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BigData: Article

Wanna Be Like Google? Then Screw SANs

Nutanix finally launched its Google-like Complete Cluster on Tuesday

After shedding its stealth cocoon back in the spring when it announced it got a $13.2 million A round, two-year-old Nutanix finally launched its Google-like Complete Cluster on Tuesday.

It's supposed to make virtualization simple and cheap.

The thing is a modular plug-and-play building block appliance that puts storage and compute in the same box so virtualized data centers can be built without a SAN or NAS just like Google has been doing all these years.

The start-up says that aside from contributing pain-in-the-neck complexity and pricey overhead to whatever it touches, pre-Internet SANs, or for that matter NAS, are dated, monolithic, slow, inelastic, undistributed, frazzled by virtualization and a bitch to manage. They're also a habitual bottleneck and an impediment to private clouds.

(Geez, on a bad day, of which there were many, my mother never expended that many adjectives on me.)

Anyway, Google spent a decade building infrastructure that banished network storage. It used software to make the local storage in commodity x86 servers fast, scalable and bullet-proof. Yahoo followed suit, as did Facebook and eventually Windows Azure. The cloud era had arrived. Local storage, with enterprise-worthy software on top, became vogue in large data centers again. Nutanix means to commoditize it.

Its appliance, purpose-built for "enterprise-class" virtualization and promising a 40%-60% savings just on the equipment, is the first commercial widget to mimic Google's approach although Google's data centers run on its data-managing Google File System (GFS) so they can catalog web pages and Nutanix uses a block-based storage interface for normal people.

It's still a Google-like distributed system architecture that hugs data close to the virtual machine and delivers high performance in a simple Google-like scale-out architecture on which to build virtualized server and desktop environments.

As might be assumed from its name, the widgetry can also be clustered into thousands of machines. It's just a building block.

Nutanix envisions data centers that are much smaller and faster than those with SAN-based architectures, yet simpler and more cost-effective to set up, implement, scale and sustain.

Nutanix's key innovation is its patent-pending distributed system software layer that converges compute and storage into a single tier, is designed specifically for virtualization and is optimized from the ground up to make use of Flash SSDs in its core architecture.

Nutanix' approach anticipates storage becoming completely virtualized.

It says "The industry, which makes a lot of money by continuing to propagate existing monolithic technology, will be forced to adapt to these new realities or, like the old monolithic server vendors, perish."

The widgetry starts with a single 2U Nutanix Complete Block containing four x86 nodes. Each Complete Block contains eight Xeon processors and 192GB of RAM (upgradeable to 768GB) for running virtual machines along with 1.3TB of Fusion-io, 1.2TB of SATA SSD and 20TB of SATA drives for storing virtual machine data. Each node in a Nutanix Complete Block runs an industry-standard VMware ESXi hypervisor.

It says a single Flash drive worth $3k, with its vulgarly high IOs/sec, will exhaust the processing power of an entire SAN that goes for $500k. "The SAN architecture of a few controllers virtualizing access to hundreds of spindles by exposing a few virtual volumes is hopelessly flawed for this decade."

Setup should reportedly take less than 30 minutes and can be easily managed using an intuitive user interface said to provide new levels of virtual machine visibility across compute and storage resources.

The box supports key virtualization capabilities like VMware's vMotion, high availability (HA), and Dynamic Resource Scheduling (DRS), along with data management features like fast VM cloning, capacity optimization and converged backup for instant backup and recovery of virtual machine data without requiring external backup appliances.

The money fueling Nutanix' beta release and now it launch comes from Lightspeed Venture Partners with participation from Blumberg Capital.

The company is targeting large virtual deployments and using the channel to get there. It's thinking mainly regional offices, the mid-market, test & dev, virtual desktops and DR sites. It'll run anything that runs on VMware although it can support any hypervisor. It's partnering with Citrix for its XenSource. It's supposed to "Quick Clone" hundreds of desktops.

US list price starts at $75,000 for three nodes. A full rack with 72 nodes runs $2 million and change.

Company founders CEO Dheetaj Pandey, CTO Mohit Aron and chief products officer Ajit Singh were at Aster Data, the massively parallel Big Data clustered database house recently bought by Teradata for $296 million. Aron once led the development of the Google File System. Nutanix advisors include Veritas founder Mark Leslie, who's also got money in the start-up.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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