After writing the first two articles on HCI platforms 2 years ago, many vendors have thrown their hats in the ring. Still today, the major players mentioned in the second article maintain their spots in the upper right quadrant. The header image shows the 2016 Gartner MQ for Integrated Systems (at the time no HCI MQ existed) superimposed on the 2018 MQ for Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI).

A few changes in two years:

–        Dell acquired EMC and majority VMware stock

–        Cisco acquired Springpath

–        HP acquired Simplivity

–        Nutanix becomes software only (decoupled from HW)

o  Still tethered to specific HW platforms to maintain interoperability.

The Dell acquisition of EMC has created some modifications in EMC’s standings and Nutanix continues to be a strong player due to an expanding suite of tools. The HCI solutions from Nutanix, Cisco, HP, DellEMC, and others rely on VMware ESXi as the underlying Hypervisor (others work with Hyper-V and KVM derivatives as well, however most customers are still reported to be using ESXi).  Cloudistics (mentioned as an addendum to the second article) is no where to be seen. Despite what appeared to be a more highly-converged offering, their focus continues to be on managed service providers and not direct customers.

I attempt to leave my opinions out of these articles, however, I question Gartner’s position for Nutanix in the Magic Quadrant. If you omit the extended VMware ecosystem and just take the core HCI offerings into account, Gartner is on target. If, however, you include the expanded VMware offerings with any of these HCI platforms, you get a significantly more comprehensive SDDC (software-defined data center) capability. VMware provides monitoring and reporting (vROPs & Log Insight), network insight and virtualization (NSX & vRNI), native cloud integration (VMware on AWS or Horizon on Azure), automation and orchestration (vRA & vRO) among others. When coupled with the DellEMC suite of integrated solutions, including RecoverPoint for VMs (RP4VM) and the Integrated Data Protection Appliance (IDPA) or Avamar and DataDomain Virtual Editions (AvE & DDvE), a more comprehensive and integrated solution appears. While these tools are available across any VMware centric HCI solution, only one vendor, DellEMC uses the native VMware vSAN (if you discount the, pseudo-HCI, vSAN ready-nodes from all server vendors). VMware vSAN struggled with early releases, opening the door for competitors. Newer iterations of the software defined storage (SDS) platform have been much more stable and feature rich. The direct integration with the hypervisor removes additional overhead (complexity) from virtual appliances and ensures that all other VMware tools are natively supported. VMware vSAN accounted for the majority (33.3%) of 1H2017 HCI market revenue as reported by IDC and has continued to grow.

When considering hybrid/multi-cloud models, VMware provides the exact same software-defined capabilities on premise and in the cloud, enabling a more seamless IaaS platform. This equates to less administrative overhead and substantial cost savings over approaches that require conversion of the underlying virtualization layers.

While VMware holds the title for vSAN-based HCI solutions, Dell EMC holds the title for HCI infrastructure revenue.

As companies work to transform traditional IT infrastructure into modern, flexible and scalable datacenter of the future with an eye toward the cloud, VMware centric solutions are leading the charge.

It will be interesting to see what the next few years have in store for the HCI market. One can only assume that hardware will continue to take a back-seat to software-defined solutions. However, anyone that suggests that the hardware manufacturer doesn’t matter (think supportability, scalability and security), should re-evaluate based on current events.