Nutanix for Always-On Computing
Updated March 09, 2020
Nutanix for Always-On Computing
Score 7 out of 10
- Nutanix AHV
Overall Satisfaction with Nutanix AOS
We installed a Nutanix cluster (4 nodes) to run all the virtual machines (VM) used by my organization. Nutanix is a hyperconverged computing solution, so the processing, storage and networking for the cluster is all crammed into a 2U space, all managed from a web browser. The promise of the cluster is that you will never lose services, as an entire node can go offline and your system will not miss a beat. If you are familiar with RAID for storage, clustering is like RAID for servers, where there is redundancy not just of storage, but of an entire server. So if uptime is critical for your organization, Nutanix can be a good solution, albeit expensive. Our implementation supports our entire organization, offering peace of mind from hardware failures. It's also all automatic, significantly lowering management cost and reducing administrative burden.
- Nutanix AHV removes the headache from clustering. Once it's set up--which a Nutanix rep completed--the system is largely self-managed.
- It was a turnkey installation, and I was building virtual machines from day one.
- The system automatically manages moving VMs from cluster to cluster when software updates are performed on the Nutanix system that require the nodes to be rebooted, so there is no down time.
- System management from a web browser is easy management, as it can be managed from anywhere there is Internet connectivity.
- It supports Windows and Linux VMs equally well, allowing access to the VMs from within the browser. This can be much easier than using remote desktop or VNC.
- Nutanix has a huge learning curve. We purchased the on-line training course when we moved to the platform and it was literally weeks of instruction. It was so extensive, in fact, that we ran out of time to complete it before the test.
- Operations that cannot be done from the browser require running commands from a terminal emulator; perhaps owing to the newness of the platform, documentation is not robust. I highly recommend you buy the tech support.
- Software updates are sometimes rushed to release. I've gotten to where I wait at least a few weeks after release before installing them, as I've run into significant issues with buggy software. Such installations have required time-consuming tech support calls to resolve.
- While the promise of perpetual VM uptime is being fulfilled, the dashboard frequently reports issues that need to be resolved.
- Because of significant hardware redundancy, the cost per byte of storage capacity is high.
- In the 20 months we have had Nutanix, our VMs have always been available. That was the goal with this purchase.
- The peace of mind is incalculable. Automatic failover, total hardware redundancy, automatic VM provisioning--while it's not always easy to work with and causes headaches in other ways, the bottom line is we are always up and it fulfills its promise. While I cannot measure the ROI in dollars and cents, the reduction in stress is a significant ROI, and management is pleased, too.
There are other clustering solutions, to be sure. And there are significantly less expensive solutions for preventing downtime, such as Hyper-V replication, which is what I was using before Nutanix. But Nutanix is in the upper-right of the Gartner magic quadrant for hyperconverged solutions. If you want an all-in-one solution that comes highly rated by industry experts, it can be a great way to go. It was also selected because several peers had selected it and had good experiences. I've used Hyper-V (which you can run on Nutanix instead of AHV, by the way, although you lose many of the cool features AHV offers) and VMware (which you could also run on Nutanix), I have not found myself wholly missing either of those products by using AHV.
Nutanix is a good solution if:
- You cannot afford to have your services go offline.
- You want peace of mind that comes from total hardware redundancy.
- You are comfortable running commands through a terminal emulator.
- You want a system that largely manages itself in terms of keeping your VMs online.
- You're concerned more about bullets 1-4 than you are cost.
- Cost is your primary concern. In this case, you would probably be better served using something like Microsoft's Hyper-V replication, which is included with the cost of a Windows Server license.
- 24x7 uptime is not critical, there are cheaper and easier solutions to achieve near-constant uptime (see bullet one, above).
- You are not comfortable working at a command line or don't want to pay for tech support.
Nutanix AOS Feature Ratings
Using Nutanix AOS
25 - Nutanix AOS runs all the virtual machines for my organization, including our domain controllers, routing and remote access, WSUS, on-prem anti-malware server, file and print services and AD sync. They support every unit in our building, from accounting to marketing and communication.
3 - Three of the IT team have training on Nutanix, but only one works with it on a daily basis--the other two fill in as needed. With the paid support, it really comes down to admin tasks, such as configuring virtual machines, monitoring the health of the system, and applying updates. When something crazy happens we rely on tech support. Once the cluster is set up and running, it really doesn't take a lot of time to monitor. The system can be configured to send alerts to both administrators and tech support when a process or hardware fails, making it easy to maintain.
- Resiliency. This is the reason we made the purchase. We have a four-cluster configuration, which means a lot has to go wrong for us to lose access to our VMs (think of it as RAID for servers).
- Capacity. It is so easy to bring VMs online. I can stand up a Windows Server VM in under 30 minutes, so it's terribly easy to meet demand when we need to provide a new service
- Ease of use. Once it's built and configured, a few days of training are all that are needed to get the most from this platform.
- I guess I wasn't prepared for how resilient this setup is. If you keep up with the maintenance and monitor the health, this thing will never go down. You can restart servers in the cluster when there is an issue and the VMs never go offline. It took me a while to warm up to AOS, but I really enjoy it now.
- One idea we've had is letting some partner organizations park backup VMs on our Nutanix, so if they have an issue they can failover to our cluster.
We made a huge financial investment with this platform (four clusters, all-flash storage array), so we're in it for the long haul. Luckily it's a beast. I've had to use support more than any other platform I've administered, but the help has been very good. Nutanix continues to add features and innovations which increase the ROI.
Evaluating Nutanix AOS and Competitors
Yes - We were an entirely Windows shop running VMs on Hyper-V. While this worked, our arrangement lacked the resiliency offered by Nutanix clustering. It's really hard to beat a converged system, with the networking, storage, and processing all built into a single unit.
I don't think we were prepared for how different the Nutanix platform is. It was an admittedly steep learning curve. The demonstrations by the salespeople made it look so easy--which much of it is, really--but the maintenance and administration is a lot different than a Windows server.
Nutanix AOS Support
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
Yes - Nutanix is a lot to wrap your head around, so paid tech support is a must. I cannot imagine trying to go it alone, not with all the other tugs at my time and attention. While there is a good amount of documentation, I have found that not all of it is clear. And some issues I've had I have simply not found solutions for online or in the knowledgebase. Still other issues direct you to tech support, so it really is a must. There have been issues with my system that I could not have resolved without the paid support.
When we made our purchase, we also paid to have a Nutanix technician onsite for the first couple of days to help set it up. He was worth every penny! Setup is extensive and I had no prior experience with Nutanix, although I've been in IT for some twenty years, so I've picked it up quickly. He helped me configure my network, configure the cluster, showed me how to use AOS to get all my VMs up and running, etc. It was truly an exceptional experience to have the one-on-one help.
Using Nutanix AOS
Like to use
Requires technical support
Lots to learn
- Building VMs is quick and easy. Since you can create images for your various server types, installing OS versions is a breeze.
- Health monitoring is intuitive and robust. Nutanix has over 170 checks it performs to ensure your system is running smoothly. The alert system makes monitoring easy.
- Updates, when they work, are painless. The system automatically applies the updates, performs the reboots, moves your VMs around the cluster to keep them available while the reboots occur, etc.
- More updates have required tech support assistance to complete than not. When it works, it's a thing of beauty, but I've had numerous problems updating AOS. NCC, the hypervisor, and firmware updates usually work fine, but I've become so jaded with the updates I sometimes have tech support do them just to avoid the pain.
While you are going to have to comfortable with CLI to perform a lot of functions, the truth is most of the day-to-day work is done right through the web interface. That's one area that has improved a lot in the two years I've had it: how much can be done through the browser as opposed to the command line. And I still would like to see the system better documented. The articles often seem to presume a high level of knowledge about the system, making it difficult sometimes to complete tasks that I would like to be able to perform without contacting tech support.