Nutanix & Acropolis nomenclature


Since Acropolis Base Software 4.5 was released 2015-10-06 i have received quite a lot of questions (via twitter, email & during VMworld last week) about the different names Nutanix uses for their components, features and logical constructs. This blog post will try to explain this and i will keep it updated whenever a name is added, changed and removed.

Let’s start with the Xtreme Computing Platform components.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 09.19.00

This picture is borrowed from the Nutanix .Next tour presentation.

  • Xtreme Computing Platform (XCP) – Name used when talking about the Nutanix solution to deliver invisible infrastructure. Formerly known as Virtual Computing Platform (VCP). XCP is comprised by two components:
    • Acropolis
    • PRISM
  • Acropolis – Name used when talking about Nutanix data plane. The following logical components, software and integrations are included in Acropolis:
    • App Mobility Fabric
    • Distributed Storage Fabric
    • Hypervisor Integration
  • App Mobility Fabric (AMF) – The AMF logical construct covers among other things the following:
    • Virtual machine management in terms of e.g.
      • Availability
      • Initial AHV host placement
      • Migration between hypervisors
    • Backup to cloud such as Azure and AWS
    • Hypervisor conversion meaning Hyper-V -> ESXi, Hyper-V -> AHV, ESXi-Hyper-V, ESXi-AHV, AHV -> ESXi and ESXi -> Hyper-V
  • Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF) – The Nutanix distributed storage solution formerly known as Nutanix Distributed File System (NDFS). It contains among other things the following storage features:
    • Backup
    • Compression
    • De-duplication
    • Disaster Recovery
    • Erasure Coding (EC-X)
    • Replication
  • Hypervisor Integration  Includes the integrations required to run and/or store virtual machines on Acropolis, ESXi, Hyper-V, AWS and Azure.
  • Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) – The Nutanix hypervisor built on KVM
  • Prism – The Nutanix UI used for administrative purposes including e.g:
    • VM Management
    • Storage
      • Compression
      • De-duplication
      • Erasure Coding (EC-X)
    • Alarm
    • Monitoring
    • Health
    • Data protection
      • Snapshots
      • Backup
      • Disaster Recovery
      • Replication

Maybe you have seen the below figure before but i think it is pretty relevant and useful so i’ll use it again. However it is specific for running Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor so i have outlined the names used when running other hypervisors as well.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.43.16

  • Acropolis Cluster with AHV (used in this above picture) but can also be Acropolis Cluster with ESXi and Acropolis Cluster with Hyper-V – Refers to the physical and logical elements required to run virtual machines such as:
    • Physical servers called Nutanix nodes when not referring to a specific hypervisor running on the server.
    • The storage layer called Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF) formerly known as Nutanix Distributed File System (NDFS)
    • Hypervisor that can be Acropolis Hypervisor, ESXi or  Hyper
  • Nutanix AHV cluster (used in this above picture) but can also be VMware vSphere Cluster and Microsoft Hyper-V Cluster – This term is used when referring to the logical grouping of the hypervisor hosts, the Nutanix Nodes.
  • Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) host (used in this above picture) but can also be VMware ESXi host and Microsoft Hyper-V host – Refers to an individual server/Nutanix Node running the Acropolis Hypervisor software. Nutanix node is often used when talking about the server with no specific hypervisor running.
  • Nutanix Node –  The physical server running in the Nutanix block with its own set of e.g. Motherboard, CPU, RAM, SSD(s) and HDD(s). Nutanix Node or just Node is used when not talking about a specific hypervisor running on the node. In the below picture the Nutanix node is the same as AHV Host but could be some as ESXi host or Hyper-V host.
  • Nutanix Block – Refers to the 2U chassi where the Nutanix Node is placed. A Nutanix block can hold 1, 2, 3 or a maximum of 4 Nutanix nodes depending on node model.

Some additional names to be aware of:

  • Storage Pool  – Logical construct of all or some of the SSDs and HDDs in the DSF.
  • Container – Logical construct presented to the hypervisor for storing and running VMs.
  • Controller Virtual Machine (CVM) – The virtual machine running on each Nutanix node that delivers the e.g. DSF.
  • Acropolis Base Software – Software developed by Nutanix and runs in the CVMs.

The following table includes the old names used prior to version 4.5 and names being used from version 4.5 and onwards.


Names to be used from version 4.5 and onwards Names used prior to version 4.5
Acropolis Base Software Nutanix Operating System (NOS)
Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) Nutanix KVM Hypervisor
Acropolis API Nutanix API and Acropolis API
Acropolis App Mobility Fabric Acropolis virtualisation management and administration
Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF) Nutanix Distributed Filesystem (NDFS)
PRISM Element PRISM web console, Web console
PRISM Central PRISM Central for multi cluster management
Block Fault tolerance Block awareness