Best known for hyperconverged infrastructure, Nutanix is making big strides into the networking stack, bidding to make Prism, its management plane, into the lone controller for compute, storage, and networking infrastructure.
The announcements, being made at the company’s .NEXT conference in Vienna, Austria, would expand Nutanix’s sphere of influence to control everything between the physical network and the application. In doing so, it’s treading on the territory of networking vendors such as Cisco and even nontraditional networking players such as VMware.
Hyperconverged infrastructure was a first step and was enough to take Nutanix public at the end of September. But the development of those systems — which combine storage and computing hardware under the control of one hypervisor — was just “a means to an end,” Rambadran says.
The bigger goal is to build enterprise-network infrastructure that resembles the public cloud. To get there, Nutanix started with commodity hardware and has been developing software to make operations more agile. “It’s essentially following the steps of what AWS and Facebook and Google did,” Rambadran says.
Today’s step involves Nutanix taking over networking — not the hardware piece, but the software that creates virtual networks and tells switches and routers what to do.
APIs, SDN, and Security
Here’s what Nutanix is announcing in Vienna at .NEXT.
1. Application-based orchestration. Using APIs that tap Acropolis, Nutanix can now control networking equipment. More specifically, devices such as switches can receive notifications of any changes in an application. This can help automate provisioning or trigger changes in the network.
Enterprises would have to apply a software update to their networking gear in order to get this to work, but Rambadran describes this as minimal. The APIs are due to be available by January.
2. SDN and service chains. This API-based control can also be used to create service chains. In other words, the process of creating a service chain would become more automated, not only making it faster but also removing human-error factors such as inserting services into a traffic flow in the wrong order.
3. Native microsegmentation. Nutanix developed its own software for network virtualization, the temporary server-to-server connections carrying east-west traffic. Vendors such as VMware and Nuage also offer network virtualization, but Nutanix wanted the software to work in concert with the rest of its networking stack, Rambadran says.
“Microsegmentation” refers to the isolated nature of these east-west connections. They create small zones of the data center that are set apart from everything else. As a result, companies like VMware — and now, Nutanix — claim microsegmentation as a means of making the data center more secure. In Nutanix’s case, microsegmentation operates at Layers 3 and 4 and works with policies defined in Prism.
The microsegmentation capability is still in development; Nutanix isn’t talking about a launch date yet.
4. Monitoring. Finally, Nutanix is providing what it says is end-to-end monitoring from the application’s point of view. This includes letting operators see what VLANs are active and how they’re configured; which applications are connected to a VLAN; and where packets might be getting dropped.
This is meant to solve the problem of people going “back and forth across different management applications” to get all this information, Rambadran says.
The monitoring capabilities are due to be available by January.