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Nutanix CE, a truly community edition

Like many I've been wanting to get more hands on with Nutanix and accustomed to all the new solutions they have coming out. Also I've heard how it can make a cost effective lab for learning as well. Like many, I decided to get Intel NUCs as they are inexpensive, and now that they can be packed 64GB of memory, can be packed with more than enough resources to run a solid lab. Three Hades Canyon NUCs, 6 SSDs, 64GB of memory each, and USB boot drives in hand I was ready to go.


Physical assembly was super easy. All the parts were in, I downloaded the latest Nutanix CE image and I was ready to go. That is where the fun began.


I quickly learned that Nutanix CE doesn't support UEFI boot. Into the BIOS I go to disable UEFI boot and enable legacy boot. Problem #1....the new Hades Canyon NUCs only support UEFI boot. Searching the interwebs I had come to find out that after BIOS version 34, Intel disabled legacy boot capabilities and forced UEFI. What was even further frustrating was that Intel only kept the current and one version back of the BIOS so I couldn't get the BIOS. I was able to find a blog post of another Nutanix enthusiast that ran into this issue as well, only it was sooner to the BIOS release so they were able to find the older BIOS version. The link they provided in their blog was to the Intel BIOS site which, as stated earlier, didn't have the version I needed. Posting in some of the Nutanix and EUC forums I got contact from super helpful Nutant Kees Baggerman. He knew the author of the the blog post and would reach out to him to get the file I needed. (Link to BIOS file at end of blog)


Like any technology enthusiast, despite knowing people are helping, I was still curious to find a solution. So I started looking to see if there was a way I could get Nutanix CE to boot in a UEFI scenario. I struck out. A lot of conversation around how it would be nice for CE to support UEFI boot, but nothing more. I reached out to my fellow Nutanix chapter champions to see if anybody had a solution. As luck would have it one of them had and they were able to provide me with a modified version of the image file that had a UEFI boot loader injected.


OK surely now it would be up and running. NOPE! ARG!! Secure boot....it is enabled by default on the Intel NUCs I had. Knowing that, got that disabled and BINGO! CE now installed on three separate Intel NUCs.


Got my handy Foundation VM out and within minutes I had a cluster up and going. Finally! Now the fun of building out services. First thing to get up and going was the Automation Framework (www.xenappblog.com) With this in place I could fire out VMs left and right.


I also was interested in getting the cluster connected to Citrix Cloud. One thing I found surprising was the process for the automated process of connecting Nutanix clusters to Citrix Cloud. Being used to the Automation Framework I initially built out my cloud connector automatically. I was a bit surprised I had to have a template VM and leverage a sysprep process. I think this is an area of improvement for Nutanix/Citrix to leverage existing server build processes rather than having a different one.


Nutanix CE is very similar to the commercial product but with some minor differences. The biggest difference I have found so far is around Files. The default download from Nutanix doesn't work because the CE version of the AOS/AHV is not included in the JSON file. Files 3.5.1 was out when the cluster was built originally. Despite finding many articles on updating the JSON file it still wouldn't detect it as valid. However once 3.5.2 was released I performed the same process and it worked. Other things like NCC, Foundation, Prism Central, etc are as you would expect from working with the commercial product.


I now have a Nutanix CE cluster up and going, Prism Central managing it and giving me information and analytics on sizing, Files serving out shares for my users. My users connect to desktops delivered with Citrix Cloud. All of this built automatically with the Automation Framework.


None of this would have been possible without the help of super smart folks within the community to guide and help leverage what I had available to me. Thanks to all!


BIOS supporting legacy boot: https://benjamincrill.sharefile.com/d-s8247ca86e6d45448


UEFI Nutanix CE image: https://benjamincrill.sharefile.com/d-s3b7eee7bda84706b


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