Nutanix, Atlantis and the battle for VDI

Desktop virtualisation
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Billy

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7 May 2015 | 0

Billy MacInnesThing are hotting up in the hyper converged infrastructure space. I admit that’s not a sentence you see every day and it’s probably not a sentence that you’d want to see everyday, but the fact is that it’s here now and we’re just going to have to deal with it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the first thing that needs to be said is that ‘hyper converged infrastructure’ is open to interpretation but it can be used as another way of describing an appliance that integrates the compute and storage components of a data centre together in a single turnkey device. The pioneer in this version of the hyper convergence market is Nutanix with its virtual computing platform. Each Nutanix appliance contains Intel processors, memory, solid state drives and traditional hard drives and runs a standard hypervisor (such as ESXi, Hyper-V or KVM) and Nutanix’s own operating system.

In a Nutanix appliance, the storage and compute elements are natively converged to create a very tight level of integration. According to Gartner, this node-based approach “enables theoretically limitless additions of new compute or storage bandwidth in very small increments”. More nodes can be added as and when required in a very scalable and modular approach.

When Nutanix launched into the Irish market last September, channel sales and field marketing director Jan Ursi claimed it had brought about a “tectonic shift” in the market. He said it was bringing a “fundamentally different way to building and operating a data centre”. Ursi outlined a number of problems with data centre design that Nutanix’s approach was addressing: “It’s too complex and takes too much time to install and configure, the speed to deploying new projects is too slow and performance to users is too unpredictable.”

The Nutanix proposition was to integrate compute and storage together and let the company take care of all the complexity. “This is the new modern way of building the data centre,” Ursi claimed.

Within reach
Francis O’Haire, director for technology and strategy at Nutanix distributor Data Solutions, argued Nutanix was bringing this approach within reach of indigenous Irish companies and reported “huge interest in the Irish channel for this technology. It makes life simple, nobody wants to be running around managing storage when they want to manage applications”. He suggested that the first partners to bring the technology to customers would be “heroes”.

Describing the expense, complexity and lack of performance of the storage layer as a major stumbling block to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), O’Haire suggested that the Nutanix approach “would open up VDI to customers that couldn’t afford it before”.

Ursi revealed the vendor had 350 channel partners across EMEA “actively installing, configuring and maintaining Nutanix in hundreds of data centres across Europe” and reported “proactive interest in Ireland” from partners. He believed another attraction of Nutanix for Irish partners would be the ability to use it with hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix.

So here we are eight months later and Atlantis Computing has just announced Atlantis HyperScale, which vice president of marketing Bob Davis argues is “the first economically viable all-Flash hyper-converged solution. There are others but they are very very expensive. I’m confident this will be a disruptive product from a price point of view. It will change the way people buy storage”.

While Atlantis HyperScale will be sold by Atlantis Computing running on SuperMicro hardware, it can also be configured with a choice of HP, Lenovo or Cisco hardware, opening it up as an opportunity for channel partners working with those vendors.

Davis claims that the all-Flash Atlantis HyperScale is 50% lower than the equivalent hybrid (Flash and hard disk) Nutanix product and 90% cheaper than other all-Flash products. He argues it will provide a real alternative for “channel partners competing with Nutanix that are getting beaten because they don’t have an alternative”. And while the versions running on premium brands will cost more than the Atlantis branded product, they will still be cheaper than the Nutanix equivalent. This will enable channel partners to go with “a premium brand and still be able to provide very high performance with a product that is better than the competition and cheaper. It’s a no-brainer”.

And he makes no bones about the fact that Nutanix is Atlantis Computing’s “number one target”.

Like I said, things are hotting up in the hyper converged infrastructure market.

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