As you may already know I’ve been quite involved this year in working with Nutanix as an end-user so I’ve gained some experience on the platform at work. We run VMware on top of our Nutanix appliances which is quite allright, and I had been looking for a sort of “simulator” since early 2013. When Nutanix finally released their Community Edition, I was quite excited although there was one concern: where to run this, and what hardware will be required?
So started an endless search for affordable hardware that would meet the requirements. Nutanix says they require at least 16 Gb RAM, which is fine to test the features, but that is a bare minimum and you won’t get much running. Then there’s also the factor of how you want to deploy your Nutanix CE: 1-node, 3-node, 4-node? Just multiply the price and hope you have enough finance and a very understanding partner at home.
The unbelievable finally arrived: Ravello Systems, the company that provides lab services in the cloud partnered with Nutanix to offer their users the possibility to run Nutanix CE on top of Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services on a friendly and understandable user interface.
You get the “Nutanix Community Edition” Canvas from the Ravello Systems Repo(sitory) and import it into your Blueprints library. The Ravello-based Nutanix CE cluster is currently made out of one single node with 4 vCPU and 16 GB RAM, which should be sufficient for testing purposes. I did deploy it by leveraging the Performance tier.
As you may know, Nutanix CE is based on the Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor (itself based on KVM). Currently Nutanix has no plans to develop an NCE version based on VMware or Hyper-V. This release is based on Nutanix OS 4.5 which is quite a step ahead from the already well-performing 4.1.x releases. I haven’t played with NOS 4.5.x in production yet and I look forward to see how Acropolis compares with the VMware/NOS tandem.
At approx 1 USD/hour on Ravello’s Performance-Optimized Tier, you’re going to save quite a few bucks instead of paying upfront for test hardware.
About Ravello Systems Lab
Ravello Systems offer a quite easy and straightforward user interface, see for yourself.
Adjusting settings is simple, you can also immediately access the most needed commands, such as console access, start/stop etc.
About Nutanix Community Edition
Once the VM is started in the Ravello console, give some time to Nutanix CE so that the cluster services can start properly, otherwise you’ll get an error message (meaning that Prism isn’t started yet). You might run into DNS issues (unresolvable hostname), an ipconfig /flushdns fixed the issue.
I first logged into Prism with the default Prism credentials and was prompted to change my password. Make sure to copy the password somewhere (don’t do like me!). You can always trash the VM and recreate a new one, but it takes some time to boot so that might mean losing some time (and a few cents in the process).
Here’s a screenshot of the login screen (note the nifty “Community Edition” and the url)
You are then prompted to enter your Nutanix.NEXT credentials (you won’t see that in a commercial version of Nutanix):
And here we are, almost like home! Note the hypervisor, which is set to AHV (Acropolis Hypervisor I guess).
Performance is decent considering we are running on a nested environment with 16 GB RAM (16 GB RAM is the absolute minimum to run a CVM, if I’m not mistaken we’d need at least 24 GB and 8 vCPU to run properly). You can note that from a RAM perspective, cca 80% of resources are already in use by the CVM. I tried to dig down into the storage settings to see whether I can create a storage pool and a storage container but it seems those are already pre-populated in the canvas. You can nevertheless access the commands to create those and see the advanced options. In this NOS release we can theoretically also leverage Erasure Coding. At this point I was logged out due to inactivity and of course I didn’t record the strongly-generated password (seems Dashlane didn’t either).
This is a smart move from Nutanix and IMHO a win-win scenario for them and Ravello Systems. Many admins and industry professionals would like to know more about the Nutanix story and by experience there isn’t anything better than testing something yourself. Sure you can contact Nutanix for a demo or you can see the many videos an blogs but this gives people the real experience of deploying, seeing for themselves and playing. I like this approach very much.
I’d like to take the occasion to thank Ravello Systems for their awesome vExpert perk which allows vExperts to test their service for free.