Nutanix NX-7110: GPU power for VDI

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Nutanix announced today the availability of new and updated models based on Ivy Bridge CPUs, for its NX-3000 and NX-6000 families, and most of all a completely new model specifically designed for High Performance VDI environments. The new model is named NX-7110, and for the first time in Nutanix catalog, one of their product is built with Nvidia Grid GPU cards.


Nutanix NX 7110The first and most noticeable diffrence with other models, for those of you knowing Nutanix, is the form factor. This model still uses the classic 2U chassis, but inside it there is only 1 server. For those thinking about Nutanix as a hyper-converged solution, this model is slightly less converged, being basically a 2U server.

The reason behind this choice is easy to understand: there was a need to have 3 PCI slots for 3 cards. And those are not common cards by the way: NX-7110 can use  Nvidia Grid GPU cards, both K1 or K2 version, and also the “Apex” PCoIP acceleration card from Teradici. You can configure the server with different combinations, up to 3 * K2 cards or 2 GRID cards and an APEX card. The final result is a system with massive amount of computing power for all VDI environments with high end graphics needs.

Thanks to Nvidia you can use vSGA (Shared Grafic Acceleration) inside VMware Horizon View, and share the Grid card among VDI users, so they will take advantage from the computing power in order to run usually “hard to virtualize” application, like CAD, Aerospace applications, Oil & Gas, Video Editing, and the like. This feature is fully compatible with VMware redundancy features, like HA, vMotion and DRS; so you can create a cluster made with several NX-7110 servers and fully protect those kind of applications.

For even more demanding applications, you can use the card in vDGA (Dedicated Graphic Acceleration) mode, and so via passthrough assign a single card to a single VM, that will have all the graphic power to its disposal.

The second addition to the 7110 model is a APEX card from Teradici. It’s a card designed to offload all the CPU activities needed to run the PCoIP protocol, that is the protocol designed by Teradici itself and used by VMware in VMware Horizon View. Unlike Grid cards, this card has no benefit for users, instead it helps the server it is installed on: when a system’s CPU is heavily loaded, the APEX card can offload the all PCoIP activities from the main CPU. In this way you can put many more CPU-demanding VM on the same node.

My take

It’s funny to see how Nutanix tried hard lately to get rid of the idea its solutions are optimized only for VDI, and now they are launching a new product the is not simply designed for VDI, but specifically built for it. There is nothing wrong with this, rather: Nutanix catalog has been expanded lately; they started with only the 2000 model, than came the 3000, and they were both general-purpose, good to start selling. Then they already added the new 1000 and 6000 models, with specific designs and use cases. The 6000 series also has seen today a new model, called NX-6020, with now 20 TB of disk space per single server, that is 25% more than before.

What is still in common with all the models is the software executed inside the Nutanix VSA; it allows to join in the same cluster different models, so you can have uneven cluster if needed. It could be for example a VDI project that start with a couple of 7110, and other servers could be some other 3000 used as a failover, sacrificing VDI performances but saving on budget. Also, this compatibility allows seamless upgrades and swap of models without interruption.

I’m sure in the future we will see even more spacialized models, because even if Nutanix offers pre-configured servers, one model is not the right choice for every situation.

Maybe we will se a 4 CPU server for scale-up applications requiring huge virtual machines; right now the Ivy Bridge modesl can scale up to 512 GB RAM while before they were limited to 256. Or there will be even more scale-out small servers for HPC (High Performance Computing) or Hadoop, maybe with support for KVM in order to reduce licenses costs.

3 thoughts on “Nutanix NX-7110: GPU power for VDI

  1. Personally, I’m waiting for the day when Nutanix comes out with a virtual controller that can be applied to existing ESXi hosts in my environment. This would allow customers to leverage the scale out shared nothing storage architecture and at the same time allow me to utilize my existing blade servers [which could have far more CPU & RAM than the individual Nutanix nodes]. Go Nutanix!!

  2. Maybe, who knows…
    But I would doubt the blades will have enough disk slots to create local storage to be leveraged by any virtual controller.

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