ESG Blog: Understanding The Hype Around Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Edwin Yuen and I recently sat down and dug into our new HCI research. In this video, we define what HCI is, discuss why IT organizations are interested, and look at how HCI will impact traditional IT
Terri McClure   ESG Blog: Understanding The Hype Around Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Author: Terri McClure


McClure_Yuen_Hyperconverged.jpegThere is a lot of hype around hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). All the big vendors and a number of lesser-known smaller ones are in the game. Dell EMC has doubled down on its HCI portfolio investments; NetApp is entering the market leveraging its Solidfire technology; HPE is investing in growing its SimpliVity line; Cisco acquired Springpath so it could offer its own line, but it also partners with Nutanix, HPE and just about everyone else! Speaking of Nutanix, it was a category pioneer (along with SimpliVity) and its Dell EMC branded business is still growing, even though Dell EMC has somewhat competing products with VxRack and VxRail (the 3 HCI products serve different use cases - a topic for another blog!). Nutanix is also doing a healthy business through Lenovo and its channel partners and it has an agreement with IBM to offer its HCI on Power systems. Lesser-known (but fast growing) Pivot3 just announced 50% growth in bookings! Hitachi Vantara has a product it is also leveraging for Lumada IoT, and VMware sells vSAN for HCI use cases. I'm still just scratching the surface- I know I've left some vendors out - it's a long list!

What's behind all this vendor investment and noise? Lots of user interest. Edwin Yuen and I recently sat down and dug into our new HCI research. In this video, we define what HCI is, discuss why IT organizations are so interested, and look at how HCI will impact more traditional approaches to IT infrastructure. Please watch and I would love to hear your feedback!

Video Transcript

Edwin: Hi, I'm Edwin Yuen, ESG Analyst for Systems Management, and today I've got Terri McClure, who is our Senior Analyst for Cloud Infrastructure. Now, Terri and I shot a video early in the year and talked about what we saw for 2017 and the future for things like converged and hyperconverged, but Terri just completed some new research on hyperconverged infrastructure. So, Terri, first question is, what exactly is hyperconverged infrastructure, because I think a lot of people hear the term and they don't know the difference between converged and hyperconverged, and what does it really mean.

Terri: Thank you. It is important to get this definition out of the way, and I think the best way to think about it is in terms of traditional infrastructure. We used to source an application, and then the servers, and then the storage, and then the networking, and buy them all from different vendors and assemble them on site.

The next iteration of that, because that could get very painful and long and risky, to make sure everything works together, so we started seeing the emergence of converged infrastructure. That was the first wave, was a packaging exercise where people sold you a pre-configured system: server, storage, networking, with the virtualization layer included. It took all the risk out of interoperability. You only bought it from one vendor.

Hyperconverged takes it one more step, right. It packages the server and the storage, not often networking. Occasionally, we see some software-defined networking included. The server, storage, and virtualization layer, and it virtualizes the entire stack, and it gives you a software-defined infrastructure building block that can then be knitted together into a cluster that can grow with your business. And that's what the hyperconverged portion is. It takes the risk out of interoperability and adds a lot of ease-of-use on the manageability side because you're managing one thing instead of multiple.

Edwin: So, it sounds like hyperconverged is kind of a bigger step than just when we went from regular to converged because now there's a lot of software and other integrations. What's the actual adoption of it? Are they adopting it as fast as when people moved to converged?

Terri: They're adopting it pretty quickly. In fact, we looked at it in 2015 and 2017, and we've seen, since 2015, the adoption has doubled. It's not as widely used as converged yet because converged has been out a lot longer, and it's not as widely used as do-it-yourself yet, but we're seeing it adopted faster than kind of in the olden days when we saw technology shifts. They weren't as fast as what we're seeing today.

Edwin: One of the driving factors is the pressure that cloud and public cloud is putting on premises, and we know a lot of on-premises vendors and companies are really trying to think about doing IT as a service, where they can do something similar to what cloud providers can provide, but they do it themselves on premises. How is hyperconverged impacting that?

Terri: That's a good question. There's a lot of reasons people are adopting hyperconverged, like ease of use and, you know, overall TCO, but really, when it comes down to what you look at, the hybrid cloud discussions that we've been having, we asked IT decision makers what infrastructure approach would give them the best shot at providing IT as a service, and 44% of the people we asked said they believed hyperconverged could get them there, that was the best platform to do it. Seventeen percent said converged. Converged is still a good platform. There's a lot of good reasons to go with converged. Twenty-nine percent said either way. Only 4% said it wasn't going to be converged or hyperconverged. So, that's pretty significant, I think. So, both of those platforms will play a big role in moving to a private cloud, but hyperconverged, probably, a much larger role.

Edwin: Okay. One other thing I wanted to know is, what impact does, then, hyperconverged have on people where they weren't using converged, the old kind of rack-and-stack people, where we used to go in and get servers, you'd just buy it off a SKU, and, "I've got some storage, I've got a top-of-rack, I've got hardware, and I'll just kind of plug it in myself." What happens to those people?

Terri: It's interesting. I think the vendors that sell the individual components really need to pay attention to this trend because if converged and hyperconverged give me the best chance of building IT as a service and a private cloud, it means their business is going to shrink. And, in fact, we asked this specific question. Five years from now, what's your likely primary approach to how you'll build your cloud infrastructure? In 2015, we asked this question. More than half of the people we spoke with felt that building it themselves would be their primary strategy, but as the market's been educated about converged and hyperconverged, we've seen that shift. That's actually down to less than a third of the people we surveyed.

When you look at converged, it was 30% in 2015, and we're all the way up to 45%. Hyperconverged is a little bit behind, again, because that's much newer architecture than converged, but we've seen that almost double from 8% to 14%. What's really interesting to me is that we saw the 'don't know' category grow by more than double because people are just stepping back and saying, "I have a lot to learn. Things are changing quickly, so I'm not sure how I'm going to do it. I'm not ready to make a commitment yet."

But, what this all adds up to is, the traditional IT vendors that are selling piece parts should be understanding this huge market shift, and it is a big market shift, and figure out what their role could be in helping IT organizations to deliver IT as a service because it's what they're looking to do. And if you're still selling the individual piece parts, you're going to have to play in this broader game, or you're going to have to come up with a better way to do it.

Edwin: Yeah. It looks like they're really going to have to take that into account. I mean, in your survey two years ago, the majority of people were building it themselves, and now the majority of people are looking for some sort of converged or hyperconverged solution.

Terri: What was interesting in that data is that, that in itself, given how long hyperconverged and converged systems have been out, that in itself, that only 57% were looking at DIY to do it, that was still a big market shift, considering how slow markets moved before. But, this is incredible now, what we see.

Edwin: Well, I think that's really some great data and key things that both companies and vendors have to keep in mind in terms of their infrastructure and the future for converged infrastructure and hyperconverged infrastructure on premises. Thank you, Terri. And for more videos, please stay tuned to ESG.

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