The market for hyperconverged infrastructure is heating up, so quite naturally it is producing a healthy line-up of solutions from newcomers and established vendors alike.
But as the enterprise looks to swap its bulky, legacy systems for sleek, modular hardware, questions about efficacy, functionality and the right way to manage the transformation will likely grow. And don’t expect a whole lot of clarity from the leading vendors as they scramble to gain market share in what will undoubtedly be a lucrative industry going forward.
The VCE consortium between VMware and EMC is the latest to expand the market, releasing the new VxRail appliance earlier this month. The device is intended to be a sleeker, more affordable version of the earlier vBlocks, VxRACK and EVO:RAIL platforms. While it has the advantage of being the only system engineered from the ground up to conform to popular VMware products like vSphere, it also runs the risk of leaving organizations overly reliant on a single vendor for their hybrid clouds. Still, at $60,000 a pop, the VxRail makes an attractive solution for pushing greater storage and processing functionality to small offices and network edge environments.
VMware may have the deep pockets to support a sustained push into hyperconverged infrastructure, but it is nevertheless playing catch-up with nimble competitors like Nutanix. The company literally jump-started the market in 2014 with a simple appliance that combined compute, storage, networking and virtualization, plus compatibility with many of the management stacks that were already deployed at most enterprises, says Diginomica’s Kurt Marko.
Now, the company is pushing that flexibility into the cloud with software from Ravello that enables one hypervisor to encapsulate another, allowing even ESXi workloads to easily migrate to Amazon or Google clouds by running them inside Xen or KVM instances. In this way, Nutanix hopes to offer the enterprise broad compatibility between their legacy virtual environments and more scalable and diverse public cloud infrastructure.
Then there is SimpliVity, which recently launched the OmniStack 3.0 Data Virtualization Platform that aims for single- and multi-site scalability in an attempt to appeal to large enterprises looking to drive down the TCO of their substantial, and often highly complex, legacy data infrastructure.
The strategy seems to be working as the company recently reported a more than doubling of its installed base and a dramatic increase in repeat orders from Fortune 2000 companies in the telecom, oil/gas, entertainment and luxury goods markets. The company is also shoring up its channel capabilities by expanding its PartnerAdvantage program with new Cloud Service Provider and Technology Alliance programs designed to foster increasingly specialized solutions for emerging, data-driven markets.
One thing that a large vendor can usually do to discourage smaller competitors, however, is undercut their pricing, and this is the strategy that no less than Cisco is contemplating as it prepares its own entrance into hyperconvergence, says CRN’s Kevin McLaughlin. The company is said to be working on a platform that combines the UCS server with software from Springpath after the two inked a joint development agreement late last year. This will likely cause a rift with SimpliVity, which sells its stack on UCS servers, among other platforms, but it is unclear whether the two would sever all ties completely. Cisco has a long history of cooperating and competing with frenemies like Dell and HP, but it would be awkward for a small firm like SimpliVity to continue supporting a hardware manufacturer that is looking to produce a more integrated package at a lower price.
All of this can only be good for the enterprise, of course. Diversity of solutions means more options and lower costs across the board, and as the pressure mounts to provide greater service on smaller and smaller hardware footprints, the need for increasingly dense infrastructure is not likely to diminish any time soon.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.