Rubrik unboxing and hardware details

A recent entrant into the data protection market is Rubrik. You can find out more about Rubrik and their background here. You can also learn a little more about Rubrik from a post that Eric Shanks just published following his visit to Virtulization Field Day. I was recently presented with the opportunity to install one of their brik’s into a lab environment to get some hands-on time with the product. I already have a list of follow-on blog posts planned. I’m not going to dive into how it all works in this post, I’ll save that for one of the other ones. Once the brik was racked and cabled it really did only take about 15 minutes for the total install process to complete, and I immediately configured my first VM for protection. Kudos to Rubrik on delivering on that fast install process.

The first picture is of the front of the Rubrik brik with the bezel on. You may have noticed this is not the nice white looking one currently being shown on their website. I was told that this is the original face place and would be replaced when others become available. The chassis that Rubrik is using, is a Supermicro that contains 4 server nodes. On the front mounting flange on each side there is a pair of power buttons and lights that match to each of the nodes.

rubrik-front-w-bezel

 

The next picture is the front of the brik with the bezel removed. This exposes 3 disk drives per node. The drives for each node are stacked vertically. The model that I was testing is the one currently available and each of these drives is a 4TB drive.

rubrik-front-no-bezel

 

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Nutanix .Next Conference announcements summary and recap

Today kicks off the first day of Nutanix’s first conference. It’s a day that’s been anticipated for a while and I really wish I could have been present. The .Next conference is certainly going to be the hottest hyperconverged infrastructure event of 2015. There is a ton of details and announcement coming out of .Next today and I’m going to try and break them down for you here. Over the next couple of weeks, there will be deeper level conversations on many of these topics and may lead to further blog posts.

To find out more about Nutanix read my detailed Nutanix product review at Data Center Zombie and Hyperconverged comparison article.

From One product to Two

Historically Nutanix has sold only a single product called the Virtual Computing Platform. I never heard many people referred to it by the product name, since there once only a single product it was always just referred to as Nutanix. Today Nutanix is announcing that they are splitting the platform into two separate products that fall under the new Xtreme Computing Platform (XCP) badge.

next4 copy

 

In the past, Prism was just part of the entire Nutanix solution. It’s been the primary point of management for several versions now. Today Nutanix has announced that Prism is becoming its own product and will be available in this form sometime in Q4 of 2015. As pat of this additional functionality is being added that I will cover later in this post. Nutanix Acropolis is the second product under this new approach. Acropolis will contain all of the storage functionality and data services commonly contained within the Nutanix Distributed File System (NDFS). There are also many new features being released and announced as part of Acropolis that I will cover soon.

next5 copy

 

Nutanix Acropolis

While many in the industry are going to laser focus on the KVM based Acropolis hypervisor option, Acropolis as a product is far more than that. The image below shows how Nutanix things of features within Acropolis as being contained in two major buckets. The App mobility fabric which seems to focus on availability, automation and integration with the greater stack. The Distributed Storage Fabric portion is about data protection, storage services, and hypervisors.

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The following image touches on how the App Mobility Fabric features provide the mobility, automation, availability and integration mentioned above. These are by default not tied to a hypervisor platform, but may have different release dates for the different hypervisors. In Q4 this feature is going to expand to offer VM migration between hypervisors, that would allow powered off VMs to be moved between vendors all while staying on the Nutanix storage solution. This opens up a lot of opportunities for using the different hypervisor platforms between environments or projects within the same organization with ease.

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If you follow the blogs and Tech rags you have probably seen the rumor that Nutanix was creating their own hypervisor to compete with VMware vSphere. Well that was a rumor, but based on how some of these updates are messaged I can begin to see how people jumped to conclusions. Nutanix still supports vSphere, Hyper-V and KVM like they have for some time now. What they are doing is working on improving the availability and operational management story around the KVM hypervisor. This new approach along with the other hypervisors is what Acropolis is bringing to market.

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Many of the features that now fall under Acropolis have been available in the Nutanix platform for some time. The image below explains what’s available today and the following images touch on what some of the new features are.

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In release 4.1.3 Nutanix will bring an Image Service to the KVM based hypervisor offering.

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The new KVM High Availability (HA) feature is still only Tech Preview, but has to be one of the most exciting features. This will bring a similar experience to KVM as VMware customers have been enjoying for years with vSphere HA. No longer will VMs require intervention to auto restart of remaining nodes in a cluster upon a host failure.

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Nutanix Prism

We can see from the image below that Prism is focused on providing and improving the one-click management features that are already there. Also one-click operation insight that is focused on increasing the visibility of what is happening within your environment and lastly expanding Prism to perform one-click troubleshooting.

next17

 

The upcoming version of Prism later in 2015 is going to take the features we know and love today to the next level along with adding a bunch of new ones. The slideshow below gives a little sneak peak on what we can expect. The VM Management offering is being expanded, there is going to be a L2 network configuration option to assist with cluster deployments. The storage management capabilities are being improved. And lastly the cluster management, one-click type upgrades that we like today will continue to be a theme for other topics.

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Operational Insight Features

This operation insight area of Prism is going to be a big section of improvement and new features over the existing versions. We can to see a Service Impact Analysis, that will help correlate alerts to application impact. The upcoming Root Cause analysis will help isolate issues and lean on knowledge from the Nutanix global community. And a remediation advisor will give targeted recommendations for how to optimize the solution.

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I’m excited to announce and see that capacity planning is going to be coming to the Prism product in Q4. I think that this is an important addition for Nutanix and it looks like they took their time to release a great product the first time around. There will be a capacity trends behavior set of features to report on what is going on in your environment and provide time estimates. Also an optimization advisor will be there to help you find space that might be able to be reclaimed, such as unused VMs, snapshots and other items. And last up a What-if analysis will estimate what resources may be needed for different scenarios. The cool option is this features will have the ability at some point to send data into the Nutanix sizing calculator to allow for a better sizing and scaling exercise.

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A new search feature called Prism Instant Search will be coming also. The image below shows what some of the things you can do with the search feature. Think of it as a Google like search experience that allows Nutanix admins to find and accomplish tasks faster. I’m looking forward to seeing

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Last up is the ability to create customizable dashboards in Prism. I’ve had a few customers looking for this ability and they will be happy that it’s coming later this year. The image below looks like a great example that show specific workloads and other alerts for a focused view that a specific role would be interested in. I think that I also heard that real-time stats would be available from Prism, today there is a slight time delay or a page refresh to get the updates.

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As you can see there is a lot of new and updated news from Nutanix .Next. I think that most everything was covered, but I may have missed a few things which I will try and update as I hear of any.

 

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What is the entry cost for Nutanix Community Edition – CE

Last week Nutanix officially announced the Community Edition of their platform. They let everyone know that a private Alpha and Beta test period had already been completed and was starting a public Beta period. The public Beta will allow users to sing up and Nutanix will open up the Beta to a new set of testers each week. This will allow them to onboard new testers each week without over burdening the process and causing confusion.

The Community Edition (CE) is a software-only version of the Nutanix hyperconverged platform. It currently only runs on KVM for the hypervisor and must be installed on bare metal hardware. This left some confused and wondering what the cost of testing this community version would be. I was happy to see that there are options for testing a single node CE install along with a 3 or 4 node install. The fact that a single node install is allowed offers a pretty low cost of entry. This is the route that I choose for my testing since many of my lab servers are AMD based. I did have an Intel-based server and a few whiteboxes that were potential candidates for the testing.

Following some of the conversations online about CE, it seemed like some felt that the cost of entry for playing with CE was too high. While I do agree that a nested version that could be deployed as a virtual appliance is on my wishlist, the bare metal option is nice also. I’m planning on using CE as a long term storage option in my lab over the Nexenta box that I was previously running.

Now on to the costs. I used an HP ML150 G6 server that I purchase about two years ago for around $400. It has just a single Intel E55xx series CPU in it and 24GB of memory. The built in NICs are supported by CE as well as the storage controller. I had a consumer grade Samsung 830 SSD drive and a pair of 2TB HDD’s that I was using in my old build. So the total build for me was probably between $700 to $1000 at most. I wanted to test on my whitebox build that is around $500 but a failed CPU is causing a delay.

I did a little Ebay searching today and saw that Dell R610 and R710 servers are pretty cheap on average, around $350 – $500 with the right CPU’s and amount of memory. All that you would need to do is add the right drives if they don’t have them already. So I think that this is a pretty reasonable cost for an advanced product. I know many people’s home servers may already easily meet these requirements.

Long term I’m going to be thinking about how I can design CE to be my main storage in the home lab. It will likely be a non-standard approach of running CE on KVM and presenting it externally to my vSphere clusters. But if it gets the job done I’m fine with the behavior. I may use a pair of single node installs and replicate between them for my data protection strategy saving me from burning a 3rd server. This should save me from spending several thousands of dollars on a higher-end Synology NAS device and all the drives. Also gives me some cool features that a home NAS won’t provide.

If you are running CE and have a reasonably priced build drop it in the comments and share with others.

 

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Nutanix presents Community Edition to the world

Nutanix community edition (CE) is not the best or worst kept secret. A community edition of their storage platform is something that’s been loosely talked about for some time now and most recently as a few months ago Nutanix leadership mentioned it in some public interviews. Nutanix has been looking for a way to allow people in the tech community an easier way for them to get some hands on experience with their platform.

As a Nutanix Technology Champion (NTC) I was invited to participate in early trials of community edition with others NTC’s. We were provided with briefings on the CE product and provided access to install and participate in a private forum to provide feedback on the product and testing.

The community edition will become available to the community during the .Next user conference in early June. You can sign up here to get notified when CE is ready to go.

 

What is Community Edition

Simply put Nutanix community edition allows you to build a small hyperconverged cluster in your home lab. The product has a automated install. Although its not the same deployment method as the production product its still better than doing the work by hand. To try and provide flexibility in the hardware that people could use with CE they would not be able to use the same deployment that is used for their production HCI appliances.

With Nutanix CE you will be able to build a hyperconverged lab that consists of one to four nodes. This will allow people to build a single node Nutanix install for those that do not have a lot of hardware to play with the product. And those that have large labs can build a three or four node cluster for a larger install. This type of install could provide some serious power to people’s home labs.

The Nutanix CE install is only on bare metal today. It uses KVM as the hypervisor and deploys the controller VM (CVM) on top of it as normal. Home laber’s can then deploy VMs on the KVM cluster. After install you end up with a fully functional Nutanix cluster. It can dedupe, compress and perform awesome. There are some big plans such as the same one click upgrades like the production product.

The following is a list of minimal and recommended hardware specs, these are requirements today. I would expect these to loosen up and expand as the CE product matures.

  • Memory 16GB min – 32GB or more recommended
  • Intel CPU, VT-x , 4 core min
  • Intel based NIC
  • Cold tier storage 500GB min 1 per server (Max 18TB, 3x 6TB HDD)
  • Flash 200GB minimum min 1 per server
  • Max number of SSD/HDD drives per node is 4
  • Boot to USB drive or SATA DOM

nutanixCE

 

What I wish it was

I think that community edition is a great idea and hope that it’s a big success. But as a avid home lab person, I am not crazy about the idea of having to dedicate physical hardware for this. I know that I will get better performance and an experience more like the real product. But as a community product I think people just want to get their hands on it to play with it. This could be easier accomplished by offering it as a virtual appliance that I can run on my existing lab. No need to dedicate hosts and wipe disks. I can accept that a virtual appliance won’t give me the full experience and performance, but it will allow for more people to play with the community edition. I hope to see this as an option as CE matures.

I would like to say thanks to the Nutanix CE team for the experience and releasing a cool product to the community.

 

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Atlantis goes HyperScale and enters the Hyperconverged market

In a move that might surprise some and not others, Atlantis is announcing the availability of a hyperconvered appliance. I like this move from Atlantis and I think it will offer a more appealing solution for many customers.

This HyperScale product is marrying a hardware appliance-based approach with their USX software defined storage solution. The appliance will be all flash based and come initially in two difference storage capacity options. This new offering brings a simplified and fast deployment process and single call support from Atlantis for the full stack.

To start Atlantis will support VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer as hypervisors. One can only speculate on how soon they may offer support for others, such as Microsoft Hyper-V. The small group of XenServer users will rejoice as there is finally a hyperconverged offering for them.

atlantis1

 

What’s the Hardware?

So there will be a hardware appliance, what are the details and who builds it. Atlantis is taking an approach that is being taken by some other vendors lately. They are not just offering a single hardware option. Instead Atlantis is going to be offering HyperScale options on Lenovo, HP, Cisco UCS and SuperMicro hardware. There will be a tightly controlled number of models from each vendor and their specific configuration.

The HyperScale appliances will only be available through Atlantis channel partners. When the partner makes the sale they will order the specific server vendor SKU with maintenance. They will then also sell the customer the Atlantis HyperScale SKU and maintenance. The products will be built by the channel partner and delivered by the customer. This approach can allow customers to take advantage of existing pricing they might have with their approved server vendor.

The Lenovo, HP and Cisco hardware options will be based on 1U rack mount servers. The SuperMicro option is using the Twin Pro, which is a 2U four-node configuration used by other hyperconvered and storage vendors.

 

How does support work?

Atlantis will offer one call support for the HyperScale solution. This means anything from the hardware to the hypervisor and of course the USX storage layer. The server hardware support will be covered under the server vendors maintenance, Atlantis will have the ability to fill service requests to have hardware replaced on behalf of the customer. This allows for a single call to cover the solution without needing to call HP to get a drive replaced for example. This hardware maintenance approach allows Atlantis to immediately take advantage of the global service coverage that these server vendors have built out already, saving Atlantis from a long expensive process of building out support capacity themselves.

 

What are the configurations?

Initially there are two different storage capacity options. There will be 12TB and 24TB sizes available to start and possibly a 48TB option in the future. The 12TB model has 4x 400GB flash drives and the 24TB has 4x 800GB drives. You might be saying how are they arriving at those capacity numbers with so few drives? Atlantis is basis the capacity calculations on a 4 node configuration and factoring in a data reduction of 70% to achieve the published capacities. They are offering a capacity guarantee for the HyperScale offering. If customers are unable to achieve this level of data reduction, Atlantis will work with the customer to license or provide additional capacity. The flash drives are Intel S3710’s. The link below is to a PDF that explains the storage guarantee.

Atlantis_PN_HyperScale_Storage_Guar_0415_web

All of the server options will offer dual socket servers that will use Intel E5 version3 chips. The 12TB option offers memory options of 256 to 512GB of memory and the 24TB offers 384 to 512GB. A pair of 10GbE and 1GbE network connections will be available for each node.

In the initial offering, the minimum configuration will be 4 nodes. That’s one SuperMicro chassis or 4 1U servers from the other vendors. The unit of scale will be 4 nodes at a time to start. Atlantis will offer single node scaling after the initial minimum deployment as a roadmap item some time in 2015.

 

My Point of View

I like this move from Atlantis. The USX software defined storage option was attractive, but I always like the appliance-based approach much better. Vendors that tkat an appliance approach to these offerings are able to provide and better deployment, scaling, upgrade and operational story for their customers.

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The differences in communities

I’ve noticed something over time and was having a conversation with my wife and this thought came to mind. Last year I decided to purchase my first dirt bike, I really have not ridden once since I was a teenager. But after watching my son ride his for the last couple of years, it seemed like it was time for me to jump in. I did not want to miss out on the fun any longer and riding together would be a great way to spend more time together.

Both of our bikes were purchased used, so there was been some minor fixes that we have been working on. I’m a bit geeky and do not have much of a mechanical background, so we like to do research on the internet before starting a project. If the project is too big or complex we might just take it to a local shop.

 

Motorcycle Community

What myself and my wife noticed is that the motorcycle community is a bit unique. In researching different topics and asking for advice we were amazed at how helpful people are. There is a bit of a brotherhood amongst the motorcycle community, whether online or in person. I’ve always noticed that bikers always wave to each other when riding on the streets, they don’t know each other but they respect each other. They don’t ignore a guy riding a BMW bike with a suit and tie on versus a hardcore biker dude with a Harley. They all wave, no judgments.

We also noticed that web pages with comments and forums focused on dirt bikes had a very similar brotherhood. People would ask questions on how to fix something or modify something and they were not attacked for their choices and called stupid. No one was saying why are you doing it like that your an idiot. They just helped, people offered suggestions gave helpful feedback. This behavior was observed across all types of sites, was not isolated to a single forum.

I had recently had pulled my bike out of the garage and was giving it a check over before getting it ready for the spring riding season. Checking the fluids and other routine maintenance and then was working on getting it started the first time. It was not cooperating, I was probably out there for an hour and totally frustrated. Up the driveway came a new neighbor that had moved in over the winter. We had not had a chance to meet him, he was a fellow dirt biker and offered some tips. Within a few minutes, it was running and I could have not been happier.

 

Tech Community

Now let’s have a look at the tech community. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of very nice people that are more than willing to help others, especially in the VMware community. But there always seems to be a small group of people that will instantly jump into flame or attack mode, just because they think that some is taking the wrong approach or choosing a product that they don’t like.

Not everyone approaches problems in the same way, they are not looking to be attacked because they are looking for advice. People seek out others online to try and learn from their experiences or get help on how to approach or fix something. Many times you are not the first person to have a specific issue, and there are plenty of helpful people that answer posts on forums and write helpful blog posts. But in the tech community and others there is a healthy amount of people that want to do nothing else but jump in and cause trouble. They attack people for their methods and choices without offering anything helpful to the conversation.

 

So why?

I’ve often wondered why people exhibit this type of behavior? There are probably a lot of different reasons. Is it that the motorcycle community is just more confident in themselves? They don’t need to try and prove they are smarter than the next person? Do they have no interest in being an internet tough guy that hides behind his keyboard and feels superior? I have no idea why.

I’m pretty sure that we also don’t see executives from Honda writing biased blog posts against Kawasaki or attacking each other on Twitter. They are both focused on building an excellent product and taking care of their customers. Having a war with your competitors does nothing positive for your customers. It does not affect their buying decision in a positive way, it makes you look petty or rude.

So the next time that you are about to jump on someone for something online, maybe take a deep breath and think about what they are really asking for. You have a few choices, you can be a mature person and just keep your thoughts to yourself or you could offer something positive or helpful to the conversation. There is nothing to be gained by attacking others.

Don’t read too much into this blog post, it was not inspired by any recent trash talking or blog posts. Just a few thoughts I had on this recently, hopefully I don’t get too attacked in the comments :)

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VMware Horizon 6.1 brings new features and a peak at the future

Today brings another update to VMware Horizon, version 6.1 is being announced. With this update comes several new features and a peek at a few others expected in a future release. The NVIDIA GPU support is the worst kept secret, since it was announced that vSphere 6 would have vGPU support. It was only going to be a matter of time until Horizon was updated to take advantage of the new vGPU feature.

Note: Some of the tech preview items will only be available via the public VMware demo site or via private requests. Not all tech preview items will be included in the GA code like many have been in the past.

The summer of 2014 saw the release of Horizon 6.0 and the ability to present RDS based applications. It was missing a number of features and VMware quickly closed the printing gap in 6.01. Today in 6.1 we are seeing several new features which I will cover in more detail. A few other features will enter tech preview mode and are likely to be released in an upcoming version.

new features

 

 USB Redirection

In 6.1 the ability to redirect USB storage devices for Horizon applications and hosted desktops will now be available. This helps close another gap that existed. It will only be available in 2012/2012R2 OS versions.

usb redirect

 

Client Drive redirection

This is something that has been available in Citrix XenApp since the stone ages. It will only be available in tech preview for now, but I’m sure we will see this some time this year. Initial support for Windows only clients with other OS’s coming later.

client drive

Horizon Client for Chromebooks

The current option in you want to use a Chromebook as your endpoint is to access Horizon via the HTML 5 web browser. This limited you to only connect to a desktop, because Horizon apps were not supported over HTML5. Without a proper client pass-thru items such as USB devices were not possible either.

The Horizon client for Chromebooks will be based on the Android version that has been around already. There has been growing demands for this client. This will be available as a tech preview sometime in Q1/Q2 of 2015.

Cloud Pod updates

The cloud pod architecture was released last year to provide an architecture for building a multi-site Horizon install. The initial version was not that attractive in my eyes. The updated version in 6.1 brings the configuration and management parts of cloud pod into the horizon manager. The previous version had to be done via command line and global entitlements were not shown in the Horizon manager.

Other Items

We are also see a number of other check the box type items that are expected due to vSphere 6 updates.

  • VVOL support Horizon 6 desktops
  • VSAN 6 support
  • Large cluster size support for VSAN6 and higher densities
  • Support for Windows 2012R2 as a desktop OS
  • Linux VDI will be a private tech preview option

 

 

 

 

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