Peter ffoulkes, Research Director for Servers and Cloud Computing
In case you hadn’t noticed, the IT world is going through a sea change, arguably the largest to occur in 30 years or so. Intel architecture-based servers run the majority of enterprise workloads, virtualized architectures dominate, and cloud-based delivery models – private, public, hybrid – are considered to be the way of the future. Although some kind of ‘software-defined infrastructure’ is the architectural vision of the future, the underlying hardware platforms – servers, network and storage – need to be able to support the required integration and cooperate seamlessly.
Converged infrastructure gathers momentum
Cisco shook up the server-vendor market with the introduction of its UCS platform in 2009, a well-designed and well-accepted platform for virtualized workloads that integrated x86-based servers with networking capabilities. Perhaps Cisco’s best move at the time was to remain storage-agnostic and partner with the market’s leading enterprise storage vendors: EMC, NetApp and HDS. As a strategy, it served Cisco well. In particular, enterprise customers liked the multi-vendor best-of-breed approach over the single-vendor solutions perhaps best characterized by offerings from HP and IBM.
Over the intervening period, converged infrastructure offerings have gained traction and are cited as in use by 25% of respondents, with 18% planning first-time use in the next two-plus years and 21% planning increased spending. From the vendor perspective, the multi-vendor alliance faction (VCE, Cisco, NetApp, EMC, etc.) far outstrips the single-vendor approaches, which are led by HP, with Dell, IBM and Oracle a considerable distance behind.
A change of tune and a change of partners
A few years ago, during the financial meltdown, there was lots of talk about banks that were too big to fail. Now we have large IT vendors that are too big to succeed. HP is splitting itself asunder; IBM has sold the Intel-based server division to Lenovo. The CEOs of Cisco, EMC and Oracle are all involved in succession planning. We are witnessing the passing of the old order, and with that comes change and a shift to new alliances.
NetApp is introducing a new VMware-spec-based Integrated EVO:RAIL offering that muddies the positioning with its FlexPod offering. Cisco and IBM have added to the multi-vendor community with the introduction of the new converged ‘VersaStack Integrated Solution’ offering that combines Cisco UCS with IBM’s Storwize V7000 storage system. Is this the beginning of Lenovo’s ‘Winter of Discontent,’ or is Lenovo just planning a glorious summer with a whole new set of beach-party goers for future converged offerings that do not include IBM? One is left wondering whether PureSystems will be quite so pure going forward.
To add to the mix, there is a plethora of hyperconverged vendors beginning to gain attention, including Nutanix, SimpliVity and other new contenders to the throne. Against this background of unrest, anecdotal commentary illustrates the risk-averse tendencies expressed by TheInfoPro respondent community:
- “Two years ago we put in IBM’s PureFlex, but backed off because of the selling of pieces of their business to Lenovo. Not so much that camp.” – MSE, Public Sector
- “It’s hard to say where we’re headed in this category. We always watch the converged offerings, but aren’t sure when and how to move forward.” – LE, Consumer Goods/Retail
- “Leaning toward FlexPod over Vblock because of cost and customizability.” – LE, Energy/Utilities
- “Both primary vendors are fighting for market share (EMC and HP), and so there are compatibility issues.” – LE, Consumer Goods/Retail
- “We think it is cool technology with a flawed business model. With current converged infrastructure, you are stuck with vendor lock-in.” – LE, Financial Services