I have been trying refine a explanation on how Nutanix works that can be understood by people with no IT background. I often find that people that have no background in computer architecture often fail to have a good understanding about what Nutanix does.
I also found that it’s almost impossible for a Non-IT person to get the gist of what Nutanix does simply by reading Nutanix’s website or reading information about computer architecture on different website’s dedicated to the subject.
The thing that made the basics of Nutanix click for me would be that I had to have a visual representation of what computer network architecture looks like, in order to make the basic knowledge of what Nutanix does understandable.
A expert on computer architecture could blather on all day about NAS, nodes, hypervisors, VM and unless a person sees a visual representation of how everything fits together then it can be hard to understand many concepts.
I posted the following explanation about Nutanix on the paid Nutanix common boards here: http://discussion.fool.com/4056/the-best-explanations-of-how-nut…
The explanation contains two videos which shows a visual on how traditional computing architecture gets put together as well as a visual on what Hyperconverged Infrastructure looks like.
If anything in the following explanation would be in error, I would hope some people familiar with either computer architecture or Nutanix would jump in and show me where to make the corrections. I want to make it easier for people to understand the company.
The following is my revised version of what I posted on the paid Nutanix common boards
Here we go:
I think what confuses people about Nutanix would be that Nutanix likes to heavily promote their cloud management product which is something they call the “Enterprise Cloud” which seems to be a marketing term used to promote Nutanix’s cloud management products. In this post, I am NOT going to discuss Nutanix’s cloud management products but discuss their Hyperconverged Infrastructure product.
If a investor does not have the basic definitions of what a cloud would be and what Hyperconverged infrastructure/Virtualization would be and understand that the cloud and Hyperconverged infrastructure/Virtualization would be two separate things then a Non-IT person can be easily confused about what Nutanix does.
That’s not just my opinion:
The IT industry has a habit of bending and distorting any technical term until the meaning is no longer clear. A term originally associated with a straightforward idea is diluted to meaninglessness by marketing teams as vendor after vendor tries to convince everyone that the new term describes something they’ve been doing all along.
That would be lesson 1 about the IT industry…different ideas can get blended and if one does not learn how to clearly define things, then one can get easily confused.
From what I currently know, Nutanix did not technically start out as a “cloud player” or a “private cloud player”…despite what the Nutanix website says in the “What we do” portion which talks about Enterprise clouds https://www.nutanix.com/what-we-do/. Nutanix started out by building innovative data center infrastructure (both hardware and software) and would be known more to the IT world as a hyper-converged infrastructure pioneer and not as much as a cloud player. Yet, if one looks Nutanix up on wikipedia, Nutanix gets described as a cloud computing software company:
Nutanix is a cloud computing software company that sells what it calls hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliances and software-defined storage.
So, right from the beginning wikipedia conflates the terms the “cloud” and “hyper-converged infrastructure” and it took me awhile to figure out those two terms really have separate meanings
Nutanix was originally about the data center, not the cloud. Nutanix has slowly been developing cloud products but even to this day, Nutanix has more of a focus on data centers rather than the cloud (although this might change)
The story of Nutanix would be mostly this one:
Once upon a time, IT organizations wanted to centralize the management of IT resources, consolidate systems, increase resource-utilization rates, and lower costs. Innovative storage companies came up with converged computing as a solution.
The four core aspects of a data center seem to be compute, storage, networking and server virtualization. In a traditional computer architecture, all four core aspects might all be contained in a different box and networked together. The biggest problem with that system seems to be the latency and inefficiency of sending communications between different boxes over a network. Also, networking four different boxes together introduces complexity and more failure points.
Converged Infrastructure starts solving the problem by putting some of those four aspects of computing into the same chassis or box.
To gain even more tighter integration all four aspects of computing got put in the same box, even more hardware components were eliminated and had their functions replaced through software. This new computing architecture got called Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).
This video explains Hyperconverged Infrastructure. In the initial diagram shown on the video would be what they call “Traditional Architecture”.
After they delete some hardware and add some software defined architecture, they then title the diagram as “Nutanix Architecture”. The Nutanix architecture is what also would be known as Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)
Watch the video because it’s important to be able to understand Hyperconvergence and seeing things visually helps make written explanations make more sense:
How Nutanix Works: Technical Deep Dive with Lukas Lundell & Scott Lowe
VirtualizationSoftware.com’s Scott D. Lowe and Nutanix’ Director of Solutions Engineering Lukas Lundell dig into how Nutanix’ hyperconverged infrastructure architecture achieves massive scale in a small package.
If one has watched the video, one might find that traditional computing architecture has a central storage separate from the server which requires communications back and forth from the server over a network which can create latency and network issues.
In order to get rid of problems like latency, hyperconverged infrastructure gets rid of the centralized storage system, also called (NAS) Network-attached storage and replaces it with localized storage that gets attached to each server (node). The localized storage gets known as (DAS) Direct-attached storage. That eliminates the network between computer storage and the server.
The Central storage (NAS) is a hardware entity and the (DAS) Direct-attached storage has more software definition in a distributed system.
They don’t show it in that video but the hypervisor would be the feature that creates the Virtual Machine that sits on top of the server.
In this second video, they include the Hypervisor in the explanation. The Hypervisor sits as a layer between the server and virtual machine. The hypervisor abstracts the server hardware into a Virtual Machine:
Simple Explanation of How Nutanix Works
This animation explains how the technology behind the Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform works.
This is the ideal starting point for gaining an understanding of the Nutanix technology evolution.
Some terms one might want to know:
NAS - Network-attached storage. This would simply be storage accessed over a computer network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network-attached_storage
DAS - Direct-attached storage . This would be digital storage directly attached to the server accessing it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct-attached_storage
VM - Virtual Machine In computing, a virtual machine (VM) is an emulation of a computer system. Virtual machines are based on computer architectures and provide functionality of a physical computer. Their implementations may involve specialized hardware, software, or a combination. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_machine
Nutanix Acropolis is the operating system for the Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure platform. Acropolis essentially has the features that get lightly mentioned in the videos like features for data protection in case a node/server fails or automated data tiering (How many nodes/servers the data gets backed up on), etc.
So, any time, a person sees “Hyperconverged Infrastructure”, that has little to nothing to do with a traditional definition of the cloud even though Nutanix plasters all over it’s website the term Enterprise Cloud https://www.nutanix.com/what-we-do/. It’s because of all of Nutanix’s different products, blending of different marketing terms and some of the features of Nutanix’s Hyperconverged products that make it near cloud-like, it can totally bamboozle a Non-IT person as to what Nutanix does. I also strongly suspect that the blending of cloud and Hyperconvergence technologies can also make it difficult for IT people to explain the subject clearly so Non-IT people can understand
The two best simple definition of the difference between a cloud and Hyperconverged infrastructure that I could find:
Many technologists—myself* included—have argued that the minimum requirement to be considered a cloud is a self-service portal. Simply standing up a hypervisor and lighting up VMs is virtualization. It is not a cloud.
Virtual resources need to be allocated into centralized pools before they’re called clouds, and those clouds need to be orchestrated by management and automation software before it’s considered cloud computing. Clouds deliver the added benefits of self-service access, automated infrastructure scaling, and dynamic resource pools, which most clearly distinguish it from traditional virtualization.
What’s a Pool?
In computer science, a pool is a collection of resources that are kept ready to use, rather than acquired on use and released afterwards. In this context, resources can refer to system resources such as file handles, which are external to a process, or internal resources such as objects. A pool client requests a resource from the pool and performs desired operations on the returned resource. When the client finishes its use of the resource, it is returned to the pool rather than released and lost.
Now, if some random person without a IT background says something like, “A Hypervisor creates the cloud”, well he might then be berated by a expert in this subject for not understanding the difference between the Virtualization/hyperconverged computing, the cloud, the Private cloud, the Distributed Cloud and the Enterprise Cloud (I suspect the Enterprise Cloud is marketing term for Hybrid cloud) . I think most people would have difficulty in clearly explaining the difference between many of those terms.
What cloud computing in it’s bare essence accomplishes seems to allow application developers to take direct control of their workloads instead of having the IT department manage their workload for them. At it’s essence, the cloud can put the IT department out of business. Things would be a lot more complicated than that but I just want to keep things simple
I will probably continue to refine this explanation as time goes on as I find any errors or gain understanding or find different language to explain things better.
I will also eventually get into Nutanix’s cloud products because increasingly Nutanix has been adding cloud products to it’s expertise.