VMworld 2015: Nutanix Customer Panel

Session SDDC6827

Note: This was a panel discussion, so I tried to transcribe as much as I could. Please forgive any typos or bad English. I’m immediately publishing after the session was over.

Josh Odgers – Nutanix
Sachin Chheda – Nutanix
Bob – Hallmark business connections (Hallmark cards)
George – Perth Radiology
Matt – Lang’s building supplies

What is holding virtualization back?

  • 3-tier model is complex to manage
  • Costly to scale
  • Performance bottleneck

Making complex simple – Making Simple Invisible – like Uber
The best infrastructure is that which is invisible
Our mission: Deliver invisible infrastructure.
1750+ customers, 70 countries, 6 continents, 1000+ employees
IDC declares Nutanix has 52% of the hyperconverged market

Nutanix Extreme Computing Platform – Eliminates separate SAN and NAS arrays.

Sachin: So Bob, can you give us some background how you came to Nutanix?
Bob: Been in IT for 30 years and looking for cheaper, faster, better. I’m associated with leading edge IT. Introduced a few years ago to Hyperconverged. Did a Nutanix pilot for SQL, and it went extremely well.

George: I work for an imaging provider in Perth, across multiple sites. About a year ago we were looking for a new solution, our 3 tier solution was getting old and tired. Looked at hyperconverged and it looked simpler and easier to use. Our first workloads moved to Nutanix was SQL and Exchange.

Matt – We are a manufacturer and were introduced to hyperconverged after we missed a prior IT refresh cycle. So we had to do a large refresh, including desktops and infrastructure. We looked at 3 tier, but hyperconverged ticked all the boxes. Hypeconverged is rock solid platform, easy to scale, and we can grow our business as we require.

Sachin: What were some of the things you saw in hyperconverged?

Bob: The value prop of hyperconverged is doing more with less staff, and is very streamlined. Cost is obviously a huge issue, but more importantly the OPEX. Reduced complexity and reduced cost.

Sachin: Could you walk us through some goals?We

Bob: We were having performance issues with our analytics on our 3-tier stack.  We brought in Microsoft BI specialists, and they recommended a highly expensive stack to make the solution worked. So we had to look out of the box, and arrived at hyperconverged and Nutanix.

George: A good friend works for another company, and his better half worked for a storage company. I got honest feedback about storage technologies. We had fiber channel technology that we replaced. We needed something higher density and easier to look after. That’s why we went down the Nutanix path.

Matt: For me efficiency is critical. Less about IT and more about OT (operational technology). Nutanix lets me spend more time on my business and less on IT. For every hour I spend babysitting the infrastructure the less I spend on business. Management wants to see IT as a profit center, not as a cost center. Nutanix has always allowed me to say “yes”. We can deploy apps very quickly, like a dev environment. We can easily expand a cluster in 15 minutes. The hardest part about Nutanix is racking it, seriously. We have to be very keen on costs, and OPEX costs are top of mind. Other vendors could compete on acquisition cost, but they can’t compete on simplicity. We also use it for VDI, and have the NVIDIA grid cards in the NX-7000 series. We have users all over the world using the solution.

Sachin: So an Australian company with global workforce. Josh, let’s get more on the technical details.

Josh: We’ve spent a lot of time talking about business challenges. Business people don’t care about VCDX or SSD drives. This customer had to scale their storage and they could use the Nutanix storage only nodes.

George: We were talking to application owners and they were stating we needed SAN or NAS. But when you are virtualized, it doesn’t matter. We’ve had massive success with Nutanix.

Sachin: You started off with SQL server and BI, but have since expanded your environment.

Bob: We started with the BI stack, and a way to get Nutanix in. I wanted to get Nutanix in the door to show the value of the solution. Our DevOps teams came to me and our C# build times were creeping up to 2 hours. We need a faster solution. So we moved the workload to the Nutanix cluster. Build times reduced to 22 minutes, and that’s real time developers can dedicate to coding instead of waiting on builds to complete. We put that in front of senior leadership, and told them it improved productivity. It enabled me to create a 3 year vision on replacing our entire infrastructure with Nutanix. This will take 3 years to get there, but we will have active/active sites. It allows for better performance, and gives us opportunities to be agile. We understand the concept of DevOps, and want to remove obstacles through technology. This gives more time to sales and DevOps time to do their job.

Sachin: When you went to this new process, what were some of the new features you wanted. DR, cloning, etc.

Bob: We love VMware and what they let us do. But we were looking for a new level of flexibility. But we wanted DR and near-realtime data replication and reduce RPOs to near zero. In addition, and we were really excited about hypervisor choice. We are excited about the possibility of using multiple hypervisors, and even include the Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor. Choice is imperative. If you are an engineer and specialize in storage, your career is limited. Get an engineer to think about thought leadership.

Sachin: So Josh talk about how to access Nutanix. We have PRISM and our APIs.

Josh: I’ve spoken with a lot of service providers and they like PRISM. But they want to automate. Everything you can do in PRISM, you can access via the APIs. This was key for developing our platform.

Sachin: So George, I have a question from twitter. So you have the concept of mixing and matching workloads in your environment. What were your criteria for doing that?

George: Our image storage app need a lot of IOPs, including archival disk requirements.  We have both compute and storage nodes in the same cluster. It’s simple to consume. We didn’t have to hire a storage sysadmin. They can easily consume the cluster resources. Allows rapid development and deployment.

Sachin: Tell us about ongoing management.

Matt: Last year I was flying to VMworld, and I saw wifi on the plane and saw a new NOS update. So I did a cluster update from the air. I’ve never done that with infrastructure before. Maintenance windows are unacceptable. The NOS upgrade didn’t require any downtime. Nutanix and the resilience factor are great. We want the business to always be on, and don’t want to see the business see any performance degradations. Nutanix fails in gracefull manner, and it will self heals. We script everything, and we are to the point where we don’t even provision new users manually. We are very agile and fast. Our ERP is on Nutanix as well. We started with VDI, but that went so well we expanded the workloads. We were able to migrate new workloads in minutes, without months of planning. We get into IT because we like new toys.

Sachin: So Matt, so the common thing we come across are the business angles. This is different and is this what infrastructure should do?

Matt: Absolutely. We want to worry about the business and not the infrastructure.

Bob: IT should not be a cost center, but should be cost neutral. We are looking at scaling out Nutanix as a service, and looking to move other Hallmark subsidiaries to Nutanix. We own Crayola, which is a large business. We started with SQL BI stack, and that was very successful. Our biggest challenge was the sheer volume of apps that we needed to move to Nutanix. What we have now is all the BI and client web app tier are on Nutanix. We do large content management database, and that is based on Mongo running on Nutanix. We also have Oracle 10g running on Nutanix.

Sachin: Josh you are very active in the community. You mentor a lot of VCDX mentoring. What advice would you give to those looking at 3-tier?

Josh: The goal of the VCDX/NPX is all about meeting business requirements. It’s not about technical decision. It’s not about cool toys. Its about mapping business requirements to technical requirements. Keep moving forward and don’t get stale. Don’t bet your job on a single role. We aim to make IT staff more valuable by expanding their skillset.

George: We are looking for our IT staff to be more business oriented. We don’t want our staff just watching blinking lights. We look at what process are in place, and try to fit IT solutions into that framework. We developed a timesheet solution in 6 months, without worrying about the infrastructure.

Audience question: Can you tell us about support and how good it is? Our POC SEs are spot-on.

Matt: Nutanix support is even better than the product. We had a small problem, and called them up. They blew my mind. There aren’t any level 1 or level 2 guys, they are level 3 guys. The guys you get can solve your problems.

Josh: We had a customer that had four hardware failures in a short period. No downtime or data loss. We shipped them new hardware of course. I did the design for them, so I flew to their site at no cost just to put their mind at ease.

Audience question: Can you talk about your old storage arrays, and we have a bunch of storage admins that are nervous about changing platforms.

Bob: We used compellent. We would have had to upgrade controllers and disks. It would have cost us 500K to upgrade, and it was a forklift upgrade. The hyperconverged upgrade only cost 200K. We like the linear scalability. We could use any storage vendor, but don’t like the forklift upgrades and all that cost.

Matt: You can achieve the same outcome using traditional storage, But you don’t do it in the same time, and it will be more complex. We don’t like forklift upgrades. With Nutanix you eliminate forklift upgrades.

Josh: With Nutanix all writes always hit SSD. So your writes are always consistent. Ya these guys ran SQL on Nutanix first, which is somewhat unheard of.

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