Nutanix Liberates NFS From the Network


Nutanix (, the first company to offer a SAN-Free datacenter platform for VMware virtualized workloads, announces the general availability of NDFS, a bold new distributed filesystem that eschews conventional network storage communications — harnessing the speed of hypervisor-based virtual switches and server-attached Fusion-io (FIO) flash memory.

The Network File System (NFS), developed by SUN Microsystems and popularized by the market success of NetApp, has undergone a rebirth from dormant back-office file services to the Ethernet storage protocol of choice. “The adoption numbers for NFS are steadily increasing as more vendors support the file protocol and more storage managers want the simplicity, self-service capabilities for app admins, and the cost advantages of standard Ethernet,” wrote Andrew Reichman, Principal Analyst with Forrester Research in a report(1).

However, NFS’s heavy reliance on already congested networks has placed unanticipated strains on the protocol’s ability to keep up with the proliferation of highly randomized I/O.

Nutanix NDFS, the soul of Nutanix’s Complete Cluster platform, breathes new life into NFS, fine tuning it to be proximity aware while preserving the elegance and simplicity of single namespace file storage. NDFS accomplishes this by dispatching virtualized NFS controllers to each VMware host, absorbing heavy I/O read & write requests at the point of origin with high-speed low latency PCIe Fusion-io ioDrives.

By shifting the NFS datapath away from the network directly onto the VMware vSphere™ host, NDFS bypasses network communications that have historically been fraught with multiple high-latency hops between top-of-rack and end-of-row switching. Because each vSphere host contains a high-performance, flash-based virtualized NFS controller, NDFS localizes NFS client-server communications onto the vSphere host, maximizing the potency of the direct-data path and parallelizes I/O requests across all vSphere hosts’ server attached flash, delivering lightning fast response times and throughput. Nutanix is the only server attached flash solution on the market that accelerates both read and writes for any workload, while other products only deliver read caching while still relying on costly external SANs.

“The NFS chatter between the client and the server never leaves the vSphere host. Traditionally, file protocols such as NFS have been easy to use and manage, but have been slower than block protocols because of overheads and high-latency, loosely-coupled, multi-hop GbE networks. Tuning NFS for the network has been one of the biggest nightmares for the virtualization administrator. By collapsing the network and providing a zero-hop path between the NFS client and the server, we bring a technology to the masses that is easy to use, highly distributed, and fast,” says Mohit Aron, CTO of Nutanix.

Redundancy and availability are achieved by passive data replication across high-speed ethernet switching to paired Nutanix NFS controllers on adjacent vSphere hosts. Furthermore, Nutanix intelligently and continuously monitors VM placement, gracefully moving associated data to new destinations based on operator-invoked or automated live migrations (vMotion and DRS).

“ESG Lab validation tightly integrated support for advanced VMware functions such as vMotion, DRS, and HA failover in a package that is simple, flexible, and highly scalable,” said ESG Lab Senior Engineer and Analyst Tony Palmer.

Big data and MapReduce techniques enable Nutanix clusters to horizontally scale to hundreds of nodes, allowing administrators to expand both server and storage resources symmetrically, one node at a time, without sacrificing performance. This single-tier, incremental, grow-as-you-go philosophy helps to smooth out uneven purchase timelines, costly redesigns, and forklift upgrades common with traditional multi-tier platform architectures that depend on monolithic storage arrays ill-equipped to scale up as business needs grow.

“I was looking to remove the whole storage piece from the equation. Nutanix lets me expand linearly in a simple grow-as-you-go model, eliminating the see-saw nature of sizing storage and servers as project scopes change. It allows me to immediately start deploying VMs and eliminates the pain points of dealing with I/O patterns that are becoming increasingly random, causing SAN performance to decrease as they handle more workloads. Traditional storage platforms can’t compete. With Nutanix we can move forward without having to expend time engaging with a storage architect or administrator. Ultimately, I’m a dad of four, a husband — I garden, mow my lawn and I like to play sports. I don’t have time to spend 24 hours a day in the datacenter!” said John Lasley, Enterprise Architect at Anthelio Healthcare Solutions.

Nutanix brings peace of mind to IT professionals in this predicament by doing away with the SAN altogether. Nutanix puts storage back where it belongs, directly on the vSphere host where it is fast and scalable and can grow predictably alongside vSphere expansion plans.

“The value in the Nutanix Complete Cluster and NDFS for managing VMs is so simple, we can walk a customer through it within thirty minutes and the customer is ready to go, with great performance at any scale. You don’t need a SAN expert to do your job or manage growth,” said David Able, Principal at Greenpages, a Platinum Nutanix Channel Reseller.

Nutanix harnesses the same distributed system techniques that power webscale clouds such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn clouds into an enterprise-friendly package that starts out as a high-density 2U datacenter. NDFS amplifies the power of Fusion-io (FIO) to the realm of enterprise virtualization by combining Google-like high performance, localized storage, and distributed redundancy via high speed Arista Networks 10GbE top-of-rack switches. Nutanix ships with four industry-standard x86 servers bundled with VMware’s hypervisor in a 2U, 75-lb., SAN-less server appliance.

“SANs haven’t lived up to their promise. SANs also leave application, database, and system administrators at the mercy of storage administrators for all their storage-related need… the possibility of bypassing SAN architectures for a fundamentally cheaper and simpler alternative is in the offing,” wrote Andrew Reichman, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research in a 2008 report(2).

About Nutanix
Nutanix is the first company to offer a radically simple compute and storage infrastructure for implementing enterprise-class virtualization without complex and expensive network storage (SAN or NAS). Founded in 2009 by a team that built scalable systems such as Google File System and enterprise-class systems such as Oracle Database/Exadata, Nutanix is based in San José, California, and is backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures and Blumberg Capital.

Nutanix and Nutanix Complete Cluster are trademarks of Nutanix Inc. Other marks mentioned herein are trademarks that are proprietary to other companies.