For organizations that want the agility of public cloud infrastructure but want the security and peace of mind of hosting the hardware on their own premises, hyperconverged infrastructure has emerged as a dominant hardware platform for hosting private clouds, virtual desktops and new application development environments.
Over the past five years the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market has evolved out of its preceding converged infrastructure (CI). Like CI, HCI’s foundational elements include an integrated compute, network and storage infrastructure offering. Unlike CI, HCI goes a step further with a software that sits atop the virtualized components that control the entire system. This creates software-defined storage, networking and compute, allowing resources to be spun up and down rapidly and through API calls. Research firm Forrester predicts that HCI systems will “become ubiquitous” as a common platform for deploying on-premises infrastructure.
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So who are the leading vendors in this market? A Wave report released this month by Forrester analysts Richard Fichera and Naveen Chhabra runs through the top dozen providers based on product maturity and estimated market share.
Nutanix is credited with coining the term hyperconverged infrastructure with the 2011 release of its appliance. Today Forrester estimates that Nutanix is the largest HCI vendor in terms of customer deployments (3,100) and revenues (approximately $200 million). Nutanix excels at supporting large clusters of HCI deployments, scaling to up to 100 node clusters. Forrester also praises the company for its ease of use and simplified management.
Simplivity is by Forrester’s measure the runner-up for most powerful HCI company with a strong platform custom designed for this market named OmniStack.
The system includes all of the important HCI features: Multi-site data management, global deduplication, backup, snapshots, clones, multi-site data replication and disaster recovery, along with WAN optimization. The company’s one weak spot may be it’s relatively modest 24-nodes local cluster limitation, but Forrester says the company excels unlike any other in the market in its multi-site data management across an integrated globally distributed deployment of OmniStack boxes.
Forrester had one other vendor in the "Leaders" category for the HCI market: Pivot3. The company has flown somewhat under the radar since it introduced its HCI offering in 2007 - one of the earliest vendors in this market before the term hyperconverged was coined. The company's strength is in its very efficient data storage platform that has integrated software-defined compute and network. Its expertise in storing petabyte-scale digital media has traditionally appealed to companies with large amounts of video data such as surveillance data and other media organizations. The company has made an effort to expand its customer base and for the first time this year reported that more than half of its bookings were from non-surveillance use cases. With its strong technology, Forrester expects Pivot3 to be an increasingly important vendor in this market.
Behind the three leaders, Forrester identified a handful of what it calls strong performers in this market. Atlantis Computing has traditionally been a company focused on storage software but it pivoted into the HCI market by partnering with Dell, Lenovo, HPE and Supermicro to offer compute and network components to its offering. Forrester says the company's strength is in its "aggressively priced" mid-market all flash storage nodes, which accommodate up to 24 TBs of data. The company sells exclusively through a channel network, so it sometimes struggles with name recognition and market footprint.
Gridstore has rebranded itself as HyperGrid and is unique in the market because of its focus on Microsoft environments. The company only supports Hyper-V for its compute virtualization, and also supports Windows Systems Center and Windows Server; it recently added support for Microsoft Azure Pack too. The company offers an all flash storage array with independently scaling compute and storage nodes. It scales to up to 64 compute nodes and 256 storage nodes and Forrester praises the company for its ability to set predefined guaranteed input/output levels for various classes of virtual machines the system creates.
Forrester believe that EMC is in a "good position" to be a major vendor in the HCI market because of its breadth of offerings and legacy installed customer base. There are two major EMC HCI platforms. One is the VxRail, which uses EMC storage components combined with VMware compute and network virtualization. (EMC is a majority shareholder of VMware stock). EMC has another product named VxRack which is for larger deployments. It comes in two flavors: One uses open source software management and storage from EMC’s ScaleIO division. A second version is based on VMware's Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC) software.
This is one of the newest members of the HCI market having only been founded as a company in 2013. On the positive side, the company has a strong platform based on various open source technologies such as KVM for virtualization and ZFS for virtualized storage. Its strengths are in workload and data migration capabilities, Forrester says. On the other hand, as a still relatively new startup the company is lacking some important HCI features, including deduplication technology and data compression (Forrester notes the company uses a duplication avoidance technology instead). Expect Stratoscale to continue to build out its product and gain market share as it does so.
The company traditionally known as the king of the virtualization market is expanding its portfolio to ensure that its compute, storage and network virtualization technologies (which they sell individually) are also packaged together in the form of an HCI offering, or used as components for other vendors’ HCI products. VMware claims to have 4,000 customers of its virtualized storage area network product (VSAN), making it one of the strongest vendors in this market. Customers can deploy VSAN, along with vSphere and NSX atop Cisco, Dell, HPE, Lenovo and Supermicro hardware or they can buy a pre-packaged EVO Rail system with all the components bundled together.
The networking giant is tackling HCI from multiple different angles. Its UCS Server line is used as the hardware component for many software-based HCI partnering vendors; the company has a partnership with Simplivity; it’s a got other partners in the software-defined storage market, and just this year has released the HyperFlex platform, which is its own HCI offering. This product uses licensed software from SpringPath to supply the various components needed to build an HCI system. Since the product is in the earliest stages of being rolled out adoption numbers are low. Given the company’s market share and customer base, Forrester expects HyperFlex to be an important player in the HCI market and for Cisco to continue supplying componentry to other HCI platforms too.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Similar to Cisco, HPE has all the components of an HCI system but only recently packaged them together into a bundled offering.
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Its called HC380 and it uses the company’s ProLiant DL380 Servers along with StorVirtual IP SAN and OneView management software, along with some componentry for automatically provisioning and automating workloads in the system. Also like Cisco, because the product is a newbie in the market user adoption is light, but Forrester expects HPE to be a big player.
Chinese networking and telecommunications giant Huawei is relatively new to the HCI market – releasing its FusionCube in 2014. Huawei offers the system with a choice of either all Huawei components, including FusionSphere virtualization and FusionStorage, or it also sells the platform with the option of using KVM or VMware virtualization software. Although the company has relatively nascent market share, it has been approved by SAP to be used as a platform for running HANA, giving it some credibility in the market.
Forrester only has one vendor listed as a “contender” in its wave report and that’s Scale Computing. The company is much smaller than the others in the list and focuses on selling to small and midsized businesses as well as being used for remote and branch office use cases. For these use cases it is a strong HCI vendor, but it has not gained traction in the enterprise market.