In the last couple of months, I’ve been part of closed alpha and beta programs on Nutanix Community Edition. Today, Community Edition, or CE for short, releases into the wild as a public beta program! Check CE out on the Nutanix website. In my post, I want to dive into what CE is, why it has been released this way, what the impact for your home lab is and finally some pointers where to get more, real-world, information.

What is Nutanix Community Edition?

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Nutanix Community Edition is a lighter-weight, free version of the Nutanix Operating System (NOS), which powers the Nutanix Virtual Platform. The Community Edition of NOS is designed for people interested in test driving its main features on their own, non-Nutanix hardware and infrastructure.

So, it’s a free edition aimed at ‘the community’. It’s an effective way to learn more about the Nutanix stuff without having to buy a Nutanix block or have your local SE team lend you one.

It looks and feels pretty much the same as it’s big brother, Nutanix OS (or NOS for short). That’s probably because, at heart, it’s made up of the same stuff. Sure, there are differences in installation process and there’s small differences in hardware requirements, but otherwise it feels very similar. The only real difference is probably going to be performance, since CE isn’t as tuned to the physical hardware it’s running on as the commercial offering; but all the features are there and you can play around with the same stuff you’d deploy in your enterprise.

Y U SO PHYSICAL?

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Wait, what? You said hardware requirements? It isn’t a virtual appliance I can download and run on my home lab? CE requires physical hardware to run? I know, that was my reaction too.

Let’s get this elephant in the room out of the way, though.

So why is the Nutanix Community Edition being released as a physical appliance? After having struggled with this fact for a long time, discussing it (at length!) with the product team and battling it our with other community members on the private forum, I decided that it does make sense.

Simply put, it’s the only way to ensure a proper user experience. It’s the only way to deliver the complete Nutanix experience. It’s the best way for a wider audience to experience Nutanix, not just for tech savvy virtualization and storage enthusiasts. For a first release, I think it just made sense to go physical.

Also, it’s the first time Nutanix has opened up their hardware compatibility to support non-Nutanix boxes. It makes sense to support a smaller subset of confirmed-to-be-working hardware instead of having to deal with all kinds of different hypervisors, configurations and all the limitations that come with that. Risk mitigation and optimizing the experience really are the keywords here.

And finally, Nutanix wanted to get this product out the door quickly. They need the user feedback, and they’ll not get it as long as it’s not released. That’s why the alpha and beta programs were pretty intense with the Nutanix engineers working directly with the community to fix bugs, add features and get that much-needed real-world feedback. I can’t remember the last time I was so active on any kind of forum, but discussions, discussions everywhere.

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Now, I think we all need to realize that we’re on the road to a proper Version 1.0 product. In other words, there is probably loads more we can expect in the future, and maybe even as soon as June at the Nutanix .NEXT conference in Miami. I can only say I will welcome any improvements in the physical vs. virtual debate for the next version of CE!

But it will wipe your existing lab

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Yes, yes it will. Community Edition is a combination of an installer, an open-source hypervisor and the Nutanix storage layer, and the installer wipes anything it’ll find on disk for you.

Now, this got to me, too. I run a production-like lab, called klauwd.com which runs 50+ VMs. To be exact, it’s a community-based IaaS project with about 35 participants, and we all runs different kinds of workloads on there. For example, I run this very blog as a VM on that platform.

As you can imagine, I don’t want to wipe that stuff out to try out CE: I simply have too many workloads running, and migrating them over to a new hypervisor is going to take way too much of others’ and my time for a net result of zero: it’ll still be VMs running on a hypervisor with a distributed storage layer underneath.

Which is why I actually spend a lot of time trying to install CE in a nested environment, but I failed miserably. There are a couple of pretty sophisticated checks on presence of VT-x and VT-d and some hard checks on virtual disks. On the other hand, there was some pretty cool Docker stuff going on in the installation process. As a container novice, I found it a very educational experience, and I learned a lot about adding Docker image layers to update certain files dynamically.

But, in the end, I kinda forfeited the idea of running it virtually for now. I wanted to get my hands dirty and see what CE was all about. Luckily, the klauwd.com project was refreshing it’s hardware layer, and I had the chance to actually install it on a couple of spare servers to play around with.

See more at Nutanix .NEXT

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First and foremost, make sure you attend the break-out session on Community Edition hosted by Jarian Gibson, Andrew Morgan and Kees Baggerman:

In this community-led session, get the scoop from the technical experts on how to built a web-scale, hyper-converged home lab from scratch for under $4000 with Nutanix Community Edition. Hands-on LIVE demos and no-nonsense best practices to get web-scale up & running in no time!
Building Your Very Own Web-Scale Demo Lab with Nutanix Community Edition

There will also be a kiosk set up specifically for Community Edition at the conference.
And even better: the first 500 people who sign up for CE (pre-conference) will be entered to win a home lab valued at up to $3000 and one of five .NEXT Conference passes!

Finally, as a shameless plug, you can also see me in action during .NEXT in the unconference session ‘Industry Certifications: Do They Matter?’ with Mark Brunstad, Mark Knouse, Shane Kleinert, Darren Ashley, Sylvain Huguet and myself.

Certifications are a standard in most industries, but do they really matter in ours? Or is skill and experience alone all that you need to succeed? Deep-dive with this panel of seasoned industry experts who will debate the importance of certifications… and which certs matter most!
Industry Certifications: Do They Matter?

Concluding

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So the cat is out of the bag, and Nutanix has released a free and commonly available public beta of their software. It requires physical hardware, and it requires you to wipe your existing installation. Go and do that, experience what Nutanix is all about and be your own judge.