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Hyper Converged – Hip or just hype?

Chris Purcell


I am on my way to the CeBit event in Hanover, Germany, March 14 – 18th and will be curious to see customers’ acceptance of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) that is starting to be placed into data centers and remote office locations. My impression up to this point has been that a lot of potential HCI customers have been sitting on the fence, carefully evaluating how this technology might benefit them and when would be the best time to invest—now or in the future. A recent 451 Group report, "Spending Trends Across Servers and Converged Infrastructure,” detailed a whopping 85% of survey respondents stated their spending for HCI will grow in 2016.

During events I attend, like this upcoming CeBit tech show, I often get asked about HPE’s position on HCI technology; some of our customers think that we are late to the market and have missed an opportunity that Nutanix and Simplivity are starting to capitalize on. My response is that hyper-converged is very much like cloud…it’s changing how IT approaches technology. And like cloud acceptance in general, IT will make a gradual transition to HCI over time. But more importantly, I think the HCI market is still in a maturing state, and there are many tier one vendors on the cusp of entering this market—all of which will make 2016 an interesting year to see how the market progresses beyond the incumbents that are already there.

Why hyper-converged?

The promise of HCI is very appealing because it starts to drive a higher degree of simplicity and agility into IT. This is long overdue and the reason why IT has been paying so much attention to it. HCI allows a complete set of infrastructure (server, storage and networking) to be operated out of remote offices or data center locations with little supervision or management. It is simple enough to get up and running quickly and provides virtualized services with cloud-like efficiencies. And as opposed to running on a risky public cloud, HCI has the security built in and can be run within the four walls of the business.  

The data center is changing

HCI is now starting to drive a significant change in how IT manages and deploys infrastructure. Andrew Butler, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner's Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management conference in December 2015 said the following:

“The server market has been in ‘flux’ for many years and current changes will change the way people use and buy servers. The dividing line between a server and its inclusion as part of an integrated system will get more difficult to determine and some vendors are moving into the server market from adjacent hardware. We've never been more certain that over the next four or five years the role of what we think of the server will change forever."

What are the roadblocks to transitioning to this technology?

I see two main roadblocks to HCI adoption right now: organization issues and internal expertise. These issues are probably more of a concern for larger enterprises than for medium-sized businesses. HCI introduces different operating models because storage and compute are more tightly integrated, which equates to enterprises and medium-sized businesses needing fewer server administrators to manage the infrastructure. But to gain those efficiencies and increased simplicity requires organizations to adjust and match the right expertise in the right places. This means training and organizational buy-in, often from an employee who will become a steward for the new technology. These roadblocks cannot be overlooked too quickly - careful planning is needed to achieve a successful result.

Which HCI do you invest in?

As I mentioned above, 2016 is going to be an interesting year for HCI. Up to this point, the incumbent HCI vendors have enjoyed a fairly non-competitive environment to operate within. As new vendors enter the market, IT will have a broader choice of vendors to select from. But how will IT buyers make better informed decisions regarding what vendor infrastructure to invest in? Large organizations often involve many people in the purchasing process and won't sign off on little known vendors. That will likely lead to more HCI products from incumbent vendors—until confidence increases in the smaller ones.

Once a short list of vendors has been made, what’s next on the decision tree? IT has to ensure their investment is sound and fits into an infrastructure strategy that continues to drive a greater degree of efficiency within their business. Therefore, IT vendor roadmaps play a very important part in this decision-making process.

And this is where I pause and wonder if all vendors are equal and can they all provide product roadmaps to assure potential clients that they are making a sound investment? I am not sure they all can.


Let’s evaluate: table stakes are probably fairly equal across the board for all vendors—quality of product, all priced competitively with easy setup and integration. But where-to then? This is where HPE has a significant advantage over other HCI vendors (both incumbent and new arrivals this year.) HPE can offer customers many definitive differentiators within their new HCI portfolio. Here are a couple of examples:


  • First, HPE has a very clear, articulated roadmap that will get customers on the pathway to a composable infrastructure future. HPE recognizes that not all customers are in the same place in their journey and that some may want to stay longer on a HCI platform. But others will want to move forward faster to reap the benefits that composable will provide them. But wherever they are, IT needs assurance that their investment provides flexibility and choices on how they can best deploy this infrastructure for today and in the future.


  • Second, it’s all about service and support. HPE is the only vendor that provides an all HPE IP appliance…no white box or mixed vendor solutions, no finger-pointing across vendors. HPE just provides one throat to choke. And why is this so important? As hyper-converged infrastructure gets deployed in remote office locations, there are only a few people in the office to maintain it. Yes, the initial installation process for all vendors is very simple, but over time all infrastructure needs to be tuned and updated. Having a HPE Center of Excellence (COE) to oversee the infrastructure gives IT the confidence that their HCI appliance is in good hands 24x7.


In summary

Hyper-convergence represents an improved IT experience that starts to drive much needed improvements across the data center. IT will be able to deploy HCI in remote locations with ease and with better control of what gets created in the cloud and developed in the safety of their own environment (data centers and remote office environments.)


With HCI adoption comes the need to reevaluate IT staff and business processes to get the most of this infrastructure. It’s people that run technology, not vice versa.


When it comes to vendor selection, make sure to review roadmaps and understand how HCI will fit within your broader IT plan. Select a vendor that can show you how your investment is protected over time.


Okay, they are calling my flight, so I am heading off to the gate. It will be an interesting week at CeBIT. Stay tuned, as I will be providing highlights from the event in the coming days.




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About the Author

Chris Purcell

Composable Infrastructure, Integrated and Multi-Cloud management, Hyperconverged Infrastructure and Cloud

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Great article, Thanks for sharing your customer experience and vendor sector information.

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Wow, What  a fantastic analysis, all the topic are very effective and helpful for technology purpose. I am glad to read your article.