Part II -Nutanix Community Edition – The Ultimate Home Lab Platform – Platform Choices


In this segment of Nutanix Community Edition – The Ultimate Home Lab Platform, we will look at the platforms available to run Nutanix Community Edition.  From my first post in this series I briefly discussed how we package Nutanix Community Edition so that compatibility is top of mind.  This allows us to get Community Edition in the hands of users with little hardware limitations.

A while ago I wrote about several of the Home Lab choices out there, all of which were focused solely on-premises infrastructure.  With the cloud becoming more popular in business, it’s also gaining popularity with home labers like myself.  I personally have an Amazon account as well as a Ravello Account for those times I want to spin up something quickly and tear it down.

Let’s walk through some of the hardware platforms available today to include options in the “cloud.”  As I go through these I will post how to guides either done by me, others and/or outlined in our Community Edition Forums for the  Nutanix Community Edition install process. This will help not only choose the right platform but check out the install effort (minimal) on each platform.  Let’s start with the most basic

BARE METAL:

  1. Intel NUC/MAC Mini/Gigabyte Brix/SFF (Small Form Factor): It’s not secret that these platforms are all the rage now.  As they have matured over the last couple years, we are able to pack much more into a smaller system that is quiet, low on power consumption, unobtrusive (basically fit a datacenter on your desk) , fairly reasonable in cost all leading to great WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) or based on personal preferences.  These tiny machines are great for the home office as they don’t take up too much space and can be easily mobile.

 

Intel-NUCFigure 1

The latest platform getting all attention is Intel’s latest NUC based on the new Broadwell Architecture, particularly the Intel Skull Canyon.  These little systems pack a ton of power in a very attractive SFF package.  More than half the height less than a standard NUC & just a bit wider, packing in a Core i7 Quad Core CPU that supports VT-D, up to 32GB RAM (2 x 16GB DDR4 SODIMMs) , 2 x M.2 PCI-E slots, an Intel GB Ethernet controller, USB 3.1 and something we are seeing more common that could bring massive bandwidth with the right accessory, USB-C.  Now if you fancy going SSD instead, you can still go with a standard NUC that supports an M.2 and 2.5” SSD.

NUC6i7_page.pngFigure 2intel-skull-canyon-nuc-review-2Figure 3

Some people are leveraging Mac Mini’s however my view at this time and it’s entirely my opinion, they are not worth the cost of admission since you can now get the latest & greatest in a NUC.  The decent ones were really the 2012 Mac Mini family which had a Quad Core option, and you *can get 32GB’s of RAM in those using something like Intelligent Memory (quite expensive). These systems still go for a premium even for their age and the latest Mac Mini’s don’t offer Quad Core CPUs.  Based on that, I can’t recommend it unless you can get them at a killer price.

Nutanix-CE-3-Node-Cluster.pngFigure 4

Richard Arsenian, Nutanix Solutions Architect and VCDX #126 and NPX #09 (@Richardarsenian) has put some great effort into Community Edition on the NUC. You can see below the custom configs he has done as well as Nutanix CE using a NUC on a Drone project you can check out all the details below.

Nutanix Next Community Blog

It is important to understand that with our current Community Edition Package since we use KVM Device Emulation we do not support PCI-E drives at this time so PCI-E m.2 like the Samsang 950 Pro and Intel AIC (PCI-E) form factor cards as well like the 750 series.  You will have to leverage SATA  m.2 and SATA SSD if you want all flash.  An example would be a Sandisk X400 or Samsung EVO m.2 SATA drive or any other standard 2.5″ SATA SSDs.

Figure 5

Single Server/Multi-Server Systems

  1. Single Node Bare Metal: As you recall, you can run Nutanix Community Edition in a Single or Multinode (3 or 4 max) host configuration. The Single Node configuration offers no resilience because we don’t have other nodes to Replicate data to.  There are options, however, like running two Single Node Community Edition clusters and use replication between the two to offer you some resiliency.  You could also run the single node solution and run a backup process to backup your VM’s to external storage like a NAS as well.  One thing to note is that none of these options offer the redundancy that would be provided in a 3 or 4 node Community Edition Cluster with nondisruptive fault tolerance.  Still, a single node is a great solution if you want to get started using AHV right away at a low price point.  This is the installation for a single-node system running on a single Supermicro SYS-1026T-6RFT+ 1U Rackmount Server w/Dual Intel 5620’s, 96GB RAM, 2 x 480GB Samsung DC SSD’s and 6 x 1TB Seagate Hybrid Drives.

 

Figure 6

2. Multi-node Bare Metal: This is the ideal Community Edition hardware platform. It’s ideal to have 3-4 systems to leverage all the functionality of Nutanix.  In multi-node bare metal offerings we can provide all the resiliency you can expect in our production platform w/RF2 (Replication Factor 2).  Node goes down or you need to take it down for maintenance, no problem.  Need to run Scale Out Filer for Home Directories or File Shares for a small Citrix VDI Deployment (we’ll get more into this later), no problem. Wanna run a non disruptive update to Community Edition, go for it. Multi-node bare metal means 3 or 4 nodes of physical hardware, can be Intel NUCs, can be PC’s, can be Mac Minis, can even be Enterprise-Grade Servers.  Personally, I have two clusters, one compiled of three-node Supermicro Xeon D-1541 servers in my PROD cluster and  a three-node Supermicro SYS-1026T-6RFT+ Intel 5620 DR cluster in a remote site.   This gives me best performance, best resiliency and allows me to leverage most of the Nutanix Feature set.

 

Figure 7

To install Nutanix Community Edition in a Multi-node cluster (3-4 nodes), follow the video posted above but make sure you DO NOT select Single Node Cluster from the install form.  You must run the installer on each node.  After the installer completes on each node, ssh into one of the controller vm IP’s and log in as USERNAME: nutanix PASS: nutanix/4u .

You then run the follwing command using “cluster” commands:

cluster -s cvm_ip_addrs create

Replace “cvm_ip_addrs” with all the IP’s of the CVMs on each node you identified during the install process followed by a comma.  Example:

cluster -s 10.10.10.2,10.10.10.3,10.10.10.4,10.10.10.5 create

This should also start the cluster but you can check by running:

cluster status

Make sure all services show UP:

CaptureFigure 8

If the services do not show “UP” run this command:

cluster start

That’s it!  You should be able to open a Browser and connect to one of the CVM IP’s to access the Prism UI.  You can use the video posted above to go through the rest of the basic login settings (I will have further initial setup blogs later in this series).

Nested and Cloud

  1. ESXi: Most of you are running ESXi in you home labs.  Without have to procure new hardware, you may have the necessary resources in your ESXi lab to run Nutanix Community Edition.
  2. VMware Workstation: Some of us are using VMware Workstation for their Home Lab setup maybe running on your PC or even a separate spare workstation.
  3. Ravello/Amazon: For those that do not have resources or have no inclination to move forward in that direction you can leverage Ravello/Amazon to host your Nutanix Community Edition Instance.
  4. Nutanix Test Drive: This is by far the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get your hands on Nutanix Community Edition.  This is a free service we provide to you to get your feet wet with Nutanix Community Edition for a couple of hours. You can get access to Test Drive by going to Nutanix Test Drive .

For installation tutorials on ESXi, VMware Workstation and Ravello you can access the content below.

Nested ESXi CE Install

Nested VMware Workstation CE Install

Ravello/Amazon CE Install

By now you should have a good handle on all the platforms you can run Nutanix Community Edition.  If not, head on over to the NEXT Community to get all the info you need to get started.  In Part III we’ll move beyond basic install, get in to initial configuration and move further into the packed feature set and the simplicity of Prism! Stay tuned, more to come in the coming weeks!

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