Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) isn’t the newest data center technology in 2017 — but it’s arguably the sexiest. From its hybrid cloud enabling capabilities to its software-defined storage component, enterprises like HCI because it lives up to its promise of making IT easier. Not surprisingly, hyperconverged is the fastest growing segment in the data center space.
HCI sales generated $1 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2017 — an increase of 68 percent compared to last year, according to IDC numbers published last week. “The opportunity is massive,” IDC analyst Eric Sheppard told SDxCentral in an earlier interview.
New vendors including Microsoft jumped into HCI this year, while existing companies boosted their offerings through acquisitions and partnerships. The sector saw a good deal of action in 2017, but five companies stand out for their strong hyperconverged moves.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) started off 2017 boosting its HCI play through its $650 million SimpliVity acquisition. The all-cash deal proved to be a smart one for the company. HPE launched its first HCI system integrated with SimpliVity software in the third quarter of fiscal 2017. “Hyperconverged is core to our strategy of making hybrid IT simple for our customers, and we saw over 200 percent growth in Q3, although off a small base,” CEO Meg Whitman said on the earnings conference call. A month later the company said it would stop selling commodity servers to hyper-scale cloud companies and instead focus on selling high-end machines and products like SimpliVity HCI.
In August Cisco announced plans to buy HCI software company Springpath for $320 million. The two companies already sold an HCI system called HyperFlex, but buying the startup allowed Cisco to bring the HCI software stack in-house. Further integration with Cisco’s network and compute offerings brings “the simplicity of hyperconvergence to mission-critical applications in [the enterprise] data center,” Kaustubh Das, Cisco VP of product management for HyperFlex, told SDxCentral. It also “helps bring the simplicity of hyperconvergence into edge and remote and branch office locations in their operational footprint.” What’s up next for Cisco HCI? The company “plans to evolve hyperconvergence further by working to deliver seamless multicloud experiences for our customers,” Das said.
NetApp arrived late to the HCI party. After CEO George Kurian bragged on a conference call in August that his company’s product would best VMware and Nutanix, NetApp finally unveiled its long-awaited HCI in October. The product takes a unique approach. “We’ve purposefully taken a different approach to HCI,” said John Rollason, senior director, products and solutions marketing, next-generation data center at NetApp. Instead of running storage on a hypervisor, NetApp HCI disaggregates the storage and dedicates some of the nodes in the chassis for running SolidFire Element OS. Element OS is based on technology from NetApp’s acquisition of all-flash storage vendor SolidFire in 2016.
Nutanix lost the HCI throne to Dell EMC this year dropping from no. 1 to no. 2 vendor, according to IDC. The company generated $207.4 million from its HCI sales during the third quarter of 2017, representing the second largest market share at 20.7 percent. Nutanix disputed IDC’s earlier numbers for the second quarter — the first time Dell EMC earned the top ranking — because some of the Dell EMC systems run Nutanix’s HCI software stack. IDC gives Dell EMC credit for these because it’s the Dell EMC name on the box. Still, 61.1 percent year-over-year growth in hyperconverged systems isn’t too shabby. Whether no. 1 or no. 2, it’s clear that Nutanix has a solid HCI software stack. And its new software-centric focus will likely make the road to hybrid cloud even easier.
Dell EMC reported triple-digit HCI growth in its last two earnings reports and continues to innovate with new servers specifically designed for HCI. During the third quarter of 2017 the company’s HCI sales totaled $306.8 million, a 30.6 percent share. This represents a 158.3 percent year-over-year growth rate. Dell EMC’s cozy relationship with VMware has also helped boost its HCI revenue. Dell Technologies owns both brands, and VMware provides the software stack for Dell EMC’s top-selling VxRail appliances, which are a half-billion dollar business. What’s next for the market leader? Bob Wambach, VP of marketing for Dell EMC’s converged platforms and solutions division, said the company is increasingly focused on moving software up the stack. “This is hybrid and private cloud: Infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS] and for development environments, platform-as-a-service [PaaS] and containers-as-a-service,” he said. “We predict virtually all IaaS, PaaS, and containers-as-a-service will be built on HCI.”