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How Nutanix and IBM are Powering the Next Wave of Linux-based Web, Database, and Deep Learning Applications

Building the next version of Skynet?  Or perhaps some more altruistic implementation of Artificial Intelligence not hell-bent on destroying the human race?  Nutanix and IBM are here to help by making the infrastructure for modern data crunching, deep learning, and Linux-based web applications easier to deploy, manage, and scale.

At Nutanix, two of our core missions include:

  1. Creating software that makes it easier to adopt webscale technologies within enterprise IT environments.
  2. Freeing customers to choose the best platforms, hypervisors, and clouds for their environments with software that lets them seamlessly manage across these infrastructure constructs, as well as migrate between them.

Several years ago Nutanix started out by using distributed systems technologies such as Cassandra and Zookeeper to virtualize storage as a distributed storage fabric, enabling enterprises to move away from centralized SAN/NAS storage arrays.  We expanded by building a robust, secure, and easy-to-manage hypervisor based on KVM through Nutanix Acropolis. Since then, we’ve also broadened the platforms our software can manage and integrate with:

  • Servers from Supermicro, Dell, Lenovo, Cisco, and HP.
  • Hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, and Nutanix.
  • Public cloud integrations with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Nutanix’s Xi Cloud and Calm lifecycle automation software (much more coming in this area soon!).

In this blog I’m excited to talk about our newest server platform, one emerging from our partnership with IBM and based on their Power processor architecture.

 

IBM-and-Nutanix

Unleashing IBM Power

Power-based systems excel at reliability and performance, which is why they remain at the core of many mission-critical enterprise workloads. Power-based systems run some of the largest Oracle Database, Epic, and SAP HANA implementations out there–all mission-critical applications known to be extremely demanding in terms of performance and uptime.  Despite IBM’s success in this arena, it has struggled to displace Intel’s x86 server technology for general virtual computing workloads. A combination of forces slowed enterprise IT adoption of Power-based systems:

 

VMware never embraced non-x86/x64-based server technology.

When the first wave of modern server virtualization happened in the 2000-2010 time frame, VMware became the de-facto standard.  Although virtualization had existed within Linux and mainframe systems in many other fashions, VMware brought it to the next level of simplicity. Many enterprises began virtualization initiatives, intending to move as much of their server and datacenter workloads to VMware virtualization as possible. VMware was so ubiquitous that x86 became synonymous with virtualization. Among the only workloads left behind were databases, ERP, and mission-critical systems, which most customers kept on bare-metal due to the perceived overhead of virtualization at the time. VMware did not support IBM’s Power-based, System i, and mainframe systems, which meant that IBM’s server technologies missed out on this entire shift.

 

Power systems required a specialized skill set to deploy and manage.

Power systems used their own virtualization technology based on PowerVM (and eventually, PowerKVM), which meant that they did not benefit from the VMware ecosystem and could not be managed easily alongside virtualized x86 computing clusters. There was slight progress in this area when VMware vRA added some integration for managing OpenStack/PowerVM Power-based environments in the past few years, but they were still “two different worlds”.

 

Microsoft application and Linux application ecosystem support was lacking.

Microsoft’s server products are still not supported on the Power architecture, and these products are an important part of many companies’ IT infrastructures, including email, directory services, and custom applications based on the .NET framework, ASP.NET, and SQL Server.  Also, in order to run on Power, some Linux-based applications written in compiled languages like C or C++ do need to be compiled for the Power processor (ppc64 or ppc64le).  While this is not a difficult process, some Linux application vendors do not have binaries posted for ppc64 or ppc64le.

 

These forces have had a tremendous impact on x86 adoption.  But when one company holds 95%+ of the server market, competitive forces and innovation are bound to affect the status quo.

 

Simplification of IT infrastructure operations and application portability is leading to a renaissance of platform exploration

Advances in virtualization, hyperconvergence, devops, containterization and other areas have simplified operations and dramatically reduced the amount of time needed to deploy and manage infrastructures. These changes in turn have spurred a renaissance of platform exploration as companies search for greater power and performance efficiencies. We’ve seen this with the emergence of RISC-based ARM, with its focus on power-efficient processors for mobile, laptop, and IoT-enabled devices, as well as with the proliferation of Nvidia’s GPU technology, which can be substantially more efficient than x86 for machine learning algorithms and AI.  In light of these shifts, when Google began porting all of its applications to run on Power 8 and Power 9 systems, we definitely took note.

ibm power9 google

 

All of these transformations made it clear that Nutanix, IBM, and our respective customers had a lot to gain from a joint partnership.

 

Manage your IBM CS821 and CS822 hyperconverged systems alongside your Nutanix x86 environments with the same Nutanix toolset and interface.

Nutanix Acropolis and Prism, arguably the simplest hypervisor and storage management systems available, can now manage IBM’s hyperconverged systems. For customers who have already adopted Nutanix x86 hyperconverged systems, you can even manage an x86 cluster and an IBM Power cluster side-by-side using the exact same interface and Prism Central instance. With Nutanix Acropolis, you no longer need different tools and a specialized skill set to manage and deploy Power systems. A Nutanix and IBM Power solution lets you choose the right processor and server architectures for your applications, without any silos in infrastructure deployment and operations. The ecosystem around Nutanix Acropolis is also growing, with many networking, backup, security, devops, and IT operations vendors announcing support for Acropolis management and APIs through the Nutanix Ready program.

 

Linux ecosystem support has been consistently growing through IBM’s OpenPOWER initiative.   

Linux-based applications have led major industry shifts, such as the last decade of “Big Data.” You could even say that Linux and Open Source led the development of public cloud, hyperconvergence, and virtualization (Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, VMware’s ESXi, and Nutanix Acropolis, Prism, and the Nutanix Data Fabric are all heavily rooted in Linux and Open Source). IBM continues to broaden its  support of Linux applications for the Power platform through the OpenPOWER initiative. Nutanix is also committed to developing and broadening the use cases that will benefit from this new joint platform.

linux ecosystem

More importantly, we see a lot of new investment coming into Deep Learning and AI, which is shaping how these technologies help solve important business problems across many industry verticals. IBM has been at the forefront of developing this technology and applying it to enterprise applications, especially in healthcare, financial services, intelligence, SLED/research, insurance, and retail systems.  They’ve even optimized their platforms for performance on these new applications, such as improving the bandwidth of the CPU — GPU bus with their NVLink technology.

Over the next five years we expect rapid increases in enterprise adoption of Deep Learning frameworks such as Apache MXNet, Tensorflow, and IBM’s own PowerAI, which is based on Caffe, Torch, Theano, and Tensorflow. We are especially excited to partner with IBM in this area to ensure that our customers can empower the next wave of cognitive applications with infrastructure that’s simple to deploy, manage, and scale.

 

IBM-PowerAI

 

Many Linux applications run better on Power.

There are many use cases and workloads that are a great match for this new platform. The following use cases are just a few examples:

Web Applications:  LAMP, Spring/JAVA, IBM Webshere, Django, Ruby on Rails, WordPress, Drupal, and the newest wave of Linux-based web application stacks (MEAN, MERN, Laravel, React.js, Meteor, etc.)

Standard Databases: PostgreSQL, MariaDB, DB2, MySQL

NoSQL Databases: MongoDB, Neo4j, Cassandra, CouchDB, Redis, Hbase

Big Data and Analytics: Hadoop, Hortonworks, Apache Spark, etc.

Cloud/Containers: Nutanix Acropolis, Openstack, Docker

DevOPs: Chef, Puppet

Operational Intelligence/SIEM: ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana), Apache Solr

Cognitive and AI: IBM’s PowerAI Framework, Tensorflow, Apache MXNet, Torch/Pytorch, Caffe, DL4J, Theano, Chainer

Custom Vertical Apps: Linux-based apps in the Core Banking, Healthcare, Research/SLED, Federal, Financial Services/Insurance, and Retail sectors

linux on power use cases

What’s coming? – Nutanix and IBM:

We’ve received a ton of customer and channel partner interest in the solution after our product announcements at .NEXT this summer. The product GA’ed in the last week of September and we have been shipping out the first wave of IBM CS821 and IBM CS822 systems this past month.  As customer adoption continues to increase, we will document more detailed reference architectures, best practices, customer case studies, and additional use cases for the platform.

We have a lot more in the works for this partnership, with many announcements to come. In every instance, however, Nutanix will make it easier for enterprises to choose the servers, platforms, and clouds that best suit their needs, and, in the process, free IT to spend less time on operations and more time on innovation. IBM Power and Nutanix: First-rate performance and reliability meets unrivaled simplicity and scale.

 

For more information:

Now is a great time to explore how IBM’s first hyperconverged platform can help you achieve new efficiencies in performance, scalability, and IT operations. To learn more about the solution or if you are interested in a POC, please contact your local IBM and Nutanix sales representatives or partners, or send an email to ibm@nutanix.com.

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Resources for IBM and Nutanix Power Solution:

IBM and Nutanix Press Release – PR Announcement of the joint solution

IBM CS821/CS822 Datasheet– Technical specifications for the IBM and Nutanix Power servers

IBM and Nutanix Interview– A video interview of Nutanix and IBM discussing the joint solution

IBM and Nutanix Announcement Blog – Blog discussing the announcement and general use cases for the solution

Nutanix’s IBM Power Website– Overview, additional resources, and contact information for the Nutanix IBM Power team

 

More Information on Nutanix:

How Nutanix Works– A video overview about the Nutanix Solution.

How Nutanix Works, Nutanix Storage Deep Dive– A video regarding the design premise and benefits of hyperconverged storage

Hyperconverged Infrastructure: The Definitive Guide– An overview of how Nutanix and hyperconvergence have changed the IT landscape

The Nutanix Bible– Deep and comprehensive guide to the internals of the Nutanix technology

Nutanix Training and Certifications– Online training for NPP, NPSR, NPX, NPSS and other Nutanix technical and sales certifications

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