Building Nutanix Ready – Understanding "Ready" Early On – Part 1

The Journey to “Ready”
Are you Ready?

This is my journey to building a world-class “Ready” Program and understanding what validation means to me and the customer….This will be a multi-part series of my journey.

The early days of understanding the concept of “Ready”

I’ve spent the better part of my life in IT consulting. It has been some of the best and worst times of my life ;).  But when you make a choice to work in this industry, there are certain givens. Sometimes as consultants and IT Pros we don’t get the recognition we deserve, but if you have the passion for technology, it doesn’t matter.  I’m happy with the fact that I resolved or completed a project for a client. And enabled them to make their businesses stronger and more efficient. These IT pros tend to be part of grassroots communities, like the Microsoft MVP community, which is all about giving back and enabling others.

Anyways, moving along on with the story.  As a consultant, my many years in the field gave the opportunity to deploy a wide range of technologies.To name a few: InfoBox, Riverbed, Plexxi, Cisco, Microsoft (of course), CheckPoint, RSA, Silverpeak, A10, Carbonite, Comvault, CyberPower, EMC Solutions, F5, Fortinet, Sonicwall, Juniper, Palo Alto, Splunk, Trend Micro, VMTurbo (before they were Turboonomics) Veeam and the list could continue on, but I think everyone gets the point. Try saying that line in one breath :).

Deploying and supporting all these solutions for years is what prepared me to understand what “Ready” really means for a solution. When I first joined Nutanix, I was hired as a Microsoft Solutions Architect in Technical Alliances.  My job was to help advance and evangelize the story around Microsoft and Nutanix.  Also, I supported the field with sales motions around Microsoft solutions. Or as my new colleagues knew me, I was the resident “Microsoft Guy” :).

Introducing “Ready” into my Journey

About 2 or 3 months into my journey at Nutanix, I was approached by my manager about starting a “Ready” program for alliance partners. When he first told me, it took me a day or so let it set in  “I thought wow, this is right up my alley. I’ve been in the field and felt the good and bad of these solutions for years.”

Building a ready program is like building a highway through a mountain, especially in a startup. It’s not just about rubber-stamping a solution for anyone willing to pay to have their logo on your site. It’s a critical validation process that requires a team experienced and critical enough to ask; 1) Is there a real need from my customers that this solution answers;  2) Is this solution possible? In other words, the customer has to be the first and last consideration. Yes, as with the highway. There is an advantage to the solution builders (Who hasn’t wanted a highway named after them, not to mention collecting tolls?). If it doesn’t solve a problem, it’s not worth the investment.

Validation implies that you have guidelines and standards that the partner must meet. If they don’t meet the criteria, then they don’t get the status of “Ready” and all the benefits that go along with it. As Indiana Jones would say “No Ticket, No Ride” (from the Last Crusade movie 🙂 ).

So you ask, “What’s the importance of validation?”

Well, let’s look at the pharmaceutical industry. Validation for the pharmaceutical industry is the process of establishing documentary evidence demonstrating that a procedure, process, or activity carried out in testing and then production maintains the desired level of compliance at all stages. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is very important that in addition to final testing and compliance of products, it is also assured that the process will consistently produce the expected results.[1]   Validation is “Establishing documented evidence that provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process will consistently produce a product meeting its pre-determined specifications and quality attributes. This, for the pharmaceutical industry, is to maintain and assure a higher degree of quality for drug products.
Breaking it down simply, validation gives customers a degree of confidence that they are getting exactly what is advertised. Without validation in the pharmaceutical industry, there would be a lot of quality control issues. And this results in people getting sick or death in some cases.
So now, you can see why validation is so important. In the software industry, this can be the life or death of a customer environment resulting in costly downtime. It also puts doubt in the customer’s mind about if they should move forward with the solution.

Crazy story about Validation and QA with a Vendor Solution

Back in my consulting days, I was working with a large enterprise client deploying (at the time) Exchange 2010.  The client was on Exchange 2003, which at the time, did not really have a simple solution for failing over Exchange to a secondary site, in case of failure. This led to the rise of third-party products that made this failover process easy and gave you lots of options.  Continuing on with the story, I was at the end of the day at the client. We had just finished getting the Exchange 2010 DAGs (Database Available Groups) in place between the US and UK. This was so we could start the migration from Exchange 2003.
I had left for the day around 6 pm to head home. Within an hour, while I was in Boston traffic, I got a call from the client.  They proceeded to tell me that their Exchange 2003 environment was down. The product solution that was supposed to auto-failover is not working. The client asked, “Can you please come back and take a look. We have already called the vendor support and making no headway?”
I arrived back and started my troubleshooting.  Sure enough, before support called I found a serious bug that was not accounted for during the vendor’s QA process. In addition, the solution had completed another vendor’s “Ready” program. Now, I’m not going to name vendors, but this caused the client to go down for a number of hours while I worked with support to get this rolling again.
For this client or most clients, any downtime on email is a loss of business.  They took a big hit that day of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Now, I’m not saying that validation is a silver bullet or could have saved this client headaches that day, but it certainly reduces the surface area of a problem arising in the field.

More about “Ready” with Technical Alliances and the Customer

Having a “Ready” program in the software industry is not just about approving and denying a solution, it’s also about helping partners resolve their issues whether it’s on either side, so they can eventually achieve “Ready” status.  And with that, “Ready” for a customer gives them the peace of mind that a solution will run on the given platform or hypervisor.

I was up to the challenge, and so starts the journey to “Building Nutanix Ready, What “Ready” means?”……Up next, paving the road to “Ready”.

Until next time, Rob.

Building Nutanix Ready…What does it mean to be “Ready”?

Before we go into what “Ready” really means.  Every great journey has a story behind it. This will be a multi-part series starting with how I joined Nutanix and evolved myself to build a world-class program called “Nutanix Ready”. Stay Tuned, Part 1 coming very soon!  RobNutanix Ready

API’s and their business value…

API

In the past few months, I have been focusing a lot of my time around the development of our Nutanix Ready Integrated Program which deals with partner solutions leveraging\cosuming our API (application programming interfaces).  After a lot of research on API programs and consumption patterns, I thought I would share my thoughts and some conclusions on the business side. Not sure if this is considered a blog post or just ramblings, but here we go.

API and DATA

Data is, in many ways, is one of the most valuable assets a business has. A growing number of consumers and businesses are incorporating web and mobile apps into their daily routines, and companies are using data to provide more personalized, tailored experiences to their customers. In addition, companies are analyzing customer and operational behavior to make better decisions. These are some of the valuable new uses for previously isolated data sources.
APIs have emerged as the most accessible way for consumers within the business to extract value out of that data; developers can use them to create new business opportunities; improve existing products, systems, and operations; and develop innovative business models. Analysts can grab new data sources more quickly and pull the data into their analytics platforms. As the keys to unlocking precious enterprise data, APIs need to be combined with enterprise connectivity to actually free the data from systems. The APIs is the piece that makes the data consumable and reusable, thus they become ever more valuable to business.

API Evolution

As more and more APIs come into use, the architecture underpinning them needs to evolve as well – organizations cannot simply attempt to deploy APIs on top of existing monolithic systems and processes and expect an overnight transformation. Rather, the transformation begins with initiatives targeted at new innovative directions for the organization, such as the embrace of microservices, mobile apps, and laying the groundwork for a world of connected sensors. Also, product companies should consider making API framework a key part of their design strategy which would enable end users to adopt their product more rapidly and aggressively.  And above all, embracing APIs will help ensure that these connections are made intelligently and efficiently.  With all of this, I’ve seen there’s a direct connection to business value as well – generating revenue is considered the most important value that APIs provide to the business.
While revenue generation is an important part of the story, the impact of APIs goes much further into organizations, enabling transformation and agility at many levels. APIs enable enterprises to deploy apps quickly, in a repeatable way, which leads to a faster pace of delivery, and the ability to create new and innovative experiences quickly. In addition, APIs can greatly reduce the cost of change, enabling IT and application owners to change apps with minimal impact – especially when there are numerous back-end integrations involved. This is critical to agility since for the most part, the pace of change of the front end applications is much faster than in the back-end applications. APIs also help enterprises achieve operational efficiency, enabling greater visibility and expanded capabilities since every API call from the mobile app to the backend system is tracked and traced through an API key.

What are some examples?

For those who are not familiar with API, some examples are API are like SOAP or  REST. Nutanix uses REST (representational state transfer) based API, and we allow partners and customers to build leverage our API to do some very cool things.  From VM monitoring to solution orchestration, the possibilities are endless.
API
For example, Comtrade, a Nutanix Partner has developed a System Center Operations Manager Management Pack for Nutanix.  It leverages our API to pull metrics into SCOM to correlate with application workloads into a single pane of glass.  In this scenario, an IT Pro can really understand where his bottlenecks are and take action or automate that action.  Now that is the power of API with some DevOPs mixed in!!
To summarize….businesses from every industry are using APIs to add additional value, from increased revenue to increased agility to improved customer experience. Extraordinary changes are taking place in the enterprise which necessitates a new organization and philosophy for utilizing technology.
In a future blog post, I plan to go into the technical aspects of API and use cases.

Until next time, Rob… 🙂

CPS Standard on Nutanix Released

nutanixCPS
Fun and crazy days here at Nutanix. I’ve busy been fielding a lot of calls around our new offering, CPS Standard on Nutanix. Now if you don’t know what CPS is, it stands for Cloud Platform System.

So what is Microsoft CPS anyways?

Simply, Microsoft CPS is a software stack of Window Server, System Center, and Windows Azure Pack.  CPS delivers a self-service cloud environment for Windows and Linux applications that provides optimized deployment of Windows Azure Pack.
Currently based on Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack, CPS provides an Azure-consistent experience by leveraging Azure services to deliver business continuity (through Azure Site Recovery) of your hybrid cloud for your virtualized Windows and Linux workloads. For more details on Windows Azure Pack, check out my blog series on WAP.

If you have read my WAP blog series, building your own cloud can be a complex undertaking. Integrating the hardware, installing and configuring the software, and optimizing the overall solution for usability, performance, and scale, and reliability means that many cloud deployments fall short.

Introducing Microsoft CPS on Nutanix, an easier way to deploy WAP

The solution is due to the co-engineering and joint validation efforts with Microsoft and Nutanix. Getting the solution up and running is pretty fast, accelerating your time to value.
The joint effort goes beyond initial deployment. Once the Microsoft\Nutanix CPS solution is up and running, you get a single point of contact for support and simplified patching and updating across the entire stack of firmware and software. And as an added benefit, you get the ability to scale the environment with all the Nutanix goodness.

Bits are installed at the factory, so when you get your Nutanix Block, it’s just as easy as a wizard to get you up and running.  Below is a video that my buddy @mcghee did on the install and initial configuration of CPS. The video brings you right up to the admin and tenant portals and gives you a brief tour.

Enjoy…Until next time, Rob….

Nutanix App for Splunk – Just Released

nutanix-US Nutanix App for Splunk

Nutanix App for Splunk

A Video Walkthrough on installation, configuration and demo of the Nutanix App for Splunk.  Also, included is demo of Splunk Mobile running the Nutanix App versys Safari running Prism. To learn more about Splunk, and details on this app, check out Andre’s Leibovici @andreleibovici blog post.  Happy Splunking 🙂

Until next time, Rob…

Nutanix NOS 4.6 Released….

On February 16, 2016, Nutanix announced the Acropolis NOS 4.6 release and last week was available for download. Along with many enhancements, I wanted to highlight several items, including some tech preview features.
Also, checkout this excellent video with Nutanix’s Tim Isaacs and Raghu Nandan in which they go into more detail on the updates included in Acropolis 4.6 and the interviewer is my buddy Chris Brown.
Tim Isaacs and Raghu Nandan from Nutanix HQ about some of the important updates in Acropolis 4.6.

1-Click Upgrades – BIOS and BMC Firmware
The 1-Click upgrade for BIOS and BMC firmware feature is available for Acropolis hypervisor (AHV) and ESXi hypervisor host environments running on NX-xxxx G4 (Haswell) platforms only.
Acropolis App Mobility Fabric: Windows or Linux Guest Customization
Customize or clone Windows or Linux guest VMs hosted by AHV. Includes automated OS installation and custom ISOs by using sysprep (Windows) or cloudinit (Linux).
Acropolis Drivers for OpenStack
These drivers facilitate consuming the Nutanix Acropolis infrastructure as a cloud service or for use in a data center. For example, an OpenStack implementation might require using features such as single sign-on, orchestration, role-based access control, and so on. Drivers include Acropolis compute, image, volume, and network drivers.
Convert Cluster Redundancy Factor from RF-2 to RF-3
Convert a cluster created with redundancy factor 2 (RF-2) to RF-3 through the ncli cluster set-redundancy-state command. This increases the cluster fault tolerance.
Cross Hypervisor Disaster Recovery
Cross-hypervisor disaster recovery provides an ability to migrate the VMs from one hypervisor to another (ESXi to AHV or AHV to ESXi) by using the protection domain semantics of protecting VMs, taking snapshots, replicating the snapshots, and then recovering the VMs from the snapshots. To perform these operations, you need to install and configure NGT on all VMs.
Guest VM VLAN Trunking
AHV supports guest VM VLAN tagging, where the tag passes through a single port from the physical network to a VM. It allows the VLAN ID tags to be included in an Ethernet packet to be passed to the guest VM. Guest VM operating systems can use this feature to enable Virtual Guest Tagging (VGT) and simulate multiple virtual NICs.
More Backup and Data Recovery/Replication Features

  • Snapshot and Async DR for volume groups.
  • Application-consistent snapshots on AHV and ESXi by using the Nutanix native in-guest Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) agent for all VMs that support Microsoft’s VSS. Nutanix Guest Tools provides application-consistent snapshot support for Linux VMs by running specific pre-freeze and post-thaw scripts on VM quiesce.
  • Integrated snapshot management from an AHV cluster to a CommVault solution

Nutanix Guest Tools

  • Nutanix Guest Agent (NGA) service. Communicates with the Nutanix Controller VM.
  • File Level Restore (FLR) CLI. Performs self-service file-level recovery from the VM snapshots.
  • Nutanix VM Mobility Drivers. Facilitates distribution of drivers required for VM migration between ESXi and AHV, in-place hypervisor conversion, and cross-hypervisor disaster recovery (CH-DR) features.
  • VSS requestor and hardware provider for Windows VMs. Enables application-consistent snapshots of AHV or ESXi Windows VMs.
  • Application-consistent snapshot for Linux VMs. Supports application-consistent snapshots for Linux VMs by running specific scripts on VM quiesce.

Self-Service Restore
Self-service restore allows a user to restore a file within a virtual machine from the Nutanix protected snapshot with minimal Nutanix administrator intervention. This feature is supported on Nutanix clusters running the ESXi and Acropolis hypervisors only.

Tech Preview Features
In-Place Hypervisor Conversion
This 1-click feature available through the Prism web console allows you to convert your cluster from using ESXi hosts to using AHV hosts. Guest VMs are converted to the hypervisor target format, and cluster network configurations are stored and then restored as part of the conversion process.
Native File Services
Provides file server capability within a Nutanix AHV cluster, as one or more network-attached VMs, to form a virtual file server.
To download the update, you can go to my.nutanix.com and go to support, downloads section or you can upgrade to 4.6 within Prism.  Until next time, Rob