I’ve watched the recent dustup between VMware and Nutanix carefully. It’s very instructive to watch how companies war with each other in public, and as a potential customer in the hyperconverged market it’s nice to see companies go through a public opinion shakedown. Certainly both VMware and Nutanix tell stories that seem too good to be true about their technology.
On the VMware side VSAN is new-ish, and VMware doesn’t have the greatest track record for stability in new tech, though vSphere 6 seems to be a major improvement. On the Nutanix side I have always had a guarded opinion of technologies that introduce complexity and dependency loops, especially where storage systems are competing with workloads for resources. I’ve argued the point with Nutanix on several occasions, and their answer has been essentially “well, we sell a lot of them.” I had no real data either way, so it was hard to argue.
As such, you can imagine that I found the StorageReview post on why they cannot review a Nutanix cluster very interesting (link below). I have a lot of respect for Brian and Kevin at StorageReview. Not only are they nice guys, they do a lot of good work supplying useful performance data to customers. They use testing methods designed to reflect real world situations. Not all of us have data centers full of idyllic cloud-ready apps that do 100% read I/O on 512 byte blocks. In fact, most of us in the real world have apps that are haphazardly smashed together by companies like Oracle or Infor, sold to CIOs with lies, kickbacks, and hookers. These abominations are often performance nightmares to start with, and if they’re designed at all it’s for copious professional services and collusion with hardware vendors. I need infrastructure that can run them well (or at least less poorly), and I appreciate a good review with good testing methodologies.
There are a lot of opinions about this article. Here are three of mine.
It Should Have Never Gone This Far
Some industry & vendor folks think that it’s irresponsible to have posted this. I empathize with them. Nobody likes the idea of someone publishing an article like this on their watch, especially during the middle of a nasty war with a huge competitor. StorageReview just armed all the competitors with fresh dirt to throw, and it’s bad.
However, it should have never gone this far. Six months is ample time to fix the situation or work something out in good faith. There are lots of ways to explain performance issues. All systems have tradeoffs, and perhaps NX-OS trades performance for OpEx savings. Perhaps most customers don’t need that level of performance, and the system wasn’t designed for it. Whatever. Anything sounds better than what seems to have happened.
If there are problems, and it seems like there are some big ones, own them and fix them. If you need to know how to do this call someone at Jeep. Between the 2012 “Moose Test” failures (links below) and the recent hacks they’ve had a lot of experience acknowledging a problem, owning it, and fixing it.
Covering Something Up Makes People More Curious About It
Have you ever watched or read Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger?” In it, the main character, Jack Ryan, advises the US President to not dodge a question about a friend who was revealed as a drug smuggler:
“If a reporter asked if you and Hardin were friends, I’d say, ‘No, we’re good friends.’ If they asked if you were good friends, I’d say, ‘No, no, we’re lifelong friends.’ I would give them no place to go… There’s no sense defusing a bomb after it’s already gone off.”
Why can’t I run a standard benchmark like VMmark on a Nutanix cluster? Why can’t people share performance results? If I bought one of these would I be able to talk about my performance? Why is Nutanix uncomfortable with performance results? Why do they ship underpowered VSAN configurations for comparison to Nutanix clusters? Why do they insist on synthetic workloads? If I buy one of these systems and it doesn’t perform can I return it? What happens if I have performance problems after an upgrade? Can I downgrade? What will it cost to buy a reasonable test system so I can vet all changes on these systems?
This Isn’t About Performance, It’s About Support
For me, this whole issue isn’t about performance. It’s about support. It’s about knowing that when I have a problem someone will help me fix it. If a reviewer who was intentionally shipped a system for review cannot get support for that system when they have issues what are the chances I will be able to when I have issues? I already anticipate that, given the fighting, VMware won’t support me well or at all on a Nutanix system. Now I have doubts that Nutanix will be able to make up the difference. Doubly so if I bought an XC unit from Dell.
If you’re in the market for a hyperconverged system you have a lot of new questions to ask. Remember that vendors will tell you anything to get you to buy their goods and services. Insist on a try & buy with specific performance goals. Insist on a bake-off between your top two choices. Ask for industry-standard benchmark numbers. Stick to your guns.
Leave your comments below — I’m interested in what people think.