What’s in your playbook?

What’s in your playbook?

If you read Paralyz[ed], I discussed how Nutanix eliminates multiple management tools and delivers a simplified consumer-grade management experience.  Simplified management is excellent, but what about analytics, machine learning, and task automation?

I know what you’re thinking, “I have other tools for analytics and task automation.” I understand that line of questioning. As a customer, I also had that response. But, in further evaluation of Nutanix, I realized the real value of Prism and the capabilities to consolidate management while simplifying management tasks simultaneously.

I thought about how my life in the data center would have been better not only to have the right tools but also to use them with ease. Would problems be identified more quickly, or even avoided? Could I have made better use of my time? Were there events in life I missed out on because I was struggling with my job? 

I am passionate about these topics because I believe that many of you struggle just as I did. By no means does this minimize anyone’s skill set or qualifications. The struggle is with having the proper tools that allow you to be successful. It is the difference between using a screwdriver to build shelves versus utilizing a drill to drive in the screws. Which gets the job done faster? I would also say the power tool gets the job done quicker and better. I know this because I built 48′ of shelving for my basement over the past several weekends. If I have the skill and knowledge but not the right tool, I’ll have a miserable time. Give me the right tool, and suddenly life is better, and the project is completed much more quickly, without a headache!

Dissecting Prism

As you’ve read previously, Prism provides complete infrastructure management and operations. with a management UI for administrators to configure and monitor Nutanix clusters. This web interface also provides access to REST APIs and the nCLI.

Prism is the foundation Nutanix laid with a focus on full-stack management to provide a single pane of glass for storage, compute, and virtualization. Along the way, the one-click upgrades built into this platform became very popular. With the one-click updates, customers finally have the freedom to enjoy all of the performance improvements and new features offered in each release, without the fear of business interruption or involving the complicated upgrade processes of previous enterprise software platforms. This Prism platform layer is called Prism Starter. Any time you buy a Nutanix solution, you get Prism Starter. Network management is also a part of it, including Network Visualization when running AHV.

Over time, Prism evolved and expanded to include Prism Central. This layer of the control plane is designed for multi-cloud management and is where Application Lifecycle Management, Self-Service, and Advanced Data Protection reside. In Prism Central, Nutanix developed a machine learning technology, X-FIT, that brings the best machine intelligence algorithms into data center management. This feature is unlocked with a Prism Pro license and provides additional operational intelligence and personalized insights. X-FIT is the technology behind Capacity Planning and assists with Anomaly Detection.

Now let’s look at operational flow for data center management.

Operational Flow

Part of the operational management flow in the data center is monitoring, analyzing, and taking action. However, most platforms require several different solutions or products to accomplish these tasks. For example, VMware has various tools for different steps creating a fragmented process. You use vRealize Operations for monitoring and vRealize Automation for automation, creating separate management silos, which makes it difficult to manage infrastructure. 

Nutanix aims to give a seamless end-to-end experience, linking the silos together in a single solution. Prism, from its roots, is capable of monitoring, using machine data, and analyzing that data. But what about acting, taking action, or automating? This last piece of the operational flow is more of a shot in the dark. This gap is real across most platforms because, typically, automation is intimidating due to its complexity. Besides, automation products generally focus on applications, not management operations. And don’t ignore the fact they are challenging to scale.

Rather than accepting another off the shelf solution for operation automation, Nutanix closed that gap with the introduction of X-Play, designed with the typical IT administrator in mind. X-Play brings smart automation to the customer’s IT operations and provides a seamless experience allowing actionable signals to connect to intelligent automation.

Seamless Experience

X-Play lives in Prism Central, where as an administrator you’ll spend your time managing daily operations. As noted earlier, it is where you manage infrastructure operations, security, and life-cycle management. You use this same management tool for X-Play!

You already know you have the skills. Now, you have the tools!

Here’s the scenario

You’re in Prism Central responding to the concern that an application is running poorly. The first step you take is to Search for the VM. Prism makes this simple and it auto-fills based on its advanced search engine and populates the search window with anything relevant to the text you entered.

Prism Central brings you to the VM details where you are alerted that the VM is constrained. How does Prism Central know? Well, that is X-FIT doing its thing! As you take a closer look, X-FIT is alerting you that the memory is what is constrained. The VM currently has memory capacity configured to 5 GiB.

Rather than update the VM and add additional memory, you decide to take advantage of X-Play. You click on the dropdown menu, select Operations, and select Playbooks. Next, you create a playbook and select your Trigger. In this case, you choose an Alert trigger.

Now you need to define an alert policy. Setting up the alert policy is as simple as starting to type a description of what you are triggering on. You type “memory constraint,” and the text auto-populates. Then, you select your Target VM, the VM in which you are creating the policy,

Here comes the automation! What is the automated response to a memory-constrained VM?

The first action will be to snapshot the VM. The second action will be to add 1 GiB of memory to the memory-constrained VM. Third, the memory constraint alert is acknowledged. And lastly, an email will be sent with the subject and message alerting you of the action that occurred.

It is that simple, and seamlessly integrat[ed], into Prism!

Scenario Demo

Automatically Increase a Constrained VM’s Memory

What are actionable signals?

Playbook Triggers
Playbook Actions

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