In January 2017, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced it would pay $650m cash for seven-year-old startup Simplivity.
The move has dispelled any lingering doubts over the potential for hyper-converged infrastructure to radically reshape the way organisations buy and deploy the platforms that run their IT operations.
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The acquisition is the latest development in a rapidly evolving market that is becoming very real, in which large numbers of organisations have begun to deploy a range of software-defined and hyper-converged infrastructure capabilities to run an expanding range of traditional and emerging IT workloads.
Hyper-converged is also now becoming a core weapon in the armoury of suppliers looking to demonstrate to customers that they can meaningfully change the fundamental economics of running core and edge IT infrastructure
This is not only a linchpin of any IT transformation strategy, but absolutely essential for any supplier that wants to demonstrate ongoing relevance in the era of public cloud.
HPE’s acquisition of Simplivity should further validate a market that until recently was mostly defined by a single startup specialist: Nutanix.
Let’s not forget that the now-public company was only founded in 2009 – three years after Amazon unveiled its first cloud computing service – and continues to be a major force in the hyper-converged infrastructure market. Nutanix now has over 4,500 customers, almost four times the approximate 1,300 customers Simplivity has so far accrued.
One crucial test of whether a market is becoming mainstream is the extent to which it is embraced by large incumbent suppliers.
As far as hyper-converged infrastructure is concerned, we are now approaching that point.
VMware recently said it has exceeded 7,000 customers for VSAN, the hyper-converged infrastructure software that is optimised for VMware environments.
Meanwhile, the combined Dell-EMC has highlighted hyper-converged infrastructure as a key growth market. Although to date this has mostly been built on the Nutanix-based Dell XC Series appliance, the merged company is focusing on its own stable of capabilities, which include the VxRail and VxRack hardware, that run VMware VSAN and the ScaleIO storage software stack.
Other major players are still hoping to make a run at hyper-converged infrastructure, including Cisco with HyperFlex, and there are still startups with momentum, including Pivot3 and Scale Computing.
Indeed, this broad range of participants highlights the diverse nature – and opportunity – that exists for hyper-converged infrastructure across a number of market segments.
Hyper-converged infrastructure initially had a reputation as primarily a remote office or branch office and departmental technology due to its promise of simplicity.
However, when asked where organisations had deployed hyper-converged infrastructure, 74.4% of respondents to 451’s Voice of the Enterprise (VoTE) server and converged infrastructure study said core or central datacentres.
This compares with only 26% deployed in departmental or regional datacentres, 26% deployed with third-party colocation or outsourced service providers and 19.4% deployed in remote or branch offices.
Signs of hyper-converged evolution
We believe this signals the rapid maturity of hyper-converged from supportive, edge infrastructure to being a primary infrastructure solution.
Also, organisations indicate plans to migrate a wide range of workloads to hyper-converged infrastructure over the next two years.
This includes workloads typically associated with hyper-converged deployments, such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), but also business-critical workloads such as ERP, email and industry-specific applications.
This highlights that there is still an awful lot of traditional on-premise infrastructure out there, and it is still worth fighting for. HPE’s acquisition of SimpliVity is yet another development on that front, and signals a fascinating journey ahead.
* 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise: server and converged infrastructure service tracks and analyses the disruption occurring in the market today and exposes the major opportunities for enterprises, IT service providers and vendors, suppliers and investors.
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