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11 Reasons why Nutanix is the Best All-Flash Platform

by Community Manager ‎12-12-2016 12:10 AM - edited ‎12-12-2016 05:05 AM (9,837 Views)


This post was authored by Steve Kaplan, VP of Client Strategy at Nutanix


All Flash Arrays: Dead Men Walking

All Flash Array (AFA) manufacturers may be rejoicing in the inevitable demise of spinning disk, but hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is increasingly upending the entire storage category. While an AFA may be faster and easier to manage than a traditional array, it’s still a SAN. Nutanix Enterprise Cloud is not only a better platform for flash than the AFAs, but also than other HCI solutions. Here are the 11 reasons why:


1) Dramatically reduced network latency effects

Nutanix HCI already bests AFA performance by eliminating network latency (see @vcdxnz001 post, Your Network is Too Slow and What to Do About it). Innovations such as NVMe and 3D XPoint amplify the advantage of storing data on flash or other Storage-Class Memory (SCM) next to the compute in a hyperconverged environment. Accessing data in a traditional model from an All Flash Array over a slower network negates the benefits of the faster flash/SCM.




Putting flash in a proprietary array at the end of a network designed for the latency of magnetic media instead of next to the compute intuitively makes no sense. This really boils down to simple physics where proximity matters. Flash should be directly connected, not remotely attached where it requires multiple hops, protocols, and performance-constraining controllers to be accessed. It’s just physics!



I/O path length for AFAs versus Nutanix


AFA vendors will often suggest faster networks and NVMe over fabrics that will offer lower latency and higher bandwidths. Nutanix enables customers to optimize the benefits of flash without the requirement to purchase expensive new storage fabrics that perpetuate legacy complexity.



Image from Long Virtual White Clouds by Michael Webster


2) Density advantage

Nutanix enables packing 92TB of flash, in addition to all of the server resources, into just 2U. AFAs require not just the array, but also the compute, the storage fabric and possibly lower-cost disk storage. All of this requires more power, rackspace, and cooling.


3) Commodity Hardware

Most AFAs such as Pure utilize proprietary hardware, but this is a roadblock to quickly deploying new hardware innovations. All-flash arrays risk technological leaps that leave customers with obsolete products and facing forklift upgrades the next time they need more capacity. In today’s fast-paced technology environment, it’s the companies who leverage global economies of scale that succeed by leveraging the innovation driven by the world’s largest commodity hardware manufacturers.

Take the case of Sun Microsystems. Sun bet on proprietary hardware while the industry shifted to commodity servers utilizing the more cost-effective Intel-compatible microprocessors popularized in personal computers. Sun lost 80% of its value before being acquired by Oracle in a fire sale.

Violin Memory is another example. Violin was one of the first companies to introduce all-flash memory solutions to the marketplace. This was very cool and fast tech, with great engineering when they launched a decade ago.

But consumers had another idea. They loved the speed and reliability of solid-state drives (SSDs) which now can be found in almost every laptop, desktop and memory array. Even as the price of SSDs plummeted, Violin preferred to design its own proprietary field-programmable gate arrays. A sophisticated solution, perhaps, but no match for the rapid improvement of SSDs; Violin’s proprietary hardware quickly fell behind and the company has been delisted from NYSE.

The hyperconverged business is hardly the only example of a thriving enterprise technology built upon commodity hardware. All of the leading cloud providers also utilize commodity servers. Proprietary hardware, while once essential to protecting a company’s innovations, now hinders, or even destroys, a manufacturer’s ability to compete.

4) Distributed storage controllers

Most AFAs have physical, non-distributed, storage controllers that are easily saturated with traffic. Since the controllers are the bottleneck, adding more shelves of SSDs does not increase performance.

If we assume a single enterprise SSD is capable of delivering ~500MB/s of throughput, then a controller with dual 4Gb FC adapters is bottlenecked with only two SSDs. Even upgrading to dual 16Gb FC adapters only accommodates eight SSDs.

To overcome these limitations, AFAs must accommodate multiple adapters resulting in complex fabric configurations. But this inevitably hits the controller limits, forcing customers to purchase more AFA systems and creating more silos.

Contrast this with Nutanix where every time a node is added to a cluster, it’s also adding a virtual storage controller - enabling immediate enhanced performance. Resiliency is massively improved as loss of one controller has very little impact. This is why Nutanix can do non-disruptive 1-click upgrades and maintenance with very low impact.

5) Data locality

Imagine what would happen if 75% of the cars in Los Angeles were suddenly removed from the roads. Not only would traffic congestion quickly dissipate, but the city would benefit from other benefits such as fewer accidents, less road maintenance, reduced pollution, and so on.

Nutanix data locality similarly affects the data center environment by pulling the majority of read traffic off of the network; reads instead come from the local SSD within the node. Available network bandwidth is effectively increased for writes/end user applications improving not just storage performance, but also the application performance that the storage is servicing.




6) Scalability

Capacity Performance: AFAs, which are typically limited to two physical storage controllers, hit a metadata bottleneck in scaling capacity that is limited by the amount of RAM/NVMRAM they have in a system. Adding SSDs, in most cases, does not improve performance.


At some point, the AFA customer must either upgrade to a bigger unit with more processing power, add complex fabric interconnection, or start creating silos. AFA manufacturers will say they can replace existing controllers with new faster ones, but despite the disruption and expense, that shifts the bottleneck to the network or possibly even to the existing flash medium.


Contrast this with Nutanix which, unlike AFAs, are not bottlenecked by two physical storage controllers. The VMs on every node are serviced by the Controller Virtual Machine (CVM) on that node. Every time a node is added to the cluster, a CVM is also added, thereby linearly scaling not just capacity, but also performance and resiliency, as well as expanding the management stack capabilities. Acropolis Block Services (ABS) and Acropolis File Services (AFS) enable Nutanix customers to scale physical and virtual workloads as well as file serving from the same Nutanix cluster, thereby eliminating silo inefficiencies.




Dedupe/Compression Performance: Nutanix’s unique implementation of dedup and compression ensure that performance overhead is minimized. Nutanix does not brute force dedupe/compress of all data as this requires more physical resources and impacts all IO regardless of the outcome.


Resiliency: Both resiliency and high availability are built-in across the entire Nutanix stack. Replication Factor 2 (RF2) or RF3 along with erasure coding (EC-X) enables superior fault tolerance for disk. Block awareness mitigates node failure, while sync and async-replication provides resiliency for entire datacenters.


All-Flash Storage-Only Nodes: Storage-Only nodes provide Nutanix customers the ability to scale compute and storage separately, thereby minimizing costs of their all flash environments.


7) Simplicity

Nutanix one-click upgrades reduce both complexity and risk involved with the upgrade process - there is no complex interoperability matrix or operational guidelines. Nutanix also simplifies the flash-based architecture by eliminating LUNs and their presentation by focusing on VMs rather than on storage constructs, and by including both centralized management and capacity planning.



Nutanix’s Simple and Intuitive Prism Management Dashboard


8) Workload Consolidation

AFAs must send information from the flash array across the network to the compute for processing. Beyond adding the aforementioned latency, this also requires additional queue management and overhead. CPUs can quickly become overloaded when simultaneously receiving small block, high IOPS and large block, high throughput application requests. To ensure consistent performance, AFA administrators must frequently separate OLTP & OLAP workloads from running on the same platform.


Nutanix gives the compute direct access to the storage. Servicing requests with limited overhead and consistent low latency enables mixing of workloads. And with Nutanix Acropolis Block Services, Nutanix becomes the storage backplane for bringing together different types of applications. Customers can even consolidate both physical workloads and virtualized workloads in the same cluster.


Additionally, AFAs tend to have block storage devices for blocks and flash arrays for blocks. With Nutanix, the storage is shared between block and file.




9) Proven Mission-Critical Application Deployment

Nutanix enables optimal performance for critical apps right out of the box, even with multiple workloads. It eliminates the single point of failure challenge with storage access failover, self-healing, and ongoing data integrity checks. Storage performance is predictable, and no complex configuration or tuning is needed.


Non-disruptive software updates eliminates planned downtime, enhancing Nutanix’s appeal for hosting mission-critical applications. Maintenance windows for software upgrades and scaling become a thing of the past. Unlike almost all other HCI solutions, Nutanix has years of proven maturity and success in enterprise deployments of Splunk, Oracle, SAP, SQL Server, Exchange, and many other mission-critical applications (only Nutanix and VxRack are SAP-certified).




10) Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

AFAs eventually run out of controller capacity, technology advances to the point where the existing AFA solution is comparatively uneconomical, or the equipment just gets old. In any of these cases, the AFA owner faces a forklift upgrade - a process that is typically expensive, complex and time-consuming. As a result, AFA owners typically purchase more capacity than required initially in hopes of having enough resources available to meet requirements four or five years down the road.


Nutanix owners never face a forklift upgrade, and therefore do not require purchasing more nodes than needed at any point in time. As technology changes, newer nodes can simply be added to the cluster with a mouseclick, and the software takes care of everything else. Nutanix eliminates the risk of under-buying.


Completely eliminating the need for storage arrays and storage fabric along with excess capacity up-front helps lower the CapEx cost for Nutanix. As the project footprint expands over the next few years, increasingly fewer nodes are required to run the same workload due to an increased density of VMs per node driven by both Moore’s Law and by performance enhancements in Nutanix software.




The CapEx for the project lifetime is thereby further reduced along with the associated rack space, power and cooling. Administrative requirements for Nutanix are also slashed - an IDC study found an average 71% reduction in administration time required for organizations migrating to Nutanix.

11) The Advantage of an Enterprise Cloud Platform

At the end of the day, it’s not just about the work, it’s about how you do it. Nutanix’s utilization of Web-scale architecture is a unique differentiator incorporating hyperconvergence as part of an Enterprise Cloud Platform. Distributed technologies such as Cassandra, NoSQL, MapReduce and Curator enable significantly higher performance and efficiency when optimizing all-flash environments.


Data Access: Classic tree-structured metadata query architectures (Btree & R&B) that work well in an array environments where metadata is stored in each physical controller are not optimal in all-flash HCI environments. In HCI, the metadata is distributed across many nodes - making tree-structured lookup inefficient. To combat this inefficiency, Nutanix utilizes big-data technologies such as Cassandra and NoSQL to enable very fast look-up and very high fault tolerance. No single point of failure exists.

Data Sorting: Unlike legacy 3-tier and other HCI approaches which sort data in the IO path, Nutanix evaluates it in the background, enabling better performance. The system scales as nodes are added allowing faster dedupe and compression with increased data locality. Seamless scalability enables rapid evaluation of whether to promote or demote data depending upon memory and storage tiers available.

Analytics: Even all-flash environments have different tiers of flash (performance & endurance). Metadata continues to grow and it can be difficult to cost-effectively keep it in memory or on the fastest tier.

Nutanix has again utilized a big data approach to solve this challenge. A custom-written version of MapReduce/Curator is used to determine key elements of the data including what is hot, compressible, and dedupeable. The same framework similarly determines what data needs to move to another node for data locality, what data has been deleted, and what data needs to be relocated or rebalanced – particularly in the event of failure.

These analytics enable deeper insight including trending, real-time analysis, proactive monitoring and root cause analysis, and alerting.

Timing In contrast to other solutions that rely solely on sub-optimal, inline compression and proprietary hardware for dedupe, Nutanix enables offline sorting with MapReduce/Curator. This enables more writes before deciding to compress or dedupe and avoids the requirement for a performance limiting centralized database.

Unified Cache Cache enables data locality. Deduplication makes it possible to store more data in this performance tier and maximize local cache hit potential. To maximize efficiency without limiting performance, Nutanix performs in-line local deduplication of context cache. 




NVMe: Dead Man Running?

At least one of the legacy storage manufacturers is promoting NVMe as the future. But migration to NVMe is going to further amplify the advantages of putting the compute next to the data rather than across the network. It will accelerate the journey to extinction of all the fabric stretched monoliths - including AFAs.

Thanks for content and edits to @joshodgers @briansuhr @_praburam @Priyadarshi_Pd  @sudheenair @binnygill @vcdxnz001 @RohitGoyal

Learn More

Nutanix Flash Forward Website Landing Page & eBook
Ten Things You Need to Know About Nutanix Acropolis Block Services
Ten Things You Need to Know About Nutanix Acropolis File Services

Disclaimer: This blog contains links to external websites that are not part of Nutanix.com. Nutanix does not control these sites and disclaims all responsibility for the content or accuracy of any external site. Our decision to link to an external site should not be considered an endorsement of any content on such site.



Push Past the Performance Barriers: All-Flash for All Platforms!

by Community Manager ‎08-17-2016 09:20 AM - edited ‎08-17-2016 02:09 PM (1,988 Views)

Nutanix has engineered an all-flash enterprise cloud platform, converging compute, flash storage, and virtualization into a forward-looking architecture and simplistic consumer-grade management interface, allowing enterprises to focus on driving business value.


Flash continues to evolve with NVMe and 3D XPoint technologies, significantly improving application response times, storage density, and durability. Legacy platforms built on outdated architectures are not ideally suited to take advantage of these technology enhancements.


In this post, let’s take a look at how Nutanix all-flash solutions are enabling organizations to keep up with exponential data growth, always-on availability requirements, and the lightning-fast performance that today’s applications demand—all without creating infrastructure silos.




Flash and Servers Just Work Together

Over the last several years, flash prices have been on a decline, making it a more cost-effective option for enterprise storage. However, when replacing HDDs with SSDs (Solid State Drives), and creating an all-flash configuration with legacy three-tier infrastructure, there are several limitations that should be considered, including network latencies, bottlenecks, and management complexities.


This inherently limits the application from utilizing the full potential provided by flash. Another concern is network and storage controller bottlenecks, both of which can limit the performance flash can provide. All-flash storage systems typically have dual controllers, and even though they can be active at the same time, the total number of IOPS is limited.


Lastly, management of this entire three-tier infrastructure is complex, especially when working with multiple vendors for all-flash arrays, storage networks, and servers.


With hyperconverged infrastructure, flash is closer to where the virtual machines (VM) live and application latency can be significantly reduced. The Nutanix enterprise cloud platform can deliver the benefits of local flash performance without sacrificing enterprise data services (including dedupe, compression, cloning, and snapshots) through simple scalable building blocks.


As a result, infrastructure complexity is reduced and management can be significantly simplified.


But it doesn’t stop there. The data locality feature that is unique to Nutanix is designed to keep network traffic minimized even as the solution scales, giving applications consistent, low latency, and predictable performance. VMs directly interact with the data without introducing network bottlenecks and without requiring any special tuning by the IT admin.

Choice with All-Flash Platforms and Powerful Software

Nutanix recently announced the availability of all-flash across the entire portfolio of Nutanix hardware platforms*. With a very modest price increase over similar capacity hybrid storage solutions, moving to a hyperconverged all-flash platform is now a simple decision.


Organizations also have a choice when considering Nutanix all-flash solutions, with Nutanix NX, Dell XC, or Lenovo HX platforms. The platforms are configured-to-order, providing choice in memory, compute, and all-flash storage capacity to meet tier 0/1 application requirements. The all-flash configurations enable you to choose up to 48TB of RAW all-flash storage capacity.




Additionally, the Nutanix platform can lead to OpEx and CapEx savings. Power, cooling, and rack space are significantly reduced as separate silo’d three-tier infrastructure is no longer required. Admins can also spend far less time managing and troubleshooting the environment with an easy to use interface.


Prism, the Nutanix consumer-grade management interface, gives administrators a simple and elegant way to manage their virtual environments. Powered by advanced data analytics and heuristics, it simplifies and streamlines common workflows with built-in automation and one-click deployments. Businesses rely on data more than ever, and with Nutanix all-flash solutions, you have the potential to drive increased business revenue and employee productivity.


Customers such as Valpak are benefitting from improved performance of the Nutanix all-flash solution for their high IOPS data warehousing applications and are planning to migrate their Java application servers, WordPress, SQL Server, SAP, and Sybase databases over as well.


Come See Us at VMworld 2016

Nutanix is proud to be a Gold Sponsor at VMworld 2016 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas, August 28 – September 1, 2016. Visit us at our booth and hear how our customers are deploying large-scale environments with Nutanix all-flash solutions.

Swing by Booth # 2311 and Schedule a 1:1

If you like what you see on the show floor and want to have a more in-depth discussion about our solutions, we would love to talk to you. Visit the Nutanix booth to schedule a meeting with our engineering, product management, product marketing, or executive team.


Now for the Fun Stuff…

We have some very exciting gifts lined up to thank you for coming and talking to us. While supplies last, every theater presentation attendee will receive our very popular water bottle to help stay hydrated in Las Vegas. One lucky winner will go home with a prize after every theater presentation (every 30 minutes). Raffle drawings of travel gift cards will be held daily.


But the best of all is the grand prize drawing for a trip to an exciting destination ($5,000 value). The final drawing will be on August 29th, 2016 and you must be present to win. More details will be available at our booth.


Also, get ready to be ThunDRstuck with Nutanix, and AC/DShe at the House of Blues in the Mandalay Bay Casino. Join us for a night of drinks, nibbles, and rock n’ roll on August 29th, 2016, from 8:00-11:00 pm. The party will be rocking.


Let’s Get Social!

You can stay connected with Nutanix throughout the entire VMworld 2016 event by following @nutanix on twitter, and tagging your photos and tweets with #nutanixatvmworld. Also, you can connect with us on the Nutanix Next Community (next.nutanix.com).


We look forward to meeting you at our booth #2311 at VMworld in Las Vegas where we will show you how to deliver mission-critical business applications securely and reliably, all while reducing your TCO at scale.  Your IT organization will truly be elevated to focus on delivering core business value and innovation by making your infrastructure invisible with the Nutanix enterprise cloud platform.


This post is authored by Rohit Goyal, Product Marketing Manager at Nutanix


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