HCI – The new kids on the block

So with Cisco and HP now accepting that HCI is now acceptable and with Cisco announcing their solution based upon Springpath last week and HP coming soon (already targeting Nutanix), and let us not forget VCE with the newly announced VXRAIL as well. It seems like everyone is jumping the boat for hyperconverged infrastructure these days.

So why are they doing this ? Why is everybody now jumping the gun on the HCI train? Well there is a reason why companis like Simplivity, Atlantis and Nutanix existing today….They had something to give to the market, and now the big guys are done losing money to these other companies and want to be able to sell HCI to their customers as well. That is one perspective on it, another is of course the idea that for instance HP wants to be able to be a full stack vendor (If a customer wants components from A to Z, then HP can be able to deliver the entire stack, but that again allows the big guns to make more money…

So what is the future going to look like for all these companies competing in the HCI marketspace? Let’s look at the hardware vendors first

  • Cisco : Which has bought a former HCI company Springpath, didn’t have much success with Whiptail when they bought it up, on the other hand Cisco has built up a solid reputation with their UCS portfolio but their roots are still in networking and now they are of course pitching ACI as well. Important to remember that Cisco also has a partnership with Simplivity, how is that going to play out ?
  • HP: Don’t know what their HCI stack is going to look like, but HP has been pretty silent in this space. They were part of the EVO:RAIL partnership but looked like they dropped out of that agreement pretty early, they have launched some solutions based upon StoreVirtual but I have no idea how that turned out.
  • Dell (Which now has GO! from EU for the company merger between Dell and EMC) which owns VCE and VMware is going to be a powerhouse of different hyperconverged solutions. Dell has pretty much a partnership with every HCI vendor out there (Atlantis, Simplivity, Nutanix (XC-series)
  • Lenovo: Which initially had a partnership with Simplivity in the start of 2015, but eventually signed up a deal with Nutanix which started in 2016 did they have a change of heart? From what I’m hearing Lenovo is focuing hard on Nutanix these days.

Now let’s think about this for a minute. HP Enterprise (Which is now a seperate company) when they get a HCI solution can pretty much sell you anything you want inside a datacenter, but their primary focus is not going to be HCI but a good mix of their entire stack, how can we trust that their HCI solution is going to be good enough? or if HP is going to invest properly into it so it can be a good solution in the long term.

and what about Cisco, which has existing partnerships with VCE and Simplivity and now are lauching their own HCI solution what’s going to happen there? Can they still continue no with their existing partnerships and still focus on their own HCI platform?

Dell which is going to be the largest storage company now with the purchase of EMC is going to have some hard choices to make since they can’t have like the largest resturant menu in the world with different storage options and have OEM partnerships will all the different vendors, how can they focus on HCI? They will most likely wont, but just be a reseller of the OEM partnerships.

Now let’s move away from the hardware vendors and look at the Software vendors, VMware and Microsoft. VMware is gaining more traction with the release of VSAN 6.2 (VSAN is also used in VXRail) and is of course tightly integrated into the VMware ecosystem. On the other hand we have Microsoft with their upcoming solution in server 2016, which I know is going to be a cost effective way to get HCI, and if you have a Windows Server 2016 datacenter well then you have to features to do HCI with Microsoft.

Let us not forget that VMware and Microsoft are also competing on virtualization space and with their SDS storage solution tightly integrated with each other is going to be interesting to watch. But from the looks of it Springpath and the upcoming HP stuff support only VMware which is going to help VMware have a steady market share for the time being, and also Simplivity also supports only VMware.

Now again, think for a minute if I neeeded a HCI vendor should I look at my hardware vendor and see what kind of solution they would give me? Of course its important to remember it is not their key focus area is “just” another solution in their portfolio. Should I let my hypervisor use, reflect on what HCI vendor I should pick? again it would be tempting since we then in most cases can maybe reuse existing equipment since (VMware and Microsoft) do all in software as long as you follow the HCL and the solution will be tightly integrated with the hypervisor.

But again we also have the other guys in this marketspace, Atlantis, Simplivity and Nutanix which their core focus in HCI. The only reason why they exist is because of their one-product (or strategy) in this emerging market.

Now whatever happens, it is indeed interesting times and looks like this is going to drive the HCI market even further in the times to come