Nutanix Community Edition: Community engagement is the road to enlightenment

Chris Marks, Esteem’s Director of Strategy, reviews the beta release of Nutanix’s Community Edition:

I’ve been a strong advocate for IT community engagement for as long as I can remember. For me it just makes total sense to fully engage those utilising your stuff to deliver constant and consistent feedback to drive future development (and their purchase of) your products and services.

With their hot-off-the-press “Community Edition Beta”, Nutanix has brought its user community slap bang into centre of product development, and with some style.

Nutanix has just taken the goose that lays its golden eggs (in fact, a whole gaggle of them) and released it from its, albeit palatial but defined, surroundings and allowed it to fly free and settle in whatever habitat it feels is most suitable. Nutanix CE is not restricted by specific hardware vendor or use case. For that I applaud them.

I’ve always had a feeling that the webscale approach Nutanix were taking was limited by their own (understandable) need to ensure consistent and guaranteed performance and therefore a defined hardware ‘exoskeleton’ for their software was required. I’m sure, it has been one of the most common requests to product management to allow installation on multiple platforms.

The OEM agreement with Dell was a step in the direction of releasing the reins a little, but with CE, Nutanix has essentially said ‘fill your boots’ – take this webscale secret sauce and see what you can do with it. Just be sure to let us know how you get on.

Now, it needs to be said that this is not Nutanix saying go and build an entire datacentre ecoysytem with this stuff without our performance-guaranteed safety net hardware configuration, but what they are saying is:

You can use your own hardware platform

You can install up to 4 nodes into a cluster

Most of the features in the current mainstream enterprise product are available

Oh yes…..and it’s FREE!

You can now take your business requirement and see how Nutanix can deliver it (using CE as either the solution or as a test platform) at no cost.

With the right hardware, a 4 node Nutanix CE cluster is an awful lot of bang for your buck. It’ll run 4 hosts with as much CPU, DISK and RAM as you can squeeze into them, allowing, even the most performance hungry workloads to be tested with the Nutanix hyper-converged architecture.

OK, so where’s the catch?

Well the answer to that is, if there is one, I’ve not seen it yet. It’s win-win really. Lots more people get to put the Nutanix hyper-converged technology through its paces (did I mention it’s free?) for things that even the Nutanix development team hadn’t contemplated. At the same time, the community is soak-testing the Nutanix software on an enormous number of disparate hardware platforms, allowing important data to be collected and collated about the relative configuration and performance around the globe.

So, how does the CE stuff work?

Essentially you hold the key in the palm of your hand….literally! You get yourself a USB key (minimum 8GB). This is where the Nutanix CE KVM boot image goes. The image can be downloaded by any member of the Nutanix.Next user forum. You can get more information on how to set the up here.

Then you simply boot from this imaged USB key agree to the license terms, throw in the IP Address of your Controller VM (CVM) and away you go.

Do I need a load of kit?

Well, Nutanix has thought about this and, though a 3-node cluster is still the configuration to enable all features, Community Edition can also operate on a single node, with RF-1. This allows testing and training operations to be carried out without a production-scale environment being required. [I’m hoping no-one needs me to tell them that a single node is for test and evaluation only as it is not a resilient cluster configuration].

So, what does my hardware need to look like?

There are some minimum requirements to get CE running but, apart from, perhaps, an SSD drive, most people probably have most of the hardware needed in various test configurations, propping open doors etc. So go and get it and put it to some good use. The hardware spec tested includes the below (this is not a list of “requirements” as such, more a list of tested components you should have little problem getting operational):

  • Intel CPU’s with VT-x, VT-d extensions (> 4 cores)
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1x200GB SSD per node
  • 1x500GB HDD per node (though an all SSD install is possible)
  • AHCI/LSI HBA storage controller
  • Intel NICs (though Broadcom seems to be working)

The system also needs to be able to:

  • Use Nutanix PULSE to call home;
  • access the .NEXT forum account used to get the CE license;
  • accept software updates within 30 days

How do I manage and administer all this?

Well that’s the really great part. The thing that makes Nutanix so attractive to an enterprise, simplicity is also one of the key benefits in CE. The same Prism software interface is used to manage the environment without limitation. This means that deploying server and storage workloads from a single management point is just the same in CE as with any other Nutanix implementation.

This make CE a great way to get up to speed with Prism and how simple Nutanix is and, when the time comes, transfer the knowledge gained in CE directly into a larger enterprise implementation with almost no learning curve at all.

Nutanix CE will be available starting at the Nutanix.Next conference June 2015.

Article published: 12/05/2015

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