Nutanix CTO: New Kubernetes PaaS Bests VMware Via ‘Simplicity’

Nutanix launches a new Kubernetes Platform-as-a-Service offering that CTO Rajiv Mirani says differentiates itself from VMware in the container market.


Nutanix’s innovation leader Rajiv Mirani says his company’s new Kubernetes Platform-as-a-Service offering launched today has a leg-up over its competitor VMware as Nutanix looks to take the Kubernetes market by storm.

“The reality is, our primary differentiation from VMware is simplicity. That’s always been our biggest strength,” said Mirani, chief technology officer at Nutanix in an interview with CRN. “VMware has a very complex legacy between Pivotal, the new stuff they’re doing with Tanzu and other acquisitions they’ve made – it’s kind of a mash-up of different things that makes it complicated.”

At Nutanix’s virtual .NEXT conference on Tuesday, the San Jose, Calif.-based company unleashed its new Karbon Platform Services, a Kubernetes-based multi-cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) with automated system-managed security. The cloud-native PaaS gives software developers a turnkey managed services experience on-premises, in the public cloud and at the edge, to build and run cloud native applications while enabling them to decouple applications from the underlying infrastructure.

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Nutanix has been developing Karbon for Kubernetes lifecycle management for years. The Karbon Platform Services is striving to accelerate the development and deployment of microservices-based apps across any cloud. The new PaaS offering brings automated system-managed security and multi-tenancy to run a wide range of microservices-based applications across multiple cloud infrastructures.

Mirani said Karbon Platform Services is based around simplicity, unlike VMware, which “has this very complex combination of things providing services.”

“Our aim is to make it much simpler: base it on Kubernetes so people can use the toolset they are used to with kubectl, the CLI’s they’re use to, and all the other stuff so there’s nothing new to learn. Then on the services themselves, there’s a set of artificial intelligent services we have been building overtime,” said Mirani. “Our full PaaS offering essentially takes some of the most common cloud-native services and makes them available on-premises. … We wanted to make Karbon very simple.”

VMware, for its part, is looking to dominate the Kubernetes market via its VMware Tanzu platform of services designed to deliver enterprise-grade Kubernetes at scale.

VMware’s growing Tanzu portfolio includes Tanzu Application Service, its centralized management platform Tanzu Mission Control, as well as Tanzu Kubernetes Grid that enables customers to install and run a multi-cluster Kubernetes environment on any infrastructure with built-in security. The company is also leveraging technology gained from last year’s $2.7 billion acquisition of former container standout Pivotal Software.

Customers can also combine Tanzu with other solutions such as VMware Cloud Foundation and vSphere to provide infrastructure and application management for cloud-native adoption. VMware is consistently upgrading Tanzu, including the recent release of a new version of vRealize Suite that includes support for Kubernetes in Tanzu Kubernetes Grid.

VMware Tanzu has been gaining steam as well, said CEO Pat Gelsinger during VMware’s recent second fiscal quarter earnings report. For example, the U.S. Space Force recently signed an “eight-figure commitment to the Tanzu platform,” he said.

Tim Joyce, president and CEO of Roundstone Solutions, an Orinda, Calif.-based Nutanix partner, believes Nutanix’s overall product line will best VMware on the Kubernetes battle front.

“Nutanix’s product line overall is very well thought out. Whereas VMware has essentially tried to cobble together a strategy based on the products they already had,” said Joyce. “Nutanix has been thoughtful in that they started in offering hyperconvergence to give a public cloud-like experience in the data center. They’ve continued to build on that with various offers as they go along. Everything that they’ve come across fits very nicely into what they’ve already built as their base. Whereas VMware, they go out and acquire somebody and hope it works correct. That, to me, isn’t a necessarily an integrated strategy. That’s a reactive approach to, ‘Wow, we don’t have that product. We better go get it.’”

VMware has been going on an acquisition tear in 2020, gobbling up the likes of Datruim, Blue Medora, Fastline, Octarine and Nyansa. In 2019, VMware spent billions purchasing eight companies—the most acquisitions for VMware in a single year— including Avi Networks, Aetherpal, BitFusion, Bitnami, Intrinsic, Pivotal Software, Uhana, VeriFlow and its blockbuster $2.6 billion buy of Carbon Black.

On the channel front, Karbon Platform Services enables solution providers to offer managed Kubernetes, containers-as-a-service, serverless functions, artificial intelligence, services mesh and security services.

“This is another good as-a-service offering with a great Karbon product that lines up very well with us,” said Roundstone’s Joyce. “Nutanix is a cloud business now. So they have to offer things customers want -- not just so they can avoid customers going to AWS, Azure and Google Cloud -- but so they can provide real value to their own customers. That’s what they’re doing with Kubernetes PaaS.”

Other features in the new Karbon Platform Service is cross-cloud data mobility and hybrid application management through WAN-optimized data pipelines and extensible data interfaces. The Kubernetes PaaS also allows IT teams to leverage a consistent security and API model with unified observability for data and applications across cloud. It provides automated system-managed security with built-in multi-tenancy and role-based access control (RBAC) for rich services, said Nutanix’s CTO.

“Like always, Nutanix’s stance is that we’re not a forced choice,” said Mirani. “We will have Karbon Platform Services available as an option, but if people want to run a competitive product like [Red Hat] OpenShift, there’s no reason they can’t do that. Just as we’ve always had the choice like with [Nutanix] AHV or [VMware] ESX or [Microsoft] Hyper-V on our platforms. So the same freedom of choice caries over the PaaS as well. So it’s not as if they’ll be forced to use our stack.”

Mirani said he looks forward to competing against OpenShift, Tanzu and the rest of the competition in the coming years.

“Our main aim is that with the integration we provide, we’ll be giving them the entire stack a lot simpler and not a collection of different things that have to be managed separately,” he said.

Nutanix Karbon Platform Services is now generally available to customers.