I was recently able to deploy Xi Leap for Nutanix cloud DR purposes here in Australia and thought I should write about my experience from beginning to end. Xi Leap can be utilised between two physical Nutanix clusters (either in separate sites, or within the same site) and also for cloud DR by utilising Xi Cloud Services. This article is about my experience with cloud DR utilising Xi Cloud Services.
To start with, I want to point out that while the Xi Leap service is able to be subscribed to from Australia, the service is still in Early Access Preview (so my experience will differ a lot to when it is GA) and there are currently no Australian based regions available . The closest region to Australia is the Japan region. Keep this in mind if you are looking to utilise Xi Leap for your cloud DR strategy and data sovereignty is important for you. Also note that response times from Australia to Japan will be slower than if you were using an Australia based region. In my testing I was achieving ping round trips of about 200ms.
The whole process of setting up Xi Leap is pretty straight forward. You go to the my.nutanix.com portal and request a trial of Xi Leap. You’ll then receive an email shortly after with information on starting your trial. Once you have gone through that process you’ll be able to link your on-premises Nutanix cluster to Xi which will then allow you to login to the Xi Portal.
Once you have connected your cluster to Xi (you must have Prism Central, be on a fairly new AOS (5.15 and above) and have successfully connected the cluster to Xi from Prism Central Settings), you need to switch to the “Explore” tab to start configuring your Xi Leap service. Before we get to that though, Nutanix have introduced a “White Glove” service for Xi Leap which get’s you in contact with a Xi specialist to guide you through the Xi setup process and helps you get your VPN configured, policies setup and they even help with failover testing. Unfortunately, there were no available appointments for me to utilise this service within the timeframe I needed to have this service deployed so I decided to push on and figure it all out for myself. I would like to stress that the white glove service provided by Nutanix is excellent and something that you should definitely engage in if you are looking to implement Xi Leap in your environment. Anyway, enough of that, let’s push on.
The Explore page is where you will live most of the time in Xi. This is where you will configure your VPN connections, manage your Xi based VMs and initiate your failover plans when failing over to Xi from your on-premises Nutanix clusters.
Now that Xi cloud services is linked to your on-premises cluster and you have been able to login to the Xi portal, the next step is pair your Availability Zones. So in Prism Central you’ll navigate to Administration > Availability Zones. Then you’ll want to select Connect to Availability Zone.
You’ll now need to supply some information to create the connection. For the Availability Zone, you’ll need to select Xi, and then enter your username and password that has administrator access to Xi.
Now, the next step is to create your VPN connection into Xi. There is a number of ways you can connect Xi to your on-premises network and you should consider the options first before configuring anything. The Nutanix support portal has some really great information about the types of connections you can utilise and how to configure them. For the purposes of this write up, I’m not going to go through the connection options I chose or list my config as it contains information I’d rather not share with the general public.
Once you have your VPN connection into Xi configured and working you now move onto creating your Virtual Networks. By default, there are two Virtual Private Clouds (VPC) created when you create your Xi Cloud Services account, Production and Test. These VPC’s are mandatory and you cannot remove them or create new ones. You can however create subnets within those VPC’s. So it’s easiest to think of them as Supernets.
Go ahead now and configure your subnets within your VPC and then you’re pretty much done from an initial config perspective. The next step is to create your Protection Policies and Recovery Plans in your on-premises Prism Central and allow them to sync to Xi cloud. once that completes, you’ll have a fully functioning cloud DR natively in Prism Central.
All of this so far sounds way to good to be true, right? Well, yes and no. As I stated at the beginning of the article, I went through this setup when Xi Leap, and more specifically – Xi Cloud Services, was still in Preview here in Australia. I did run into a few issues during setup but all of the issues I faced were due to configuration issues and it really came down to the fact that Xi Cloud Services was just not GA in Australia. I know I didn’t go through the white glove onboarding process that Nutanix has in place for Xi Leap, and if I did, I probably would have had less issues but all in all, I still managed to configure a completely working cloud DR service all native in Nutanix.
The Xi Leap service as a whole really impressed me. It took something really quite complex and made it easy to configure while keeping the “feel” of the product similar to what you are used to. When logging into Xi Leap and accessing the cloud based VMs, it feels like an extension of Prism not something completely different or like you are using a 3rd party service.
A lot of work has gone into this product and it really shows. Now that I have the service up and running, failing over to DR in the cloud is super easy and the best part is that I don’t have to utilise a 3rd party to do so. Now, Nutanix, if you can bring Xi Cloud Services to Australia that would be great. I can deal with 200ms latency for a small amount of time, but less would be better. Please and thank you.