will add Microsoft Azure next year. It was a leap forward for the company, from playing in the private cloud arena to being fully engage in the fast-growing hybrid cloud and multicloud spaces.
“This partnership substantially evolves our company’s strategy, enabling us to provide solutions that will deliver seamless application, data and license mobility, including a singular experience in management across all clouds,” Dheeraj Pandey co-founder and CEO of Nutanix who is scheduled to step down once a successor is found, said late last month during conference call to announce quarterly earnings. “This is a major competitive advantage as we become the foremost infrastructure software company with a bring your own license approach to help our customers in the hybrid computing journey. The availability of Nutanix clusters on AWS also offers new benefits, including extending the simplicity and ease of use of our software to the public cloud. This represents a significant step forward in realizing our vision to make computing invisible anywhere by delivering a unified fabric across multiple clouds, public or private.”
Since announcing Clusters, Nutanix has continued to build out its hybrid cloud and multicloud capabilities. In September, the company unveiled Era 2.0, Nutanix’s first cloud-agnostic multi-database management solution that extended its database management offering across clouds and clusters. The vendor also announced expanded support for SAP HANA and Postgres and a joint offering with tech company HCL that is based on Era 2.0.
This week, Nutanix unveiled new hybrid cloud storage services that build on Nutanix Clusters, enabling organizations to run Nutanix Files in Nutanix Clusters. They can now tier Nutanix Objects to AWS or other clouds with object store compatible with S3.
“The bottom line is Nutanix Objects becomes multicloud-enabled,” Greg Smith, vice president of technical marketing at Nutanix, tells The Next Platform. “The other half of unstructured data is file-based data. Like Objects, we have a native file server called Nutanix Files and that runs on-prem in private cloud. Files is now following that same path [as Clusters]. Nutanix Files will also be available to run in a public cloud. What that means for customers is as they adopt newer, more modern, distributed file solutions like new Nutanix Files, they can extend their deployments into a public cloud and manage it from a single interface. This will be a boon for the 2,500-plus Nutanix File customers. They now can start moving data and creating new file shares in AWS and manage exactly as they do in the private cloud.”
Object and file storage are crucial for storing, managing and analyzing the massive amounts of unstructured data that are quickly becoming the bulk of data being created. IDC analysts are predicting that in 2025, the amount of data being generated that year will be an incredible 175 zettabytes, with a lot of it being saved in hopes of gaining critical business insights that eventually will mean more money for businesses. By 2025, 80 percent of the data being created will be unstructured, such as images, videos, emails, texts and social media content, IDC says. What makes unstructured data a challenge is that a lot of it lives outside of corporate data center systems, residing instead in the cloud and the edge. In five years, more than half of the data will come from the Internet of Things (IoT) and 49 percent will be housed in the cloud, with the other 51 percent being in datacenters, according to the analyst firm.
Such numbers around unstructured put a spotlight on one of the many reasons why organizations are rushing to hybrid and multicloud environments. Nutanix last month released its annual Enterprise Cloud Index survey that 86 percent of respondents pointed to hybrid cloud as their ideal IT infrastructure model, with IT professional seeing hybrid cloud deployments growing by more than 37 percent over the next five years while deployments of non-cloud datacenters declining 15 percent. In addition, 58 percent said they use one to three public clouds while 1 percent said they use more than three.
“We see a huge appetite for hybrid cloud,” Smith says. “We see a huge appetite for multicloud and every customer wants the freedom to move workloads and data between the cloud that they choose and to not get locked into a single cloud infrastructure. … It’s all about workloads, it’s all about applications and ‘Do I have the freedom to write each application in the best location?’ That determination is made based on economics, security, compliance, performance [and] SLAs, perhaps. We know that there are up to 20, 30 percent of applications [running the in the cloud] and the numbers vary, but inevitably there will be applications that are running today that are virtualized [and] customers want the freedom to run them in a different cloud, in a public cloud.”
As mentioned, Nutanix’s new storage offerings include the tiering of object data to an S3-compatible object store, including AWS S3, which drives down the cost of long-term storage and archiving by leveraging public cloud infrastructures. The metadata remains on premises to make search and retrieval easier and the tiering means improve data lifecycle management in multicloud environments. Management of Nutanix Files can be done centrally regardless of where the data resides, including the cloud and edge. In addition, Nutanix Objects and Files offer improved recovery point objective (RPO), ensuring that should a disaster hit, data is available across datacenters and clouds. Objects, with streaming replication, offers an RPO of a few seconds – making it easier for enterprises to run mission-critical applications in containers – while Files support RPO of up to a minute, compared with an hour previously.
Nutanix will continue to spread all the goodness in the future. Right now, the company offers Clusters on AWS and next year it will do the same with Azure. While not being specific, Smith said Nutanix will also partner with other public cloud providers and service providers to offer its HCI software stack on their infrastructures.