The 800-pound Gorilla in Hyperconverged – Eric Slack

By Evaluator Group, Monday, September 12th 2016

Analyst Blogs

HyperconvergedAt VMworld a couple weeks ago, Chad Sakac, President of VCE, DellEMC’s Converged Platform Division, made it clear that Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) solutions are a big part of the company’s plans moving forward. They’ve also had some early success. VxRail (which runs VSAN) is #2 in the market right now, according to Sakac, who said they have more than 2000 nodes deployed and that their goal is to be #1 by the end of 2017[1].

VxRail has no doubt leveraged the size of the EMC sales team in getting their HCI appliance in front of more customers. And, they should be able to expand on that with Dell’s sales force that has a bigger presence in the mid-market and SMB space, two areas that are strong for HCI appliances. But VCE, the group that manufactures Converged and Hyperconverged solutions, has its sights set up-market, with products that may make hyperconverged technologies more appealing to the enterprise.

Rack-scale HCI

VCE’s VxRack, is now a line of three products called VxRack System 1000, each running different software. These are essentially hyperconverged infrastructure solutions that are sold by the rack, with switches, SDN and other management software options. These solutions scale much larger than HCI appliances do and seem to be designed to appeal to enterprises looking for a true cloud-ready infrastructure. VCE calls them “hyperconverged rack-scale” solutions.

VxRack is offered in different configurations, with different server options including FLEX nodes with EMC’s ScaleIO software, Neutrino nodes with OpenStack and SDDC nodes with VMware’s VSAN, each primarily focused on the enterprise[2].

While some HCI appliance sales are making inroads into the enterprise, most are still comprised of mid-sized and SMB companies. One issue for bigger companies with larger deployments in mind, like private/hybrid clouds, has been scalability. VCE’s “rack-scale” HCI seems to be a good fit to address these challenges. With these products, and VxRail, plus their combined market footprint, DellEMC is looking like the proverbial 800 lb gorilla in the HCI space.

No Commodity Hardware from DellEMC?

Yet, we’re seeing the HCI market in general move towards a software focus, to what we call the Open Storage Platform, where customers are given more choices for hardware. This was one of the messages that came out of a recent Evaluator Group study on HCI in the Enterprise, a message echoed by current HCI appliance vendors that now offer more server options as well, both through private OEM products and channel partners.

However, even with the market moving towards this software focus and the use of industry-standard, commodity hardware, DellEMC seems to be sticking with a “hardware first” strategy. They may open these solutions up to other server platforms in the future, but for now the VxRack and VxRail products are only available with proprietary servers.

[1] Evaluator Group notes quoted numbers may include free software deployments. We have found the accounting for licenses and systems deployed has been very difficult to verify. That said VSAN was cited as a leading vendor in the Evaluator Group Enterprise HCI Study, July 2016

[2] Details on the products in Evaluator Group Premium Subscription

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