Post by Declan Waters
Nutanix today announced that it has been granted a patent (US 8,601,473) from the United States Patent and Trademark Office recognizing the company’s fundamental storage architecture for virtualized datacenters, which not only obsoletes 20 year-old storage area network (SAN) technology, but also challenges the entire industry to design a next-generation storage architecture with comparable performance and scalability. The patent provides clarity as to how software-defined storage solutions are optimally designed and implemented, while at the same time bringing the technology into mainstream enterprises around the world.
Leveraging these documented inventions, Nutanix brings simplification to enterprise data centers by delivering scale-out storage services via software running on off-the-shelf x86 servers. Datacenter managers are now freed from rigid storage constructs and burdensome administrative tasks that have frustrated virtualization teams and slowed important business initiatives. Nutanix customers benefit from advanced web-scale technologies without sacrificing project velocity, data management or the freedom to choose the right hypervisor for their organization.
This patent demonstrates the company’s commitment to advancing the state of the art in data center technology and to simplifying how enterprise IT infrastructures are designed, built and managed. Specifically, it details how a system of distributed nodes (servers) provides high-performance shared storage to virtual machines (VMs) by utilizing a “Controller VM” that runs on each node. The Controller VMs aggregate the local storage resources across all servers, including direct-attached flash, and delivers a shared pool of data storage that is functionally equivalent to a SAN or NAS array – but with greater scalability and higher performance. The architecture natively delivers enterprise-class storage capabilities, such as snapshots, clones, compression and deduplication, to run any production workload.
“Nutanix has pioneered a radically simpler and more scalable storage architecture for all virtualized environments,” said Dr. Willy Zwaenepoel, professor and former dean at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. “This patent recognizes their technical vision and leadership while raising the stakes on other companies in the web-scale market.”
The Nutanix architecture also provides a unified data fabric for building hybrid clouds. Enterprise IT managers can leverage public cloud resources on-demand, while retaining the control and security of their private cloud infrastructure. This flexibility is made possible by a 100 percent software-driven architecture and implemented independent of any specific virtualization technology or vendor.
In addition to publicly disclosing important intellectual property, the patent also details Nutanix’s vision for how data centers will evolve in the cloud era. It is this powerful vision, captured nearly three years ago, which has driven the company’s leadership in the fast-growing web-scale and converged infrastructure markets. Highlights include:
● The modern data center must “…virtualize all storage hardware as one global resource pool that is high in reliability, availability and performance…” to eliminate islands of storage that are difficult to manage, and nearly impossible to scale.
● Unlike traditional network-based storage, the Nutanix architecture “…permits local storage that is within or directly attached to the server and/or appliance to be managed as part of the storage pool.” This enables enterprises to fully leverage server-attached flash technology, and avoid the end-to-end latency incurred when flash is added to centralized, network-based storage systems.
● Datacenter scalability will be driven by a “…massively-parallel storage architecture that scales as and when hypervisor hosts are added…” Such massive scalability can only be achieved if the storage infrastructure can be scaled independent of any hypervisor constraints.
● When storage resources are virtualized, they should be able to “…used in conjunction with any hypervisor from any virtualization vendor.”
“While virtualization has brought impressive flexibility to both applications and server infrastructures, it has also outpaced the capabilities of popular storage products that have dominated in the previous IT generation,” said Brian Bryne, Principal Engineer at Nutanix. “Nutanix’s research and development teams are re-imagining what storage architectures need to look like to enable the next generation of datacenters.”
Read a summary of the patent: