Does your private cloud really count as cloud?

Does your private cloud really count as cloud?

For many IT managers, "private cloud" sounds like the best of both worlds:  The flexibility and scalability offered by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or other providers, but with the control that comes with systems living in an organization's own data center.

More often than not, however, those private clouds aren't particularly cloud-like.   And Nutanix is looking to change that.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company is best known for its hyper-converged infrastructure hardware, and it has developed a robust list of government customers for those products.  On June 21, however, the firm announced a range of new offerings intended to turn Nutanix products into a true platform for private enterprise clouds. 

Chief Marketing Officer Howard Ting, speaking at the company's .NEXT Conference in Las Vegas, noted that 40 percent of companies recently surveyed by Gartner "think they're building an alternative to Amazon Web Services" with their private clouds, "but in reality only 7 percent have done it." 

A true private cloud, he said, should offer true infrastructure as a service with simple, automated deployments; allow for self-service provisioning; and support more than just virtual applications.  

Ting, CEO Dheeraj Pandey, and Chief Product and Development Officer Sunil Potti freely admitted that Nutanix is not yet able to offer that true enterprise cloud solution either, but said the functionalities being rolled out in the coming weeks were an important step in that direction. 

"This all has to come together into a platform," Pandey said, with easy partner integrations and one-click simplicity for customers being critical features.  "And this platform is going to be one of the hardest journeys for us."

The announced new offerings include:

Improved support for containers like Docker, including the ability to provide persistent storage for containers created and moved on the Nutanix platform.  The new Acropolis Container Services, Potti said, mean that "containers can now be first-class citizens, just like VMs, in the Nutanix fabric."

Integration with and storage for applications like Oracle RAC and DB2, which can still require "bare metal servers." Potti said the addition of Acropolis Block Services means "Nutanix now offers a single unified fabric across each and every workload in the enterprise."

Self-service provisioning, where IT administrators can configure Nutanix's Prism management tool to allow business units to spin up and manage their own virtual machines, applications and other resources, while still maintaining centralized control over the infrastructure itself. 

Better integration with Microsoft Azure, OpenStack services and VMware's ESXi hypervisor.   Azure will have "full-stack support," Potti said.

Network visualization tools for Prism.  The goal, according to the company's published announcement, is to provide "a rich view into how VMs are connected to both physical and virtual networks, simplifying remediation of network issues."  And going forward, Potti said at the conference, "look for more and more networking functions to be converged in a smart way within the Nutanix fabric -- both natively and in conjunction with our partners."

The OpenStack drivers are now available, Nutanix officials said, while the container services, block services and improved Microsoft cloud support will roll out in July with the 4.7 release.   Self-service provisioning, network visualization and ESXi management are expected in Nutanix's "Asterix" release, which does not yet have a firm target date but is expected "soon after 4.7."

Full disclosure:  GCN Editor-in-Chief was at the Nutanix conference in Las Vegas to moderate a panel on public-sector use cases.   Nutanix paid for the travel and accommodations.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is the Editor-in-Chief of both FCW and GCN, two of the oldest and most influential publications in public-sector IT. Both publications (originally known as Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, respectively) are owned by GovExec. Mr. Schneider also serves GovExec's General Manager for Government Technology Brands.

Mr. Schneider previously served as New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company, where he oversaw the online operations of The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, The Hotline and The Almanac of American Politics, among other publications. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Mr. Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Mr. Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

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