Hyperconverged infrastructure systems are all the rage, marketing analysts have been telling us for a couple of years. Everybody and his brother is trying to surf the prevailing wave that HCI represents.
HP, Dell EMC, Cisco Systems, Lenovo, Nutanix, Pivot3, Cohesity, HyperGrid, Maxta and a group of others are crowding the space. While the competition is all good for the potential buyer, it's only natural that a shakeout in this market--via acquisition or old-fashioned attrition--is probably going to happen in the next couple of years.
The hyperconverged systems market is distinct from the converged market. Hyperconverged refers to platform offerings that share computing and storage resources, based on software-defined storage, software-defined computing, commodity hardware and a unified management interface. Hyperconverged systems deliver their main value through software tools, commoditizing the underlying hardware.
The hyperconverged system market surpassed $2.2 billion in global revenue in 2016, up 110 percent compared to 2015, and was at $2.9 billion after three-quarters in 2017. It’s likely that the market touched $4 billion last year. This, one could say with confidence, is a hot sector.
Why HCI is 'Crossing the Chasm'
"I think hyperconverged is in a 'crossing-the-chasm' situation right now," Pivot3 CEO Ron Nash told eWEEK. "Look at the market, at all our competitors, then go back to 2015. Everybody who bought it did so to run one application. They bought one machine to run a virtual desktop environment for 2,000 employees, for example. Or they bought a backup or video surveillance machine, sold as a solution.
"Once they bought the hyperconverged system for one purpose, they started to run other things on it. They saw that it stayed up, did not lose data, was easy to operate and was less expensive tha buying tradional legacy gear. So they thought, 'Maybe I can run my Exchange server on this,' or 'Let me see if I can run this database on this.' "
Maxta is one of the rising independent suppliers of hyperconverged enterprise storage software, which last fall added new functionality that enables IT shops to migrate virtual machines from VMware’s ESXi to Red Hat virtualization and to run both hypervisors on the Maxta platform.
In this brave new world of mix-and-match everything inside data centers and across supply chains, the concept of coexistence within different layers of data management is a welcome one for IT managers. After all, a VM looks the same to any hypervisor; it’s simply a matter of which dashboard is controlling it. Thus, there are several good reasons for using a brand-agnostic traffic cop to handle data flows.
Agility is a Key Ingredient in HCI
This ability to move some or all virtual machines to a fully-supported, open-source virtualization package helps organizations reduce or eliminate the VMware tax by choosing the hypervisor that best fits the needs of an application. Maxta claims to be the only hyperconverged solution in the market that supports both VMware and Red Hat Linux virtualization.
While all hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) controllers are designed to simplify IT management by converging separate compute, storage and storage networking tiers into a single system in addition to administering virtual machines instead of storage, many of these solutions necessarily lock customers into specific hardware or hypervisors.
Maxta says it not only can help customers eliminate the lock-in of server hardware or hypervisors but also facilitate the movement to open-source virtualization.
“We’re the only HCI software provider that you can run on any hypervisor and on any hardware, as long as it’s configurable for HCI,” Maxta CEO and founder Yoram Novick told eWEEK. “None of our competitors can say that. Companies already have their legacy data center servers and storage, and they can continue to use them; our software runs optimally on anything anybody has. That’s the way we designed it, from the beginning.”
Maxta Looks Ahead at 2018
Novick offered eWEEK some of his insights into the sector as we complete the first quarter of the new year:
- Hyperconverged is going all software, but appliance vendors will struggle to make the shift to software because of revenue and cash impact on the business; vendor sales teams are trying to extract the most revenue from each deal; and because of trying to support customer-owned hardware and hardware outside the models sold by the vendor or its OEM partners.
- Service providers and managed service providers will move to hyperconverged in order to compete with the economics of hyperscale cloud providers.
- Service providers and MSPs will require a hyperconvergence software model where they can use commodity hardware and add capacity in many different ways such as adding drives to servers, swapping smaller drives with larger drives, or by adding nodes.
- Service providers and MSPs will also require a choice in virtualization.
- Red Hat and other Linux-based hypervisors will gain on VMware’s heels, thanks to improved compatibility/migration as well as customers wanting to avoid lock-in from any particular vendor.
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