Nutanix vs VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure War on Performance and Flexibility

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure players are in the headlines for many reasons but the recent tussle between Nutanix and VMware camps has received utmost attention. Steve stevechuck_new (1)Kaplan, VP Channels at Nutanix first posted 10 Reasons why Nutanix leads the hyper-converged industry followed by Chuck Hollis,Chief Strategist, VMware Storage and Availability Business Unit in his blog on 10 Reasons why VMware is leading the hyper-converged industrySo what’s the battle about?

Storage Performance & Software-Defined at the Core

In February, VCloudNews reported on the evolution of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure. The limitations of early Converged Infrastructure products were storage performance, capacity/scale, mobility, access speed etc. A new set of companies including Nutanix have tried to solve these issues through offering a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure product which included virtualization software, server, storage and network switching all in a contained x86 based appliance. This eliminated the need for traditional storage arrays. The hypervisor has direct access to storage resources and therefore performance benefits are achieved. Additionally, this offered a highly scalable data center building block suitable for today’s cloud style infrastructure.

As per Nutanix, their hyper-converged solutions are built using web-scale technologies and architectures that originated in large Internet and cloud companies, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. As per Kaplan, Nutanix brings the same type of no-SAN distributed file system infrastructure developed by Google, and now utilized by all leading cloud providers, to the enterprise. The commodity hardware, “share nothing” Nutanix Distributed File System (NDFS) model enables capabilities such as self-healing and data locality that uniquely position Nutanix for enterprise requirements.

VMware on the other hand offers VSAN directly embedded in the hypervisor. As per Nutanix, in the VSAN approach, the storage available for the virtual machines running on VSAN hosts is inherently limited to the local attached storage of the hosts that make up the vSphere compute cluster. Depending on vSphere and application licensing (e.g., databases), VSAN vsan-design-cluster-v2can potentially create silos of capacity and performance.

Nutanix claims is not bound to a vSphere compute cluster. So while you could architect a solution similar to VSAN, you have the choice to create one large storage clusters – regardless of licensing of the compute layer. This is of course Nutanix’s view, VMware would have a different take on this.

 Optimized Hardware vs Flexibility

nutanixPowerEdge R720xd Rack Server

Although Nutanix system is 100% software-defined with no reliance on special purpose hardware for resilience, performance and availability,the company offers appliances for simple scalability. It has also partnered with Dell and as per Kaplan, Dell has entered into an OEM relationship with Nutanix to add Dell XC Converged Appliances – powered by Nutanix software to its storage portfolio.

VMware joined the Hyper-Convergence space last year. They released VMware EVO:RAIL and partnered with OEMs such as EMC, Supermicro, Dell, Fujitsu etc to offer a vSAN based solution. VMwarEMC_Image_VSPEXe highlights nine major partners for EVO:RAIL. VCloudNews covered the EMC VSPEX BLUE hyper-converged infrastructure appliance which is also powered by VMware EVO:RAIL and has EMC management software included. Just like Nutanix, VMware’s EVO:RAIL story is very compelling as well with a strong eco-system of multiple hardware players allowing flexibility to customers.

Hypervisor & Manageability

Nutanix is hypervisor agnostic and can run an industry standard hypervisor, such as ESXi, Hyper-V or KVM. The Nutanix Controller VM (CVM) is deployed as a virtual machine on the hypervisor. The CVM will service all the I/O for the hypervisor and its associated virtual machines. When clustered together, Nutanix nodes form a distributed computing platform called the Nutanix Distributed Filesystem (NDFS). This is presented back to the hypervisor as NFS, iSCSI or Server Message Block depending on the hypervisor deployed.

VMware’s Chuck Hollis feels that Nutanix owes its success to VMware that has the largest installed base of hypervisors in data centers. Chuck also goes on to say that an embedded approach i.e. VSAN is better and an integrated management experience is essential for the customer. As per Chuck,

  1. There shouldn’t be a need for a separate management interface. 
  2. There shouldn’t be a need for a separate storage layer that runs as a guest. 
  3. VM with dedicated resources, consuming precious resources and demanding attention.
  4. There shouldn’t be a need for multiple installation / patching / upgrade processes. 
  5. There shouldn’t be a need to get support from two or more vendors.
  6. One, simple integrated environment.  One management experience.  One upgrade process.  One source of support.

The rest of the dialog is around customer service and VCloudNews is in no position to comment on which vendor is better. We feel that hyper-converged is an evolving space. Companies such as Nutanix, Simplivity, Scale Computing, NimBoxx, Pivot 3 etc all emerging and so is VMware’s Software-Defined Everything play including the much publicized EVO:RAIL. There is need for co-existence and innovation so that IT administrators can get the choice and flexibility to select the best technology for their specific deployment and applications.

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