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Putting together your own desk: 5 years at Nutanix

by Community Manager ‎11-04-2016 12:10 AM - edited ‎11-07-2016 12:10 PM (2,512 Views)

This post was authored by Ben Colborn, Director, Technical Publications


In November, I complete 5 years at Nutanix. When I joined, the product had been launched at VMworld in August and the first shipment was yet to go out. I was excited to work again with my former colleague Meghan Myers, who had started the practice of technical documentation at Nutanix.


Today, when discussing how new hires are welcomed with various pleasant activities, I never tire of relating how I had to put my own desk together when I arrived, and that I returned from a week off to find someone else sitting at that desk. I also put my name on my chair lest it be misappropriated. Such was the pace of hiring at that time.


There were are a lot of great things about being at young company of fewer than 100 employees. One was being able to know everyone in the company: development, QA, support, operations, marketing, even sales. Correlated to that was the clarity of what we were all working on together, with a strong focus on getting new customers and keeping them.


The part that I liked the best though was the lack of any legacy expectations, tools, processes, or content. The field was wide open, which was also the challenge. Still, I loved nothing more than writing fresh technical material, editing marketing notes and blog posts, making new stylesheets, tailoring output, and developing new processes.



Nutanix engineering August 2012. Ben Colborn, middle row 3rd from left; Bill Culman,

middle row holding the T; Meghan Myers, middle row 3rd from right.


In short, although everyone’s work had a different flavor, we were all there to do what needed to be done. The organizational silos, where they existed, had thin and low walls that presented little difficulty.


Since those early days, there have been many other milestones: the first hire into technical publications, the second and third hardware platforms, launching a new support portal for hosting the documentation, building a team in Bangalore, having a manager and not only individual contributors reporting to me, losing the first person I hired, and of course the IPO.


Probably the most significant change I personally underwent was the transition from an individual contributor to a manager. After I had been here for about a year and a half, the technical publications team comprised three individual contributors, myself included. We all reported to the then-VP of engineering, Bill Culman, who apparently could see the need to have a manager on the team.


When he offered me the position, I didn’t have an immediately positive reaction. Moving to a management track had been discussed at my previous employers, and I just didn’t see any appeal in it. But as I thought more about it, I came back to why I joined a startup: to do what needs to be done. If management is what needs to be done, I decided, then I’ll do it.


Things didn’t change too much for the first year as a manger, and even in the second. Although there were more administrative details like annual reviews, expense reports, and time off requests, I was still spending the majority of my time on deliverables.


That really started to change once I had four direct reports. It was, as I had anticipated, difficult to relinquish direct control over deliverables and let the team do the great work they had been hired to do. I’m pretty particular about a lot of things, but it became easier as the team performed to a high level time and time again.


Every year about this time as I look forward to the next 12 months, I get anxious thinking about how I will manage everything that’s coming my way. But this year my anxiety didn’t last too long—I’m sure that we will manage as we’ve always have.


Not because things will work out on their own, because they won’t. Rather, it’s because we’ll work them out together. It’s true that the company is a lot larger than it used to be, and greater size requires greater process. Still, from where I sit I see the same eagerness to jump in and get things done. Fortunately, that doesn’t include assembling your own desk any more.


How to Get Your Apps in the Cloud? With a Drone of Course!

by Community Manager ‎10-13-2016 09:07 AM - edited ‎10-13-2016 12:53 PM (2,089 Views)



This post was authored by Richard Arsenian, Nutanix Global Solution Architect – OEM Alliances | VCDX #126 | NPX #09 


Here at Nutanix, we’re constantly inventing new ways to change the fundamental landscape of the datacenter. We have built a platform that reduces complexity, achieves consistent performance, scalability, resiliency, robust security, and most importantly, delivers a cloud-like experience to businesses spanning all verticals.


Our technology is so versatile that it is delivered as a software platform using commodity x86 Intel servers which can be easily scaled one appliance at a time – one of the five key ingredients of the webscale methodology.


Today, an increasing amount of Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) are being utilized across all industry verticals. Technology that was once only available to government and special military operations has become commoditized and is now available to enterprises and consumers who can integrate them into their existing systems and workflows, thus creating new ways to help solve business problems.


Picture2.pngWe’ve seen technology giants like Amazon innovate the process of delivering packages to consumers via drones. And we’ve learned about Facebook and developments to its Aquila project – a solar powered drone which has the capability to fly autonomously for three months to connect areas of the globe where Internet access is non-existent


With IBM investing further funding in this latest technology paradigm, it’s very evident that drones have far greater potential than simply being viewed as a series of electric motors and propellers.


Picture3.pngFrom their advanced photography capabilities to competition sports, such as First Person View (FPV) racing, drones have proven to be so versatile that these flying machines are emerging into a new set of business capabilities including 3D site surveying, search and rescue operations and generally assisting with big data collection.


Whilst these capabilities can seem compelling to any business, the challenge presented is that the data collected must be extracted offline (via USB/SD Card). Then it must be coalesced into a specific application (database, 3D Mapping etc) and/or replicated to a source for further processing and/or viewing.  


This typically includes either a ground control station that is deployed within the line of sight of a drone or, alternatively, back to a datacenter, where relying on 4G/LTE connectivity can pose bandwidth and latency constraints. Furthermore, the integration with existing business systems and processes can also be challenging and often overlooked.         


All drones and aerial vehicles feature a flight controller responsible for the command and control of advanced operations and supporting hardware. Since these controllers typically feature a lightweight 32bit processor and a flavor of Linux, their sole purpose is to integrate with the drone’s hardware (motors, sensors, electronic speed controllers).


All control logic is typically executed on the ground from an operator using specialized software or a conventional remote control system to guide the drone into a specific path or operation. An integral part of this process is to setup and maintain a line of sight with the aerial vehicle at all times.


Nutanix’s innovation. Project: Acropolis 1

Given the expanding applications for drone technology, we thought it would be interesting to create a fun proof of concept of our own, which we call Acropolis 1. Acropolis 1 adopts the same webscale methodology used in our hyperconverged platform to transform a drone into a cloud platform to deliver greater value encompassing enterprise applications and/or services whilst maintaining autonomous flight control.


This is accomplished by taking commodity-based drone hardware and integrating it with an Intel Next Unit Computing (NUC) server and Nutanix’s Community Edition (CE) software.


Nutanix CE shares the same DNA as our enterprise cloud platform that natively converges compute, virtualization and storage into a resilient, software-defined solution coupled with rich machine intelligence. Whilst CE is intended for the enthusiast to test-drive the industry-leading hyperconverged solution that powers datacenters around the world, it can be adopted and implemented in ways that extend beyond the scope of the datacenter. Often times the only limitation is one’s imagination!


By integrating an Intel NUC server coupled with the Nutanix CE software, the capabilities of the drone are extended beyond just taking aerial videos. We can run applications which are based on containers, Windows, Linux, x86 virtual machines along with USB devices that support these OSes. We are literally running applications on a hypervisor in the cloud and further automating their deployment and lifecycle using OpenStack.


This translates into the ability to process data in real-time (locality close to the client device) as it is being collected from the drone. From here the operator can choose to replicate the data back to the datacenter (Nutanix or Amazon-powered) using our built in replication features or application-based. Alternatively, there is persistent SSD storage available (1 TB) for local retention of data.


IMG_8275-compressor.jpgFurthermore, the control plane for the drone is also virtualized via a Windows 7 VM utilizing USB-pass-through technology within KVM to directly interact with the onboard flight controller inside the drone. This interaction allows us to plan and execute flight plans, invoke workflows (either directly to the drone eg. take off, land, hover, limits or Nutanix specific APIs to execute a workflow at the storage or virtual layer), without the requirement for a dedicated ground station\operator.


Acropolis 1 also features a 4G/LTE Uplink via a router/firewall inside the drone. Because of this, we can not only access our control plane from anywhere in the world, but we can also control NAT’ing, port-forwarding to our Apps - even host a WIFI access point!


As you can tell, the possibilities are nearly endless with Acropolis 1. It’s an extension of the datacenter that also delivers applications where the compute needs to be brought closer to the client end-point in real-time. It can be as simple as also providing gateway services at an event, assisting with search and rescue or even big data collection using specialized USB peripherals to input data into a database (eg. RF-ID Scanners, Slant Range Agricultural sensors etc).


With multiple drones operating in a swarm, the story becomes even more compelling by having the ability to run our distributed file system natively in the sky. This could provide multiple benefits such as the redundancy of data (or drones for that matter!) as well as the ability to migrate applications between drones during environmental conditions or simply a drone running out of battery capacity.


Imagine watching a Formula 1 race and having drones circling the racetrack, providing multiple different camera viewing angles in real-time and the ability for your client device to access this live feed by simply making a WIFI connection to it.



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How 3 Design Principles Enable Customers To Achieve More

by Community Manager ‎10-05-2016 12:10 AM - edited ‎10-05-2016 05:58 AM (2,353 Views)

"Design" and "Customer Delight" is embedded in every step of our product cycle. Nutanix has a design-first philosophy that brings consumer-grade design and web scale engineering together to create an amazing user experience which has only been seen in the consumer world with the likes of Apple and Tesla.


In this video, we talk about our design principles and how we meld delightful, opinionated and intent-based design principles to enable customers to achieve a lot more with a lot less.



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