Hyperconverged Is a Form of Integrated System

Last week, Gartner released its 2015 Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems. I am interested in this because it includes hyperconverged infrastructure products, alongside a whole lot of other systems. One of the interesting things to see was that of the nineteen companies listed, four were new hyperconverged infrastructure companies. Of course, some of the existing vendors released products in the last year, many using VMware’s EVO:RAIL. Maybe Gartner should evaluate converged and hyperconverged separately from integrated systems that are bound to one application type.

I’d like to get one thing out of the way first. I find that the Gartner Magic Quadrant graphic is overused without a lot of context. I think that this leads to lazy decision making around technology. The full report has context and analysis, which can help to inform a decision around complex technologies. The graphic that we see simplifies everything into two dimensions that are not even about how a vendor’s product addresses customer requirements. The Magic Quadrant graphic seems more suited to investors looking to buy into these companies than to customers wanting to buy from them.

The analysis part of the document, which you can access through this sign-up that SimpliVity provided me, makes interesting reading. It definitely reflects a growing interest in hyperconverged infrastucture and, to some extent, a realization by larger vendors that their existing products are not addressing customer problems. Several large vendors have partnerships with HCI start-ups, while others have products based on VMware’s EVO:RAIL.

Gartner gives Nutanix a pretty great rating and likes the current product and feature set. It gives Nutanix credit for its vision of a data centre that runs a Nutanix hypervisor and management plane. It also calls out Nutanix’s new use of erasure coding to provide some data efficiency. The analyst who wrote about Nutanix had clearly learned a lot about its product, and I’d guess was at Nutanix’s .NEXT Conference to hear the vision laid out. I do wonder whether the analyst talked to customers about whether the data efficiency features are actually usable for a significant proportion of the company’s applications. I also feel that some of the covering comments about the hyperconverged infrastructure category were specifically about Nutanix. I’m not aware of any other HCI vendor that needs to offer a disk capacity only option to augment its solution. With over $300 million in funding, Nutanix has a great ability to execute, and we have seen it continue to grab a lot of attention.

I think Scale Computing will be happy to be categorized as a niche player. Scale has a clear vision of its market segment and is very focused on delivering what small and medium business (SMB) customers need from a hyperconverged infrastructure: simplicity. I suspect that Scale’s definition of SMB is a little smaller than Gartner’s, so the concern about replacing existing hypervisors doesn’t come into play, as the Scale customer has no existing hypervisor. Nimboxx looks interesting, with an amazing IOPS hero number and a focus on VDI. It is the first HCI vendor I have seen with its own virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product. Nimboxx acquired Verde and offers this on top of its hyperconverged infrastructure for a full VDI stack.

I’m not so sure that Gartner got close enough to SimpliVity for its analysis, as it doesn’t seem to fully understand the product features and usage. SimpliVity’s core value centers around simple management and data efficiency. Its core use is for server virtualization in medium-sized organizations. Gartner likes that it has had a lot of market adoption, and I imagine that its $276 million in funding will help with the ability to execute. What troubles me is that Gartner doesn’t seem to value SimpliVity’s replication and failover/failback capabilities and believes that VDI has been a lead use case for SimpliVity. SimpliVity replicates deduplicated VM data and allows a VM to be moved between data centres in seconds, even over intercontinental links.

Hyperconverged continues to be an interesting area of infrastructure. I’m sure next year’s Gartner Magic Quadrant report will feature a few new HCI companies. We also expect to see some changes in ownership; acquisitions and IPOs are inevitable. I hope you will look past the graphic and read the analysis in the report. Then, double check, as one analysis is seldom enough: there are always second and third opinions.

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