Tag Archives: Hyperconvergence

10 Hyperconvergence Vendors Setting the Pace

As companies look for ways to make their IT infrastructure more agile and efficient, hyperconvergence has become a top consideration. The integrated technology promises faster deployment and simplified management for the cloud era.

An Enterprise Strategy Group survey last year found that 70% of 308 respondents plan to use hyperconverged infrastructure while 15% already use it and 10% are interested in it. IDC reported that hyperconverged sales grew 48.5% year over year in the second quarter of this year, generating $763.4 million in sales. Transparency Market Research estimates the global HCI market to reach $31 billion by 2025, up from $1.5 billion last year.

“It’s moved well beyond the hype phase into the established infrastructure phase,” Christian Perry, research manager covering IT infrastructure at 451 Research, told me in an interview.

With hyperconvergence, organizations can quickly deploy infrastructure to support new workloads, divisions, or projects, he said. “In that sense, it really provides an on-premises cloud-like option.”

Hyperconverged infrastructure leverages software to integrate compute and storage typically in a single appliance on commodity hardware. Fully virtualized, hyperconverged products take a building-block approach and are designed to scale out easily by adding nodes. According to IDC, a key differentiator for hyperconverged systems, compared to other integrated systems, is their scale-out architecture and ability to provide all compute and storage functions through the same x86 server-based resources.

ESG Analyst Dan Conde told me that some newer hyperconverged systems include broader networking features, but that for the most part, the technology’s focus is on storage and “in-the-box” connectivity.

VDI has been a top use case for hyperconverged infrastructure, but Perry said 451 Research is seeing the technology used for a range of use cases, including data protection, and traditional virtualized workloads such as Microsoft applications. Because it’s easy to deploy, the technology is well suited for branch and remote locations, but companies are also running it in the core data centers alongside traditional infrastructure, he said.

Vendor lock-in, high cost, and inflexible scaling (compute and storage capacity must be added at the same rate) are among the drawbacks that some have cited with hyperconvergence platforms. Perry said he hasn’t seen scalability issues among adopters, and that opex costs are much lower than traditional infrastructure. Hyperconverged products also have proven to be highly resilient, he added.

Perry said the first step for organizations evaluating hyperconverged products is to clearly identify their use case, which will narrow their choices. They also should take into account how the product will integrate with the rest of their infrastructure; for example, if it uses a different hypervisor, will the IT team be able to support multiple hypervisors? Companies interested in a product supplied by multiple vendors also need to determine which one will provide support, he said.

The hyperconvergence market has changed quite a bit since its early days when it was dominated by pure-play startups such as Nutanix and SimpliVity. Today, infrastructure vendors such as Cisco and NetApp have moved into the space and SimpliVity is now part of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Nutanix remains a top supplier after going public last year, and some startups remain, but they face stiff competition from the established vendors.

Here’s a look at some of the key players in hyperconvergence today. Please note this list is in alphabetical order and not a ranking.

(Image: kentoh/Shutterstock)

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Hyperconvergence Market in Flux

When Cisco announced Monday that it was buying hyperconvergence software startup Springpath, it did what many industry observers had been expecting for more than a year. In March 2017, Cisco unveiled its HyperFlex hyperconverged infrastructure system on its UCS platform in partnership with Springpath. The networking giant also made a significant investment into the startup.

“Cisco is just wrapping up what it started a year and a half ago,” Keith Townsend, principal at The CTO Advisor, said in an interview. “There’s nothing net new.”

The Cisco-Springpath $320 million deal culminates Cisco’s entry into the hyperconvergence market, a space that a few years ago was dominated by startups such as SimpliVity and Nutanix. Earlier this year, SimpliVity was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Nutanix, which went public last fall, remains a top player, and there are other startups such as Pivot3 and Scale Computing, but they face stiff competition from established players.

With HPE and Cisco now offering viable hyperconverged infrastructure, along with industry giant Dell Technologies, the technology is starting to become more of a feature than a standalone product, Townsend said. The acquisitions by HPE and Cisco filled out their respective portfolios, and provided them with a way to give enterprises less reason to jump ship, he added.

By all accounts, the hyperconverged market is hot. According to IDC, sales of hyperconverged systems grew nearly 65% year over year during the first quarter of 2017, generating $665 million in sales. Transparency Market Research expects the global HCI market to reach nearly $31 billion by 2025. Hyperconverged infrastructure leverages software to integrate compute, storage, and networking in a single appliance on commodity hardware.

But hyperconverged infrastructure players are all clamoring for the hybrid cloud space, which has yet to settle on a solution, said Camberley Bates, managing partner and analyst at Evaluator Group.

“That hybrid cloud environment has yet to figure out a standard,” she told me in an interview. “There are a lot of options enterprises are looking at. There’s been a lot of starts and stops.”

Enterprises are considering everything from converged systems – HCI’s predecessor — to building an environment with scale-out SAN storage, Bates said. “There’s no one architecture that’s winning out in that [hybrid cloud] space.”

Hyperconvergence is well suited for virtual desktop infrastructure environments – VDI has been its top use case so far, Bates said. Remote and branch offices and selected applications are other use cases. The technology is ideal for midmarket companies that don’t have a lot of IT staff, providing them with great agility and simplicity, she said.

Her firm sees the hyperconverged infrastructure market splitting into two types of systems: those that can scale and manage large environments and those that have difficulty doing that. The former type may wind up being more of a converged, scale-out architecture along the lines of what NetApp is expected to release with a SolidFire-based system later this year, she said.

Townsend said enterprises should assess hyperconverged infrastructure systems like any other platform. Enterprises that are comfortable with niche players should consider them, but others can easily find a product from one of their existing vendors. “You can get a respectable HCI solution from one of your large vendors that integrates with your existing purchasing strategy,” he said.

With so many choices when it comes to hybrid cloud, Bates said enterprises should start by defining their requirements. “Define what you’re trying to do, then build requirements before you look at technology solutions. There are lots of ways to address this.”


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Calculating Hyperconvergence Costs

A look at what’s inside HCI and the cost considerations.

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Hyperconvergence Paves Way To Private Cloud

With its promises of greater data center agility and efficiency, hyperconverged infrastructure has been one of the hottest IT trends in the last couple of years. At Interop ITX, analysts from Enterprise Strategy Group provided insight into the technology and advice for enterprises before they take the plunge.

Hyperconverged systems – as well as their predecessor, converged infrastructure – are something of a flashback to the all-in-one mainframe systems IT shops used to buy from companies like IBM, ESG Analyst Dan Conde said. Mainframes gave way to the best-of-breed, do-it-yourself approach to IT infrastructure

“I liked that world where we could pick and choose and create the system we wanted,” Conde said. This freedom to choose IT components came with a price, though, which has led to interest in converged systems and hyperconvergence.

“We’ve suffered trying to mix and match things and make them work,” Conde said. “It was a pain because of the collective failure of the IT vendor community and standards bodies to make things work in a completely transparent way.”

Converged infrastructure like FlexPod or Vblock combine compute, storage, and networking in one system and bolt them together with management software, ESG Analyst Jack Poller said. “When you have a problem, you have one vendor you can complain to,” he said.

Scaling this type of environment requires adding another full rack. “You still have to do all the work to pull it together,” he told attendees.

Hyperconverged infrastructure take the integrated concept a step further by providing a Lego-like approach to storage, networking, and compute resources and using software to cluster them together into a single pool, Poller said. This enables scaling on a smaller level. “What’s important about hyperconvergence is the software stack,” he added.

Right now, hyperconverged systems, including those from Nutanix and SimpliVity (acquired earlier this year by HPE), are fundamentally about aggregating storage resources, Conde noted. Enabling software-defined networking may require additional specialized software.

For enterprise IT pros under pressure to improve agility and have regulatory compliance requirements that require them to keep hardware on premises, hyperconvergence is a way to build private cloud, Conde said.

“Don’t be afraid. If you want to do something with cloud speed on premises, use hyperconverged infrastructure,” he said.

An ESG survey found that 70% of 308 respondents plan to use hyperconverged infrastructure; 15% use it now. Fifty-six respondents said they plan to use converged infrastructure; 32% have deployed it.

The top drivers for converged and hyperconverged infrastructure adoption include improved service and support, improved scalability, and increased agility of virtual machine provisioning, according to ESG research. “It’s a way to make our private cloud as competitive as the public cloud,” Conde said.

The survey also revealed enterprise concerns with the technologies: Performance concerns around data locality, lack of flexibility when scaling, and vendor lock-in.

ESG also found that many enterprises – 57% of 308 those polled — plan to stick with their traditional best-of-breed approach to IT infrastructure.

While many organizations have deployed or plan to deploy converged/hyperconverged infrastructure, they don’t expect the new systems to completely replace their traditional on-premises infrastructure provisioning, according to ESG.


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Hyperconvergence Benefits Come With Challenges

Enterprises are adopting hyperconverged systems at a rapid clip to reduce costs and overcome the complexity of traditional storage infrastructure. However, as companies reap hyperconvergence benefits, deploying the technology isn’t exactly a cake walk.

Those are the top findings of a new report from Technology Business Research, a market research and consulting firm. TBR analysts surveyed 202 enterprise IT and business leaders and also conducted a dozen in-depth interviews to gauge the state of the hyperconvergence market and customers’ experience with the technology.

TBR estimates the market for hyperconverged platforms will grow at a 53% CAGR between 2015 and 2020, reaching $7.2 billion. “We expect that this investment will increasingly come at the expense of legacy infrastructure,” Krista Macomber, TBR senior analyst, told me in an interview.

TBR defines hyperconverged platforms as combining a storage controller, array and applications on one server; other attributes can include a building-block architecture using commodity hardware and the unification of enterprise storage and virtual machines.

The need to reduce costs and streamline IT operations is a top driver for enterprise adoption of hyperconvergence, Macomber said: “They’re looking to hyperconverged platforms to reduce the inefficiencies of legacy storage environments.” At the same time, companies are experiencing business benefits that go beyond cost reduction. For example, some companies told TBR hyperconvergence made it possible for them to implement a disaster recovery program.

According to TBR’s research, the first workloads companies target for hyperconverged platforms are data-centric, focused on operations like analytics and backup and recovery, as they aim to shift away from expensive and cumbersome legacy SAN systems. But enterprises are increasingly interested in deploying more business-centric workloads, such as ERP, on the systems.

Hyperconvergence pain points

Despite the benefits, customers are experiencing some pain points in their hyperconverged deployments, TBR found.

“Customers are realizing there’s more to the cost equation than up-front costs,” Macomber said. “New architectures like hyperconverged platforms change not only their data center architecture, but also the way the IT staff operates.”

In fact, internal resistance to change was the top challenge associated with hyperconvergence cited by survey respondents. The IT team needs to understand how the technology — as it seeks to eliminate silos between compute, storage, and networking — will mean a shift in some IT roles to more of an IT generalist, she said.

“IT is still sorting out how it will operate and shift to a more generalist approach,” Macomber said, adding that the shift doesn’t necessarily diminish the IT team’s position in the organization. “In fact, it can make it more strategic,” she said. “But there’s definitely a change in mindset and culture that needs to happen.”

Interestingly, even though the hyperconvergence market is growing fast, TBR’s study found that almost 40% of enterprises that have adopted the technology are unsure if they will made additional investments in hyperconverged products. The finding indicates that vendors aren’t effectively addressing customer requirements around fast and simple time to deployment, cost-effectiveness, and scalability, according to Macomber.

Scalability has been cited by others as an area where hyperconverged systems are limited.

Vendor landscape

The hyperconverged infrastructure market is a fairly crowded one with established vendors competing against pure-play startups such as Nutanix and SimpliVity. Macomber doesn’t expect the crowded landscape to change too much over the next year.

Integration of the Dell and EMC hyperconvergence portfolios, along with its impact on Dell vendor partnerships, will take time, she said. The pure-play companies are focused on maximizing their installed base while other multi-platform vendors like Cisco and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise are investing in developing their hyperconvergence lines.

Long term, there will be market consolidation, but right now, “it’s still fairly early days” for hyperconvergence, Macomber said.

Hear more about hyperconverged infrastructure from Krista Macomber live and in person at Interop ITX, where she will present “Converged and Hyperconverged Infrastructure: Myths & Truths.” Register now for Interop ITX, May 15-19 in Las Vegas.

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