back to article Say HCI is an enhanced server. If you don't already sell 'em, it could be game over, man

If hyperconverged systems are basically enhanced servers then HCI vendors with no server hardware or channel partnerships for their software are doomed. And HCI vendors with low server sales will not be successful in the HCI market. Now let's look at Cisco, HPE and NetApp through this lens. Cisco UCS servers and HyperFlex …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NetApp has no server market presence and so will not be able to cross-sell its HCI gear

    But NetApp *does* have a loyal customer base in storage, a chunk of which will be in use as VM backends; for those customers, NetApp HCI is a logical progression.

    NetApp also has a very good story when it comes to replication and backups, and getting the storage right is the hard part of HCI. The dumb compute part is trivial.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree with you that an installed base can help get a customer meeting, but the NetApp legacy product story is largely irrelevant as HCI is built entirely on commodity server infrastructure, which NetApp does not have.

      Proprietary SANs have zero place in HCI.

      If you think the dumb compute part is trivial, I would venture to say that you haven't designed, set up, deployed, managed and migrated HCI -based applications. Ain't trivial :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Ain't trivial" ?

        > ... HCI -based applications. Ain't trivial :)

        But, isn't that the alleged Big Win[tm] of HCI? The simplicity derived from having a "datacenter in a box?"

        Of course, nothing is ever as simple as the sales creature says; but if HCI doesn't meet the promise either, even at the expense of scalability, higher cost, etc., then what's the point?

  2. SniperPenguin

    Hardware is now not important

    Unless you have a raging boner for a particular bezel or support contract, the compute hardware is largely invisible.

    Nutanix knew this, hence why are openly becoming a software company (rather than reselling SuperMicro) . VMware are in the same boat with vSAN, with Readynodes largely outstripping the black-box variants out there.

    Given that the rest of the options out there are also-rans (again, unless you have a raging Vendor allegiance or a Sales guy who regularly takes you on trips), it becomes two questions.

    1. Do I buy Nutanix or vSAN?

    2. Is HCI bloody right for me in the first place?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hardware is now not important

      No, it's not invisible.

      Well, it is if your environment is small and your workloads are negligible. RDMA/RCoE (40G and 100G), ASICs, and FPGA are coming big time and I sincerely doubt that you can get that kind of integration from white boxes or vanilla servers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hardware is now not important

      VSAN really is the place to be: majority of customers buying Nutanix, Simplivity, vxRail etc are buying functionality at a premium that that will otherwise not see operational savings.

  3. Fenton


    Scale-up seems to have been forgotten here and what about Azure stack. Again DellEmc has an advantage here.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FYI, pie chart slightly mislabeled. 15% = Dell EMC VxRail

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not the only error in this article

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Market share

    If I follow your logic, then HP and Dell were market share leaders in storage back in the day.

    You know, that was when they tried to claim that internal server drives counted as storage and thus those two eclipsed EMC and NetApp in shipped TB.

    Truth is, it was bullshit back then and it's bullshit today.

    The shipped server dollars for Dell and HP are tons and tons of small and medium servers. Unfortunately for them it's a razor thin margin play. The money is in commercial and enterprise (as well as service provider and government/edu). While Dell and HP make some decent business in the SP and SLED space, enterprise is abysmal for Dell (HPE is somewhat better).

    That market is basically owned by Cisco. I find it misleading that you (intentionally?) misrepresent this. You've been doing this for a while and so I am asking myself if this is just ignorance or if Cisco pissed in your cereal at some point.

    As to hyperconverged, Nutanix' growth is stalling (how you cannot see this in a table you link in your own article is beyond my comprehension). Looks like last year their growth was a lick under overall market growth. This year is going to be really interesting because it looks like Nutanix' installed base is under attack by everyone else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Market share

      Cisco dominating enterprise? LOL.

      Been in a data centre recently?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Market share

        In more than you, son.

      2. baldnbad

        Re: Market share

        Agreed... Nothing wrong with Cisco UCS, but there must be 10 times more HP/Dell servers in data centres, where they dominate. Those mid-range commodity servers ARE the data centre.

        1. baspax

          Re: Market share

          Don't know but the data centers I see have a lot of UCS. You walk down any of the Switch NAPs and all larger sections are mostly commodity or UCS (still plenty of Dell, HP not so much). Of course, I've only walked a few NAPs and SuperNAPs, for all I know the other NAPs contain a million sqft of Dell and HPE all stacked 60RU high.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Market share

          > Nothing wrong with Cisco UCS,

          Hah, pull the other one.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Market share

          Nope, not according to IDC.

          The enterprise game is between HPE and Cisco. You have to look at blades, not rackmounts.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep, and no...

    Plain and simple fact is that today's HCI, regardless of segment, is a stopgap solution to where customers want to be.

    Converged in a box (Nutanix, VXRack/Rail, VSAN, HyperFlex, Simplivity, NetApp) isn't what customers truly want, or need. No datacenter scales in defined compute AND storage blocks.

    If a customer can manage, analyze, support, leverage cross stack AI, and consume infrastructure, all from a single pane of glass, THAT is hyperconverged, everything else is just a pebble on the way...HPE, with Oneview, Nimble/Infosight, hybrid cloud, and Synergy, has a real chance of getting there, we will see if it can come to fruition.

    It is a bad idea to come to a crowded market with a solutiin that is spinning out already, and one where the leader just admitted to there needing to be a tidal shift (Nutanix). Cisco should focus on networking, Netapp should focus on storage (good job righting the ship there guys), Dell can buy Nutanix (and shelve VSAN because it is a joke), and HPE can continue to leverage Simplivity until TRUE hyperconverged comes out.

    I think hyperconverged is a really sad joke at the moment, mostly because it is pretty much a "me to" market, where every top player is offering one, and like mentioned above, it isn't even something that is overly impressive except in point projects, or ROBO deployments (if you think an entire fortune 500 could replace their entire datacenter with ANY of the current players, you are deluded). Let's let it be what it is, and continue to innovate what customers really need.

    ...hops off soapbox

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yep, and no...

      Everyone stick to their area and don't change! Then we at HPE can finally dominate the market. Dude, HPE is dead. Oneview is cool but without further development it's toast. Synergy is a piece of inflexible crap stuck in the 90ies.

      And if you think Fortune500 companies aren't replacing their entire data centers with any of the current players then you are in for a nasty surprise, because your favorite vendor just got wholesale replaced with 800 nodes of one the above players. And it's not one of the "leaders" (brouhaha)

      Independent scaling of storage and compute is done. Just because Nutanix and VSAN can't do it doesn't mean it's not implemented on enterprise scale.

      1. smooter

        Re: Yep, and no...

        I agree with you, there are a lot of "dead" companies out there...reality is, most of them are still making a LOT of money, and none of them are going anywhere anytime soon.

        I don't play favorites, I call it like I see it...Doesn't mean I am right, i just see some folks lining things up to possibly be impressive in the long run. May or may not come to fruition, but the seeds are there.

        Appreciate your enthusiasm, but if a fortune 500 company ripped and replaced their ENTIRE infrastructure with HCI from anyone, the whole freaking world would be talking about it, there simply would not be any way to keep that quiet. Not saying it didn't happen, but I can't find it (just checked with my friend Google), so maybe you could share the news? I mean we are both playing the "anonymous coward" cards after all! LOL

        Seriously, even if they did buy 800 nodes, and deploy a large portion of HCI to replace HPE servers/storage/etc...their entire infrastructure still isn't HCI, and you can be rest assured...They will be back!

        Just sayin'...but I could be wrong(ish)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yep, and no...

          Dude, heavy NDA. You will hear about it in due time and then you will remember this conversation. Someone out there has the product, the roadmap, and the deep pockets to deliver. I've already said too much, it's your job to find out who it is.

          800 nodes, 1PB RAM, 8PB data. ESX and K8s.

          2 year deployment and migration timeframe. Another phase with additional 2,500 nodes is already in planning but dependent on success and speed of phase one and also waiting on certain technology development milestones (mostly Nvidia. There is a metric fuckton of machine learning and AI lined up and none of the cloud providers is being trusted with the data nor are there pipes big enough for regular transfer).

          Only a madman would assume that an organization this big with thousands of application groups could pull off a migration in reasonably short time. The new environment is a cloud platform and will ingest all virtualized workloads as well house all new container-based/cloud-born workloads. Cloud elasticity and burst galore (not allowed to tell you which of the big three. I am sure you understand.). It's aligned with and driven by an ongoing application modernization program.

          There is of course a ton of custom and off the shelf bare metal apps and platforms but they are in the process of being virtualized or rewritten (containers containers containers!). Those that cannot be migrated for whatever reason (3rd party vendor idiocy, lack of resources, etc) will live on some bare metal stack until they are no longer needed. Nobody gives a shit as there are much bigger fish to fry.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yep, and no...

      I agree with much of what you are saying but NetApp is scale up and scale out and I think they are the only ones that can say that. Because it is based on the Solidfire service provider DNA as the foundation, it will be clearly differentiated for large scale and high performance. I see your eyes rolling back now...I understand these are disruptive claims, lets see how this plays out and report back...

  7. JohnMartin

    HCI isn't an enhanced server ...

    So the proposition starts with "Say HCI is an advanced server", and then carrys on to a set of conclusions based on that premise. Not a bad set of conclusions, assuming the vast majority of HCI purchasers are people who have brand loyalty to DL380's or R270's or whatever other server type / vendor you have familiarity with, but I think the premise is flawed because theres' nothing that enhanced about HCI hardware.

    From my perspective (which is of course informed by, but not limited to, the perspective of my employer), watching server vendors make the claim that their particular 1U or 2U server was "best suited" to VMWare at VMworld / Vforum events since about 2006, the VMware folks didn't really care. More often than not they were happy that server virtualisation completely commoditised the underlying hardware so they didn't have to care.

    About the only difference I could see between a typical HCI box and the 1U / 2U rackmount DL380 style server with a handful of hard drives that was the mainstay of virtual server infrastructures is that HCI typically used a "4 in a box" configuration with 24 drives. I'm sure that if you locked a bunch of techs from Lenovo, HP, Dell, Fujistu, Huawei, Quanta and SuperMicro into a cage and got them to argue about the merits of their particular flavour of 4-in-a-box it might get interesting, but I don't think the VMware or business folks really care, provided they come in at a competetive price with good enough quality and service contracts.

    The main enhancements with HCI is in the initial setup and expansion, user interface and software defined storage layer .. all of which are software things, not hardware things.

    If server brand loyalty was a major determining factor, then I'd expect to see HP with a MUCH bigger marketshare with VSAN on HP vs what your graphs show with Dell, even with their current difficulties. I suspect those old "DL380 or die" guys are still buying DL380s and not moving into HCI.

    BUT when the VMware guys get tired of fighting with the server team and the storage team and decide to take their fate into their own hands, current server brand loyalties mean very little, and may even work against the incumbent vendor as the VMware team decide to keep the old fogeys in server team out of their newly built walled garden.

    Longer term, I'd expect to see the commoditisation of compute continue, with VMware / Internal cloud teams wanting take advantage of the Taiwanese ODM economies of scale .. because the ODM's seem to be the only people really growing. HP tried to keep up with them, supplying Azure, until it turned out it wasn't profitable enough for them. It won't go all the ODM's way of course, Dell seems pretty focussed on winning the private cloud war, as does HP, but of the US vendors Dell looks to be in a better position there because they own VMware (or maybe the other way around soon), but thats a VMware value prop, not a Dell hardware / organisation story.

    Unlike blades, HCI doesn't seem to be an enhanced kind of server, it's an enhanced way of integrating the best parts of a software defined datacenter stack, and turning commodity compute into something more useful.. once you look at it that way, hardware incumbency starts to look kind of irrelevant.

  8. PortlandBill

    HCI is software defined

    Dell owns VMware , they are Microsoft's best friend and the biggest Nutanix partner.

    This is why Dell dominates the HCI market and will continue to grow and dominate this market.

    No one is queuing up to define their data center on Ontap. The future is VMW and MS defined data centers running on Dell Hardware.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      fair point and prediction, except...

      I can see how you would make this claim, although you are missing one key point. NetApp did not build its HCI using OnTap. They invested about $800M on Solidfire and used Solidfire. It will replicate and maybe have other integrations with OnTap and all of the hyperscalers but it is a VMware and maybe someday KVM HCI just like everyone else. It does have a few key differences but being held back by ONTAP is not one of them. They do have scale up, scale out, and you can mix & match storage and/or compute based on need, self healing, etc. Everyone has QoS, deep VMware integrations and the like so those are just table stakes. I see this similar to how NetApp adopted to Flash at first, they were a little late(to be kind) but when they focus and deliver best of breed solutions they win.. 3 years ago they were 5th in All Flash market share and now they are number 2 and making a real run for number 1... NetApp's cloud capability and unique architecture will be key to the success of their new HCI solution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: fair point and prediction, except...

        Yeah, I see a lot of people making claims that NetApp will take over HCI simply because it is based on SolidFire, and mostly because SolidFire "Scales"....

        Not to be rude, but SO WHAT! There isn't a single HCI vendor on the market today that doesn't "scale", and some of them do pretty freaking well (Nutanix, Simplivity, Pivot3). The problem isn't scale, the problem is scaling in the required direction. If I can't add storage OR Compute nodes, and always have to add at least some of the other, I am not scaling in a way that a large datacenter requires.

        NetApp has done some amazing things with not only their products, but also their business. SolidFire may be "cool", but it isn't (currently) as powerful as it is going to need to be in order to "take over" the HCI market. Performance of SolidFire as a storage array is NOT impressive, and NetApp's native A series flash is much faster (and more stable). There is a reason why it is called "SolidFailure" in my neck of the woods!

        However, if anyone can get it done, I suspect NetApp is the one that will succeed. That said, the cost of trying to start up a new HCI product, by adjusting an existing (unimpressive) platform, and then making it appealing to entrenched Nutanix, VX, Simplivity customers is going to be very hard sell. Especially when any of them (or someone else) may be on the cusp of "the next big thing" in HCI. It is pretty killer to have a massive customer base that trusts you, that is the ace in NetApps back pocket...we can never forget that!

  9. Skeptical Optimist

    Sorry but where did you get this data ?

    "HPE has more than 6,000 SimpliVity customers, which puts Cisco's 2,400 HyperFlex ones in context."

    I always heard HPE has 6000 simplivity nodes - not customers. AFAIK they have not even reach 2000 customers yet. Had 1300 when were acquired last year.

    Any public reference on 6000 customers you can share Chris? Where is this data coming from?

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