My Journey to Nutanix Platform Expert (NPX) #014

Almost four years ago to the month my career took a major turn. I just successfully passed the VMware VCDX datacenter virtualization certification, to become #125 in the world. You can read about my VCP5 to VCDX journey in 180 days here. And the following week I joined this somewhat little known and scrappy startup, called Nutanix.

Back then HCI (Hyperconvered infrastructure) was a new fangled technology that many, many were quite skeptical of. Was it enterprise ready? Was it good for anything more than VDI? Could it run SQL, Oracle, Exchange? Can it compete toe-to-toe with vBlock? Would Nutanix go belly up or be acquired? Betting my career on HCI was risky in 2014, but it's paid off in more ways than I could ever imagine.

Having the VCDX certification under my belt really prepared me well for dual role at Nutanix as both a Solutions Architect in engineering and a consulting Architect in our sales organization. As a solutions architect I wrote a number of published customer facing Nutanix Best Practice Guides, such as SQL, Veeam, Lync, Microsoft DFS, and others. And as a field Consulting Architect I worked with dozens of customers over the years in projects of all sizes and shapes. Both roles helped refine my enterprise IT architecture skills, and hands-on with our own products including AHV (Nutanix's hypervisor).

NPX (Nutanix Platform Expert)

Just about a year into my career at Nutanix in March 2015, Nutanix announced the NPX certification. You can read my blog post about it here. I was honored to be part of the team that helped develop NPX and came up with the criteria for what it means to be NPX. The bar that was set was even higher than other defense based certifications, such as VCDX. Why? You have to know two hypervisors at the "X" level as well as demonstrating enterprise grade IT architect skills. Our MQC (minimally qualified candidate) bar is high, and the first time pass rate is far from 100%.

Now you may wonder why it's now 2018, three years after NPX 'went live' and I am just now defending. Well to be frank, having dual roles in Nutanix for over 3 years left little to zero time in my life to do blogging or spend the hundreds and hundreds of hours it takes to prepare for the NPX. For my VCDX I estimated I spent over 1,000 hours of preparation and 250+ pages of documentation. So I knew NPX would be even harder.

I am a competitive person, and I also like proving to myself that I can be on a similar footing as my colleagues which I have immense respect for. They were getting their NPX's and they kept badgering me to get mine. Plus, I want be the best customer facing consultant that I can be, and I knew doing NPX would take my VCDX skills to an even higher level. I also very recently shifted roles a bit within Nutanix to focus on our largest global accounts. The job description for that role requires NPX-level skills. Immense pressure was building on me to successfully defend NPX.

The NPX Design

In early 2017 I decided to start putting time into my NPX preparation. NPX requires a real-world design that you've done, so I thought there's no better choice than taking my UCS/HP 3PAR VCDX design and migrate it a Nutanix based solution. So I dredged up all my VCDX documentation from 3 years ago, and read it over. I was shocked to remember how complex 3-tier solutions are, and in particular the SAN/RAID/LUN configuration.

Going through my VCDX design I was ripping out page after page of complexity. LUNs? Gone. SAN? Gone. Fibre Channel switches? Gone. Boot-from-SAN? Gone. Cisco service profiles? Gone. You get the idea. And the best part about it? The actual environment that my VCDX was based on, I was actively involved in the account to migrate them to almost entirely Nutanix. So my NPX had a dual purpose of both defending, and transforming a real Nutanix customer from 3-tier to Nutanix simplicity. Win-Win!

NPX Preparation

For anyone starting down the NPX path, the freely available NPX Blueprint is your Bible. It has all the topics you need to cover to properly submit and successfully defend for NPX. To get a copy, email npx@nutanix.com. It is absolutely critical that you follow the Blueprint to the letter and cover everything, including all of the required documents. Although all of the documents are important, to me the Architecture Guide is where you will spend the majority of your time. My VCDX Architecture guide was 185 pages, and my NPX version was 134 pages. That's nearly 50 pages less, nearly all due to removing complexity, while covering more topics for the same ​environment.

After you get all of your documentation in order, next comes submission time. The NPX application is quite detailed and requires things such a resume, 3 professional references, a web-scale essay, plus all of the documents you've spent probably 6-9 months working on. After submission your documentation is scored, and if it scores high enough, you are then invited to an in-person defense. Submission time is roughly 3 weeks prior to the published defense dates.

If accepted, now is time to start working on your PowerPoint slide deck for your defense. You will use this slide deck to walk the panelists through your 90 minute defense, where you will be asked questions about your design, alternatives, and why you did what you did.

Pro Tip: Take all the blueprint topics and create one slide for each topic. Fill each slide with what you think are the top items to cover. Even if you don't verbally cover all bullets on the slide, have the content there so the panelists can ask questions.  I had approximately 23 content slides in my presentation, plus a number of indexed backup slides. 

I've included my TOC for my NPX deck below. This is not a magical slide...it's all directly from the blueprint. This is just one way to do it...do what feels right to you. 

​Now that your slide deck is ready, you need to mock mock mock! Don't use a potted plant to talk to...use social media and your contacts to find other NPXs or people working on their NPX. Do a webex, Zoom, etc. Practice practice! Heck, if your design is based on vSphere, hit up VCDXs.

But don't forget to mock the troubleshooting and design scenarios. Those two areas are also key for scoring, and just don't wing it during your defense. Aim for multiple mocks for each of the three areas: defense, troubleshooting, design scenario.

My personal goal was to get through the slide presentation, uninterrupted, in 30 minutes. That leaves 60 minutes for panelists to ask questions. YMMV, but I'd advise not going much longer or you jeopardize your scoring chances.

​Dooms (I mean Defense) Day

​By now you should be comfortable with your design, mocked each of the three major sections of the defense, and probably didn't sleep too well the night before. But be rested! Also if you are traveling across time zones, try to arrive a couple of days early to help adjust. You don't want to be a jetlag zombie during your defense.

When you step into the defense room, for those that have done your VCDX, everything will look familiar. Three panelists, moderator, whiteboard, and a projector. The moderator will give you the rules of the road, then you start your presentation. Panelists can interrupt at any time during your presentation to ask questions. Questions are not bad! In fact, they are asked to help improve your score and make sure you know your design. After the 90 minutes you get a 15 minute break. 

Next up is the 30 minute troubleshooting scenario. You will be shown a few slides, then the timer will start. The panelists are looking for a methodical approach to solving the problem, not a scattershot process of asking random questions or throwing out guesses to the root cause. The goal is not to solve the problem, but show how you would solve it. Curve balls can be thrown if you get close to the 'real' answer. At the end of 30 minutes you get a 5 minute break.

Finally, is the 60 minute design scenario. Just like the VCDX, you are shown slides for a particular fictitious customer. The panelists then act as the customer, and you ask them questions about requirements, constraints, assumptions, and risks. You then start down the design path answering questions as you go. And before you know it, the 60 minutes are up!

Now that you are totally mentally drained, now is the waiting game. Thankfully, you won't have to wait long. My results came in about 90 minutes after I was done. I was on the London underground, which has quite spotty cell service. I got the results via Slack and email, but then cell coverage dropped for a few tube stops. So I couldn't tell anyone I had passed! LOL I did shed a couple tears of joy and a couple of passengers were looking at me oddly. 

​Final Thoughts

​Is the whole process worth it? Yes! Even if you don't successfully defend, just the entire learning process makes you a better enterprise architect. Passing is just icing on the cake. Just like VCDX, the first attempt pass rate is fairly low, so don't be discouraged if you don't do it the first time around. Think of it as a chance to make yourself even better and really kick butt the next time! ​

I want to give a huge shout out to my NPX partner in crime, Bruno Sousa. We collaborated on the entire design, and split up the documentation work. His insight and knowledge was impeccable.

As a side note, pair/group submissions are allowed, but each contributor will defend individually.

I also want to thank the numerous people that supported mock sessions, document reviews, and pushing to keep my head down and being a success to become NPX #014.

Resetting lost ESXi root password with Nutanix

The other day I was at a customer for a fresh installation of Nutanix using vSphere 6.5. And for whatever reason, when they were resetting the ESXi root password to their default, it was fat fingered. When they went to add the hosts to vCenter, they couldn’t add them since the password was wrong. So what to do? If this was a non-Nutanix environment, the only supported ESXi method of resetting a lost password is re-imaging the server. But, Nutanix has a CVM running on each node that is configured with SSH keys to access the ESXi host. We can use a private IP address and the embedded SSH keys to successfully reset.

The full process to reset a lost ESXi root password on Nutanix is:

1. ssh into the CVM on the host that has the lost ESXi root password, using the Nutanix account name.

2. Enter: ssh root@192.168.5.1

3. ESXi console: passwd root

4. If the account is locked out: pam_tally2 –user root –reset

If you then run the add host wizard in vCenter and your password doesn’t work, try rebooting the ESXi host. This procedure saved us from re-phoenixing the ESXi host.

Nutanix AOS 5.1.1.1 Released

Today I am glad to announce the general availability of Nutanix AOS 5.1.1.1. This is a patch release, but it also has a few new features. Of interest to you will be the security patches (11 total), and a good sized list of resolved issues. You can find the full AOS 5.1.1.1 release notes here and download the package here. Before any upgrade, do thoroughly read the release notes and make sure any prerequisites are met. There’s also a good Installation and Upgrades document here, which is a must-read before you upgrade.

New Features include:

  • Nutanix API v3 tech preview
  • GA of software-only support on Cisco UCS-B series servers
  • Expanded support for vSphere 6.5 (e.g. Dell XC)
  • Full support for ESXi 6.5a and vCenter 6.5

As always, this AOS update can be done via PRISM and our 1-click upgrade process. Zero downtime, and zero vMotions are needed. Customers often do AOS upgrades during the daytime. This release hasn’t yet been enabled for automatic download (it will in the coming weeks), so if you want it before the automated downloads are enabled just grab the gz package from our portal. If you are brand new to Nutanix and never done an AOS upgrade, feel free to call support. It’s dead easy and 100% GUI driven, but help is here if you want it.

If you haven’t yet upgraded to the 5.1 release train, now is a great time to do so.

Nutanix AOS 5.1 & Companions are now GA

For the second time this year, Nutanix has released a major feature upgrade to AOS and companion software. Now available, is AOS 5.1! Top of the list of new features is vSphere 6.5 support for NX platforms (Nutanix branded gear). vSphere 6.5 support for OEM platforms is coming soon. But that’s not the only new feature. Here’s a rundown of some (not all) of the new features:

  • 1-click controller VM (CVM) memory upgrade
  • XenServer support on NX-1065-G5, NX-3060-G5, NX-3175-G5 (optionally with NVIDIA M60)
  • All-flash clusters now support adding hybrid nodes (e.g. cold storage only nodes). Minimum 2 AF nodes.
  • Automatic “admin” account password sync across all CVMs, Prism Web console, and SSH interfaces.
  • Docker container management through self-service portal.
  • Prism 1-click feature to install Docker host VM
  • Post-process compression is enabled by default on all new containers with Pro and Ultimate licenses
  • 1-click centralized upgrades from Prism Central
  • 1-click Prism central cluster registration and Prism Central Deployment
  • Pulse (telemetry) enabled for Prism Central
  • Auto-resolved alerts
  • User defined alerts
  • Graphics and compute mode for NVIDIA M60 GPU
  • CHAP authentication for Acropolis Block Services
  • Hot-plug CPU and memory on AHV VMs
  • Metro availability and synchronous replication supported across hardware vendors (NX, Dell, Lenovo). Async support continues.
  • VirtIO drivers updated to v1.1
  • Dynamically increase EC-X strip size as cluster is expanded
  • Much improved storage efficiency reporting in Prism (compression, dedupe, EC-X, etc.)
  • Disk rebuild time estimation
  • AFS supports Mac OS v10.10, v10.11, v10.12
  • Acropolis Block Service enhanced OS support (Solaris 11, RHEL 6, 7, 6.8)

Tech Preview Features include:

  • Software only support for UCS B-series blades
  • GPU pass-through for AHV guest VMs
  • Support 3rd-party network function VMs (e.g. load balancer, firewall, etc.) routed through Open vSwitch (OVS).

Companion Software Updates

  • Prism Central 5.1
  • Acropolis File Services (AFS) 2.1
  • Acropolis Container Services (ACS) 1.0
  • Foundation 3.7.2

Helpful Links

As of 5/1/2017, AOS 5.1 has not been enabled for automatic download and 1-click upgrades. As always, if you don’t want to wait for the automatic download switch to be flipped (in the near future), you can grab the AOS binary from the support portal and use our 1-click upgrade process. As always, thoroughly read the full release notes on the support portal before attempting an upgrade.

Nutanix AOS 5.0.1 enabled for 1-click upgrades

Earlier this year Nutanix released AOS 5.0, which contained dozens and dozens of new features and enhancements. As Nutanix customers know, we have 1-click upgrades for AOS. Prism will automatically notify you when there is an updated AOS version available. While customers can immediately download new releases from the portal and use 1-click upgrades, Nutanix delays the automatic notification on major releases until the first maintenance release comes out. This allows customers that want the absolute latest code to download it manually, but gives more conservative customers time for the release to mature before it’s automatically downloaded by Prism.

As of this week, AOS 5.0.1 will now automatically appear in Prism as a 1-click upgrade option. So if you have been holding off on AOS 5.0 until the first maintenance release, you need not wait any longer. Check Prism for software updates and you should see AOS 5.0.1 available.

Nutanix Acropolis 101: Creating VMs

Now that Nutanix Acropolis is shipping with NOS 4.1.3, I wanted to cover a few basics in a series of blog posts. Most of you won’t be familiar with Acropolis, which is based on KVM. If you’ve used KVM in the past, you will know how difficult it can be. Acropolis removes much of the complexity and headache. So for my first installment, I wanted to do something very basic: Upload an ISO to the Nutanix cluster which I could use to image a VM, then create a VM and install the OS from the ISO.

Please take note that the Acropolis road map is quite detailed with many major enhancements in both terms of features and ease of use. So in a few months this procedure will probably change, particularly around ISO management. But 4.1.3 is shipping today, so here’s what you need to do. This assumes you have a running  Nutanix cluster imaged with Acropolis/KVM.

1. From your Windows machine launch WinSCP. Enter the hostname/IP of your Acropolis cluster, change the port to 2222, then use a username of ‘admin’ and your cluster password. WinSCP should then connect to NDFS.

2. Once WinSCP connects, in the right pane you will see a list of containers. If no containers exist, then you have a brand new cluster and need to go into PRISM and create a storage pool and container. Refreshing WinSCP may not reveal the new container(s), so you may need to reconnect to see them. I went into my first container and created a directory called “ISO”.

3. Next, in the left pane of WinSCP navigate to your ISO(s) and drag them into the right pane. Wait for the upload process to complete.

Note: In NOS 4.5 we will be adding a PRISM ISO upload option, so you won’t need to resort to WinSCP for uploading your ISOs. There’s also some cool feature in the future around ISO libraries that is in the works.

4. Login into PRISM (the Nutanix GUI not the NSA spy tool). From the left pull-down menu select “VM”.

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5.  From the left-side menu, select Create VM:

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6. Next up we need to define some VM parameters, such as memory and CPU. Fill in the form as appropriate for your VM.

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7. Next, click on New Disk. The dialog box below opens up. Assuming you’ve already created a container, just enter the size of the disk in GB. All disks are thin provisioned, so no need to select various format types.

2015-07-14_9-16-09 8. After the disk is created, we now need to add a NIC. If this is the first VM you have created, and haven’t yet defined any networks, we need to define a network to attach the VM to. You can of course have different networks, each associated with a different VLAN.  Click on “New NIC”, then you will see the box below.

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Because we have no networks, click on “Add Network”. Add the relevant VLAN ID and close the dialog box. Note, in NOS 4.5 you will be able to define network names, so you won’t have to rely on remembering long UUIDs.

9. Now, if you followed my article to inject the VirtIO drivers into your Windows ISO, then configure the CD-ROM to mount your ISO image from the NDFS datastore. If you have a virgin Windows ISO image and didn’t inject the drivers, then you can mount a second CD-ROM to the VM. In this second CD-ROM mount your VirtIO ISO image.

10. Power on the VM, and wait for Windows to boot. When you get to the “Where do you want to install Windows?” screen you have two option. First, if you created your custom Windows ISO then your boot disk should be listed and you can proceed as normal. If you are relying on the second CD-ROM, then click on Load Driver and browse to the vioscsi driver for the appropriate operating system. Your boot disk should now appear.

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11. Proceed with the Windows installation as normal. Once Windows is fully installed, login as administrator.

12. Open the Device Manager, and you will see a NIC under Other Devices with a yellow exclamation point. Right click and update driver software. On the VirtIO CD navigate to the NetKVM folder and appropriate OS. You NIC will now be detected.

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13. Congratulations! You now have a fully functional Acropolis Windows VM. Unlike other hypervisors, you don’t need to install any additional drivers..just SCSI and NIC. Keyboard, video and mouse are all native and should work as expected.

VMTurbo in the Cloud is here

The SaaS market is becoming very popular, and software that was once only on-prem is now migrating to the cloud. I’m excited to announce that with VMTurbo 5.2, it is now offered as SaaS deployment through AWS. This means you can now control your on-prem environment with VMTurbo in the cloud. That sounds like a great combination to me. VMTurbo claims deployment is less than 3 minutes in AWS.

And better then deploying it in 3 minutes, is that for a limited time it is completely free. AWS will still charge you for running the VM, but the VMTurbo license is free. You can check out their full blog post about it here.

I also have it on good authority that an Azure SaaS option is in the works, but not quite ready for GA. So if you are an Azure customer and love VMTurbo, just hold on a bit longer and you will also have a solid deployment option.

On a side note, VMTurbo is also a strong partner with Nutanix. And in fact, a version of VMTurbo that has deep Nutanix support is in early adopter (EA) phase. GA of the Nutanix-aware version is due out in August 2015. So if you are a Nutanix customer and use AWS, shortly you can control your Nutanix clusters from the cloud! Read all about it here.

 

The New High Bar: Nutanix NPX Certification

NPX logoToday Nutanix is proud to announce their Nutanix Platform Expert (NPX) certification. You can read the official press release here. The goal of this certification is to become the most rigorous technical computing qualification in the IT industry. That’s saying a lot, given other live performance based certifications that people are going through today, such as Cisco CCAr and VMware VCDX. They are very rigorous and anyone getting through those live defense processes should be VERY proud of their accomplishments.

Offered at *no charge* this live-defense based certification aims to set the bar even higher, by testing a wider variety of knowledge. For example, you must have “X”-level knowledge of at least two hypervisors of your choice (vSphere, Hyper-V or KVM), “X”-level knowledge of the Nutanix platform, familiar with web-scale concepts, plus the world-class architect and soft consulting skills required for successful global enterprise deployments.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the creation of the NPX program, along with more than a dozen other Nutanix consulting architects, solutions/performance engineers, SEs, and other staff. The bar we set for the minimally qualified candidate is high, comprehensive, and will be a challenge ready for conquering by the brightest minds in the IT industry.

The NPX process consists of two parts: Developing a Nutanix-based enterprise-ready design consisting of a number of documents (see the handbook for more details but this includes a CV, references, emerging technology essay, current state review, migration plan, architecture guide, etc.), submitting that design for review, and then if minimal scoring is met, being invited to defend in front of a live panel. The actual defense will consist of three parts: solution design presentation (90 minutes), hands-on troubleshooting exercise (40 minutes), and quizzing of a 3-tier-to-web-scale migration and second hypervisor solution stack (60 minutes).

During this defense the following skills will be assessed:

Consultation skills

  • Discovery of business requirements
  • Identification of risks and risk elimination or remediation
  • Identification of assumptions and constraints and removal or accommodation in the solution design
  • Incorporation of Web-scale technologies and operational models
  • Evaluation of organizational/operational readiness
  • Migration and transition planning

Conceptual/Logical Design Elements

  • Scalability
  • Resiliency
  • Performance
  • Manageability and Control Plane Architecture
  • Data Protection and Recoverability
  • Compliance and Security
  • Virtual Machine Logical Design
  • Virtual Networking Design
  • Third-party Solution Integration

Physical Design Elements

  • Resource Sizing
  • Storage Infrastructure
  • Platform Selection
  • Networking Infrastructure
  • Virtual Machine Physical Design
  • Management Component Design
  • Datacenter Infrastructure (Environmental and Power)

I was very impressed with the PhD from Alpine Testing that guided us through the rubric creation process, and feel that the result is very fair, relevant, yet obtainable by the right candidate. While there are a set of recommended third-party certifications that the NPX suggests you have passed, there is not a hard requirement to have passed any other third-party certification exam. You must have passed the Nutanix NPP, though.

Click on the graphic below to expand it, and take a look at the recommended primary and secondary certifications. For example, if you wanted to defend on vSphere and Hyper-V, then you should have the skills of a MCSE-Private cloud and VCDX (DCV, DT or Cloud). Again, this is a self-assessment and there is not a hard requirement to have passed these certifications to apply for NPX. But be assured the screening process will weed out those falling short, so don’t think you can fudge it and get NPX certified. Be brutally honest in your self-assessment. 2015-03-13_8-35-27 The screening process for the NPX applications will be comprehensive, and only those meeting a minimum score will be asked to defend. If you don’t meet the documentation bar, or fail the live defense, there are program guidelines for resubmission rules that you can read further about in the NPX documentation. Bottom line, is if you are a Nutanix customer, partner, or work for Nutanix and want to achieve a world class architecture-level certification then download the handbook and read up on exactly what is involved to see if you qualify. If you don’t yet qualify, then get cracking on the requirements, such as “X”-level knowledge of dual hypervisors of your choice.

Personally, I would recommend you actually take and pass the recommended third-party certifications. For example, I found going through the VCDX program to be invaluable on many levels. But Nutanix realizes for various reasons sometimes people can’t sit for those exams (or find little value in multiple choice tests), and we didn’t want that to be a barrier but that in no way lowers the bar since our screening process is very rigorous. Our minimally qualified candidate standard is very high so don’t just throw a 50 page design together and think it can pass.

Other performance based “X” level certification enterprise documentation packages can take months to prepare and run in excess of 200 pages and the NPX certification will be no different. This certification is NOT about showing off your technical prowess, and throwing every possible solution into your design. You shouldn’t include every Nutanix platform in your design, nor should you throw the entire ecosystem of hypervisor products into it either. It’s all about meeting business requirements in an efficient, simple, and easy to manage methodology using a web-scale approach.

To get started on your NPX certification just go to the registration page here. By registering you can download the free NPX Design Review Preparation Guide and the NPX Program Application. You can also contact Mark Brunstad, the NPX Program manager, at npx@Nutanix.com.

If you are aspiring to be an NPX, be sure to check out Rene Van Den Bedem’s NPX Link-o-Rama.

Good luck!

Nutanix Releases NOS 4.1.1

I am very pleased to announce the latest release of the Nutanix Operating System, NOS 4.1.1, is generally available today. Download your copy today! This release offers rich enterprise capabilities to meet the needs of the most demanding applications and critical infrastructure requirements in the datacenter.

Here’s a summary of what’s new in this release.

  • Metro Availability: Nutanix Metro Availability provides continuous data availability for business-critical applications during planned maintenance or unplanned disasters that affect entire sites. Nutanix is the only hyper-converged infrastructure vendor to deliver continuous data protection across multiple datacenters. You can read more about Metro Availability here and here.
  • Cloud Connect: Nutanix Cloud Connect seamlessly integrates public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), with Nutanix-powered private cloud environments. It allows Nutanix customers to combine private and public cloud technology into their long-term infrastructure strategy without requiring third-party software or hard to maintain plug-ins. Read more about Cloud Connect here and here.
  • Encryption Support: Nutanix now provides strong data protection by encrypting user and application data to a level of FIPS 140-2 Level 2 compliance. Data at rest encryption is delivered through self-encrypting drives (SED) that are factory-installed in the Nutanix hyper-converged appliance. Find out more here.
  • Simplified Hypervisor Upgrade: Nutanix radically simplifies the process of upgrading the hypervisor in a Nutanix cluster with this new feature. This release will support upgrade of VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V, with KVM support coming soon. You can read about it here.
  • Security/STIG Enhancements: Nutanix has developed its own comprehensive security technical implementation guides (STIGs) to speed up the accreditation process for DIACAP/DIARMF, which is typically slow and manual. A process that typically takes nine to twelve months can now be accomplished in minutes. Over 500 embedded configuration changes were made to the system for compliance purposes. Major kudos to the security and development teams. Learn more here.
  • Prism Central Scalability: You can now manage up to 100 Nutanix clusters and 10,000 VMs. Prism Central now also supports Hyper-V.
  • Microsoft SCOM Pack: While not part of NOS, coinciding with the 4.1.1 release Nutanix has a Microsoft SCOM pack that monitors both Nutanix hardware and software. Great for Microsoft-centric shops.
  • XenDesktop Plug-In:  Again, while separate from NOS, Nutanix is unique in the industry by releasing a XenDesktop plug-in which enables you to configure per-VM SLAs. This is all configured with a few simple clicks from the XenDesktop Studio.

As part of the ongoing security hardening of NOS, 4.1.1 also addresses several attack vectors for NTP. Nutanix recommends upgrading to 4.1.1 to address these security issues. Certificate management in PRISM has also had a few improvements as well. For a deep dive on additional security information, check out this blog post by Nutanix’s Eric Hammersley. After seeing all the focus around securing our product automating the STIG process, you will agree with me that this is really industry leading.

For a “point” release of NOS, they’ve packed in A LOT of new features plus broader ecosystem support highlighted by the SCOM and XenDesktop add-ons. If you think these features are great, just wait to see what’s in our next point release.

Nutanix and Veeam HyperV Best Practices

Earlier this year I had the distinct pleasure of working with Luca Dell’oca (@Dellock6) from Veeam on a Nutanix + Veeam Backup and Replication + VMware vSphere whitepaper. You can check out that post and whitepaper here. Now, just a few months later, we’ve collaborated on a Nutanix + Veeam + Hyper-V 2012 R2 backup whitepaper. The new whitepaper is available here.

The goal of these two joint whitepapers are to enable our mutual customers deploy Veeam Backup and Replication 7 on Nutanix, when used with the two leading virtualization platforms. Both whitepapers are approximately 20 pages, and go into a lot of great detail. We tested both solutions in the lab, to ensure what we are recommending works in the real world. This is not high level marketing fluff, folks. No fluff zone. We detail the best practices for using Nutanix SMB 3.0 shares with Hyper-V 2012 R2 and Veeam Backup and Replication 7.0.

Veeam is a very popular backup solution, which now has in excess of 101,000 global customers. They are also a sponsor of my blog. The web-scale Nutanix solution and support of the Hyper-V 2012 R2 VSS platform compliment the Veeam Backup and Replication product, to provide a robust backup and restore solution. This allows you to meet your RPO and RTO requirements, in a fully supported and efficient manner. I’ve always been impressed with how easy Veeam is to configure, compared to some of the competition in the market. One of Nutanix’s hallmarks is also uncompromising simplicity, so both products can be quickly and easily deployed.

For those of you familiar with our joint solution for VMware, in there we deployed a small Veeam backup proxy VM on each node which locally backed up the VMs on that node. Hyper-V is a bit different, and actually more streamlined. Veeam installs a tiny backup agent on each Hyper-V parent partition, which handles the backup proxy functions. This means you don’t need to deploy a new VM on each node, saving some physical resources. The model is essentially linear scale-out of your backup infrastructure, distributing the load across your Nutanix nodes. Great complimentary technology in action.

Nutanix CVM

Since Nutanix fully supports multi-hypervisor deployments, it’s great to see the ability to leverage Microsoft VSS snapshots as part of the backup process. Veeam can take application consistent backups of enterprise applications like SQL, Exchange and Active Directory by leveraging Nutanix-based SMB 3.0 VSS snapshots. You are not relegated to just crash consistent backups, which may not meet your organization’s requirements. Support is provided in Nutanix NOS 3.5.4, and later, including 4.0.

VSS

One of the great aspects of our joint whitepaper is the variety of deployment models that we cover. This ranges from an all Nutanix solution, to hybrid using an existing physical Veeam backup server, or a dedicated backup appliance. Every customer is different, and this choice lets you pick which one best fits your environment.

2014-07-09_10-28-14The full gamut of Veeam restore are available to Nutanix customers, including the ability to do fast restores and directly test your backups. No restore modifications are needed if you are using the Nutanix platform.

Best Practice Checklist

As part of the whitepaper we provide a detailed best practices checklist, so you can quickly see what the join solution recommends and make sure you are following them. I won’t cover all 16+ here, but here are some highlights:

  • Use Hyper-V 2012 R2
  • Use a 64-bit operating system for the Veeam server(s)
  • Use Veeam Backup and Replication 7.0 patch 4 (or later)
  • Avoid active full backups and use reversed incrementals or forward incremental with synthetic full
  • Deploy a Veeam proxy agent on each Hyper-V parent partition
  • Configure backup jobs to use VSS for application consistency
  • Use Nutanix NOS 3.5.4 or 4.0 (or later)

Summary

A lot of collaboration went into whitepaper, and went well beyond just Luca and myself writing the paper and getting it out of the door. We also tested the solution in the lab, to verify the settings and software versions worked as advertised. The VMware version of the paper was very well received, and so I hope this Hyper-V version is equally helpful to customers. You can download the full 23 page whitepaper here.