Cisco To Buy Nutanix?

This is about as likely to happen as me becoming a vegetarian.

nobody-likes-vegetarians11Which is not to say that it’s not an outright impossibility, but the probability is very very low. Like many people, I’ve heard the rumors of Cisco looking to buy their way into the Hyper Converged Infrastructure marketplace. It certainly makes sense for Cisco to make a play in this space as today they have no real competitive product of their own. Yes they certainly have a large number of product offerings with partners that would allow them to stay in the discussion, (VSAN Ready, Maxta, SimpliVity are all partnerships) but nothing that lets them capture the entire revenue stream (SW and HW)

Financially It Makes Sense

I can see why the financial analysts would say that a Cisco/Nutanix pairing would be smart. Personally I think it nutanixnodewould be smart. It would give Cisco a dominate position in the HCI space, allow them to expand their reach into the SMB/SME space where they struggle at times when it comes to compute offerings. It would put them in a place of market leadership as well, and when viewed through the singular prism of a financial viewpoint its easy to see why the bean counter analysts would see this as a great pairing. But, and there’s always a but, the technology doesn’t fit.

A move to Cisco would require a ground up design effort

Nutanix delivery vehicle is a standard 2U 4 Node solution, in my view this makes up the bulk of their UCS-Scalablesales. Yes they have other offerings that are 2Node and Single Node based, but the vast majority of their sales come from the basic Nutanix block. Their partnership with Dell (which I’ve heard is working well) was a validation effort, not necessarily a pure engineering one. Dell had a delivery vehicle that fit the Nutanix standard, and at that point it’s a qualification effort around drivers, firmware, etc.

Today, Cisco does not have a 2U 4Node solution, at least not one that I have ever seen in the flesh. I’ve not even heard of a “rumor” of a solution like this. Today the primary Cisco compute deliver vehicles are Rack and Blade systems. Alternately, the M-Series modular solutions are seeing traction in the Service Provider, Web Host customer base, but that solution would require some significant engineering on the part of Nutanix engineering to fit into that deconstructed server model.

Cisco would need to design and build a 2U 4Node solution from the ground up, which is no small task, and more than likely at a minimum a 1 year effort if not 2. On top of that, there are all the integration points with the current Cisco model of management with UCS Manager and UCS Director. Director is not as heavy a lift as UCS Manager. The Nutanix method of management from their Prism portal would need to be integrated into UCSM/UCSD at some point. It doesn’t have to happen on day one, but in my view that would be the direction that Cisco would want to take it.

What about Stateless Computing?

That is the message that Cisco has presented with their UCS platform, and it’s why Hyper Converged has been a difficult sell for the rank and file Cisco sales teams and Cisco partners. The move has always been to remove the intelligence, and storage from the compute solutions and move it into the Fabric Interconnects, this poses a problem for the go to market model that Hyper Converged presents which brings everything back into the host node. It will be interesting to see how any HCI solution gets integrated into the Cisco compute mantra. It also presents another problem for Nutanix (or Maxta, SimpliVity) who would want to be part of the Cisco UCS story.

From a networking side of things, VIC integration would be a bit of a challenge as well. Support for Single/Dual wire management to the FI’s is not a trivial matter. I believe the initial SimpliVity/Cisco based solution was 2Wire to start and moved to 1Wire over time. It’s simply another item to take a look at in terms of integration headaches.

Stealth Edit: OMG $$$$$

One item that in my rush to publish I forgot to mention is buying Nutanix is expensive. We are not talking a quick purchase here, we are talking 3B+ in order for this to work. Obviously, with 50+Billion sitting over-seas Cisco could easily pull the trigger on a purchase of this magnitude, but the more likely situation exists where a debt offering is made to cover the cost. Repatriating 3B in cash at 35% US tax rate is far more expensive than a debt issuance at 3%.Other potential fits will come in as expensive (some more than others) but not Nutanix-Expensive. There has to be a return on investment, and at current state, the HCI market is still not quite a 1B annual run rate business (not to say that can’t change, but that’s a different blog post all together)

There are better fits out there

SimpliVity_Cisco_square_webpageToday Cisco has a rather convoluted approach to the HCI space. They have loose partnerships with a number of 3rd party vendors and look to leverage those as needed based on the use case. Gridstore, StorMagic, SimpliVity, Maxta, VSAN Ready, and others all fall into the bucket of HCI/SDS offerings that Cisco can go to market with. None of those solutions allow Cisco to capture the full revenue stream of a HCI offering though, and at that, they simply allow them to be part of the conversation with customers, but frankly, doesn’t get them many wins.

It would be far smarter for Cisco to purchase one of the existing HCI partnership solutions that are already qualified on their UCS platform. SimpliVity and Maxta would make the most sense, with SimpliVity being the more mature of the solutions available. Either of those would allow Cisco to go to market on day one of acquisition without an significant engineering effort. The ramp would be for the sales/marketing teams. There would be no messy technology port (which is what they would have to do with Nutanix). And both of those solutions appear in my view to be viable enough for Cisco to be highly relevant in the HCI customer discussion and capture a large portion of HCI business.

Rumors

The tech industry is full of rumors, we hear them all the time in discussion with customers, partners, and each other. At the end of the day most of them are unfounded, and tech journalists do the industry a dis-service by publishing rumor and speculation as fact/near-fact. I myself have no specific knowledge of any impending purchase, and like others I can speculate and offer my opinions based on what I think would be a good fit vs not-good. My past experience with both Cisco and SimpliVity affords me a bit more tribal knowledge, and I’m not approaching this from a pure financial point of view, but more from a technical one.

That said, I have no inside information, or knowledge about any impending purchases. My personal opinion is that Cisco will act at some point in the near future to make an acquisition either in the Storage or Hyper Converged space, and with Cisco Live just around the corner would be a good time to make an announcement.

Posted in Cisco, HyperConvergence, Nutanix, SimpliVity, Tech Marketing | 9 Comments

DEVOPLOIS Edition #3: Container Wars

TScreen Shot 2015-04-21 at 7.38.23 AMhings are heating up something fierce in the Container space as of late. This edition will focus a bit around the big announcements of the last week.  Microsoft and VMware both are starting to invest heavily in container and microservices offerings that will lure the cloud savvy customer base into their folds. VMware has pulled out all the stops when it comes to their full fledged entry into the Container world with the launch of Open Source projects or “Cloud Native Apps”: Photon, Lattice, and Lightwave. Make sure to read the Platform article as its probably the best at laying out what VMware is looking to do. Look for the throngs of VMware fanboys to push heavily into what should be a fairly new space for many of them.

I for one will be very curious to read into the positioning of these technologies, and the benefit afforded by leveraging a hypervisor in a world where bare metal is the dominate delivery vehicle (at least based on the customers I’ve been working with). More thoughts to follow.

Posted in Cloudy, DevOpolis, DevOps, VMWare | Leave a comment

DevOpolis Edition #2: OpenStack Summit, Vote Early | Vote Often

This weeks EdScreen Shot 2015-02-22 at 10.00.28 AMition brings tries to grab a swath of “Vote for Me” links into one area. It’s amazing how many sessions are being submitted by the various vendors, and I think it lends credence to their push to engage at a full partnership level with the OpenStack community. It also means that with so many vendors pushing for sessions, that the voices of the common man may be diluted.  At this stage, OSS is starting to take on the feel of earlier VMworld conferences, say circa 2009/2010. And with that comes the maturation into a vendor driven conference, that is still very much driven by the developer community at large. This is bound to happen as the platform matures, and as businesses start to adopt it whole sale. As I wrote the other day, the Developers have won, and as such their voices will carry more weight, and the growth of OSS is one more inflection point that backs this.

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The Developers Have Won

Because I have nothing better to do on a Saturday night I thought I’d jot down a few random thoughts that have been floating around in my head. So this post may be a bit disjointed or rambling in nature, forgive me. If you would have told me 5 years ago that the Developer team within the company I worked for would be driving  the technological direction of IT within the organization, I would have laughed at you. Harken back to 2009, and what you would have seen in many organizations was a centrally planned IT, lead primarily from the infrastructure, administration, and operations teams. Developers, well they were not calling the shots, they were in many instances beholden to a rigid ideology that came from those central planners.

DevOpsToday, the developers have won control, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Furthermore the approaches to infrastructure are becoming more developer focused. The programability around all things “software defined” is dominating the focus of IT needs, and in turn we have entered the age of app-centric infrastructure. Todays new application approach is a scalable, agile, self healing, resilient, automated, distributed system, focused on programability (buzzword overload).  The apps are driving the business, and defining the infrastructure. The apps are created by the developer teams, and the operational efficiencies being achieved with this new focus are allowing businesses to achieve unheard of agility and ability to respond to the economic realities that a globally connected society demands.The goal is real time decision making, and the means to get to that point requires an infrastructure and development platform that can respond in real time as well.

The New Normal

If we look at the rapid rise of OpenStack, Chef/Puppet, the hyper-growth of Docker and containerization, as well as the far too many to name startups that are focused on the concepts around DevOps space, we see that there is a fundamental shift in how applications are being created, managed, and deployed. The “Cloud” was the enabler for this new normal mindset, and now there is a shift to bring the elastic nature that cloud presents inside the business and gain full control. These systems are taking greater advantage of the Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.34.53 AMadvancements made in the infrastructure space. The “new normal” is to craft apps that understand these changes and can adapt as quickly as the changes take place.  In this landscape commodity hardware will dominate, and custom built hardware based solutions will be shunned. At true Web Scale, platforms like what is being done with the Open Compute project will be the infrastructure of choice, where down the food chain, Rack Scale, and Hyper Convergence will provide the basic building blocks for IT.

To close out, it’s a great time to be working in this space. Nearly every customer I speak with today is working to implement this new operational model, and it’s great to see all of the new companies that are popping up to meet the new challenges that this space presents. The biggest challenge I see right now, is keeping up with it all.

Posted in Cloudy, DevOpolis, DevOps | 6 Comments

EMC’s Tom Sawyer Strategy for Hyper Converged

AprilFool_TomSawyerMark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawer” was a book I read when I was in Elementary School and tells the story about Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn growing up along the Mississippi river and some of the adventures the two boys get into. One of the classic passages in the book is how as punishment for getting his clothes dirty, Tom is made to Whitewash his Aunts fence, a chore that would take considerable time, and effort yet yield him no personal reward. Utilizing his clever wit, and intellectual prowess, Tom convinces the boys of the neighborhood to trade him their small personal treasures for the “privilege” of doing the work for him. By the end of the day, there are 3 coats of whitewash on the fence, and Tom has a horde of treasures from the towns boys. Tom muses that “all it takes to make someone want something is to make that thing hard to get.”

Now you may be thinking, how does this story fit in with Hyper Convergence, or EVO:Rail?

If we look at evorailsthe EVO:Rail platform, at its core, its a simple hardware effort that any OEM/ODM could create and deliver to their customers, yet on its own, without the VMware Software integration it has almost zero value. Up until the Hype Converged market was created, there is very little demand for a 2U 4Node server with internal storage in the general IT world, at least there wasn’t until Nutanix came to market with their initial design. And while that platform today takes several different shapes and sizes, the base unit that is sold is the 2U 4Node configuration.

So today what do we have, HP, Dell, Super Micro, Hitachi, EMC, and a host of other box pushers rushing out the door with their own Hyper Converged EVO:Rail systems, none of them so far setting the world on fire, none of them so far, actually providing any value above and beyond the base template that EVO:Rail provides. Yet only one of those players is adopting the Tom Sawyer strategy, and that would be EMC.

Enter Tom Sawyer

In concept, EMC isn’t actually building their VSPEX:Blue system in the same manner as they would a VNX, it’s a template/reference architecture for Hyper Converged and as such they actually don’t craft and ship you a box themselves. The systems are actually sold and driven through their large partner organization, who places the order and then receives the units from manufacturing (Foxconn/Intel). This is different than their bread and butter storage business.

In this respect, EMC doesn’t have to carry the inventory, the insurance of goods, the risk associated with building too many or too few units, the shipping or crafting of the final product, etc. The turn around time on these systems is short enough that they may not even have to pre-seed a warehouse with first sale units if they don’t have to. Yet in turn, they capture a huge margin on the sale of each unit by selling the software package that goes along with each one, as well as follow on business if customers decide to expand the licensing that comes with each system (15 units of recover point is just a taste).

VMware gets their cut for the base EVO:Rail licensing, and EMC gets their cut for the value add portion that is afforded with each unit. In that respect, much like Tom Sawyer convinced the boys in the neighborhood to white wash the fence in exchange for their personal treasures, EMC is convincing their partner ecosystem to do go forth and sell their Hyper Converged system while reaping the lions share of the treasure, and  VMware is doing the same when it comes to EVO:Rail because in reality the platform is a simple vehicle to sell advanced VMware licenses. This strategy removes much of the risk in taking on a new market space, yet provides the lions share of the reward by packaging and selling existing software products as part of the solution.

All this plays out in opposition to the other Hyper Converged vendors who still have to carry the bulk of the risk laid out above, as well as pay a sales force to push it, In turn, the Tom Sawyer approach will yield much higher returns on investment and allows EMC to focus nearly 100% on the much higher margin Rack Scale converged offerings that VCE is providing. Bottom line, they can tackle the Hyper Converged market without doing much work, and still make higher profit margins doing so compared to their competitors.

Fun Fact: the impetus for this post came from a dream I had that woke me up at 4:30AM today where Joe Tucci came to a house party. I don’t know why that triggered the above thoughts, or why I’m dreaming about Joe Tucci, but hey it prompted a flood of thought that I had to push out of my brain. So if you find yourself waking up from strange dreams and compelled to write about them, go for it.

And now for your listening pleasure:

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Doing “IT” The Hard Way, or Why You Should Be Hyper Converged

So to counter balance my other piece from this week on some of the challenges that the Hyper Converged Infrastructure space faces, I thought I would argue the flip side of the coin. If you are not looking to take a Hyper Converged First approach to your infrastructure needs, you are throwing away your money.

Doing “IT” The Hard Way

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 4.49.07 AMLet’s face it, Virtualization first tends to be the dominate strategy for most companies today unless they have a very specific kind of workload for which Virtualization is not a good fit. Be it VMware, KVM, Hyper-V, Proxmox, CoreOS/Docker, etc. The ability to create flexible portable workloads in the data center is the de facto standard for application deployment and management. So why are we continuing to build IT infrastructure that fits the old silo’d models of delivery? If we are virtualizing everything in the server application space, why are we not doing the same for the infrastructure itself?

As I said in my previous post, Hyper Convergence brings Simplicity. There is nothing simple about the Legacy IT Stack, quite to the contrary if you look at the image above, every one of those hardware pieces is simply a commodity x86 server running Linux. Each has its own management console, power/cooling, support contract, and requirement for training. None of these components have an inherent interconnected awareness of each other. So as we look to provide virtualized workloads to our end users, why are we also not looking to virtualize the infrastructure along with it? This is the promise of Hyper Convergence. It brings the ability to reduce the high cost, and high complexity of a legacy IT model that was designed for the previous era of computing. It also offers an easy, repeatable, and scalable delivery model, without the increased complexity of a disaggregated infrastructure stack.

Competing Approaches To The Modern Data Center

For the heavily virtualized customer base, those in the 70-100% Virtualized range, or for customers looking to address that specific infrastructure there tends to be two approaches that will come to Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 5.00.56 AMdominate the decision making process in the future, and those approaches will hinge very much on the number of workloads they are looking to deploy. I interviewed Chad Sakac at VMware Partner Exchange last week around the introduction of VSPEX:Blue for Cisco’s Engineers Unplugged, and he laid out the scope of how EMC looks at their customer base and it falls very much in line with the thinking behind all of the various Hyper Converged players: 1000 VM’s and below: Hyper Converged, 1000 VM’s and Above: Rack Converged.

Now the Hyper Converged Vendors will tell you there is no actual upper limit to their capabilities, I do believe that this “Number of VM’s” approach to infrastructure tends to make sense because of the diversity of workloads that will be deployed by organizations once they reach a specific VM density. Unless we are talking strictly about VDI, organizations with over 1000 Virtual Machines in my experience have much greater diversity of applications that would cause them to look at the engineered Rack Scale solutions instead of Hyper Converged. And yes, one of these days I will go into much more depth about Rack Scale, just not today.

Expanding Opportunities and Use Cases

landandexpand

Having been part of an initial go to market sales team in the early stages of the Hyper Converged marketplace, I’ve been afforded a unique opportunity to see what early successes looked like, as well as what kind of dynamics are at play as VAR’s start to adopt a Hyper Converged play as part of their product portfolio. After that initial first 6 months of evangelizing and bringing the message to the masses (I presented to over 500 customers in a single year), it became clear that some of our initial thoughts on where early success would materialize were misplaced, while other areas where we had not initially focused turned out to be amazingly successful. As a customer looks at an initial project, perhaps a QA or Dev Cluster, the ease of use, simplicity in deployment, and all-in-one nature of the Hyper Converged Infrastructure afforded customers the flexibility and agility to provision resources much faster than their prior Legacy stack solutions. That in turn lead to more business, and an expansion of the number of units within the org. What mattered most in many instances was to observe the systems operating in house, gain the appropriate level of trust in the system and the vendor, and finally to gain widespread adoption and acceptance. Its very much like a virus in how it can penetrate the skin of the organization, and spread, and in many instances, take over entirely.

Destroy All Silos

silosOne of the final items I wanted to touch on in regards to HCI, is one benefit that I don’t think gets enough focus;  the opportunity afforded to flatten the IT workspace and reduce the silo effect that is a direct result of the Legacy IT Stack. After 15 years working in the end user space, and as a member of various silos myself, I came to loathe them primarily because of the inefficiencies they injected into day to day operations, the constant turf battles, and the prolonged and drawn out impact they had on achieving any form of technical agility. The Legacy Stack and its individual components are the prime reason we have these silos in the first place, so I can see the adoption of Hyper Convergence being a first step into their removal.

Now I’m fully aware that for certain organizations, the complexity of their operations lends itself well to the use of a Silo system, but I submit that for that type of organization, Hyper Convergence is more than likely not going to be an initial good fit. I also understand that the subject matter experts or team members with a primary focus on one technological aspect will always be part of the IT space. Still, this doesn’t mean that cross functional teams should not be a primary goal for smaller organizations, and that their ultimate benefit is a workforce that has a far stronger cooperative group dynamic. The days of being “the storage guy” or “the server guy” are closely approaching end times, and in many respects they are already here for many groups. Once again, the simplicity of the Hyper Converged approach takes complexity out of the base foundation to IT infrastructure to the benefit of the entire team.

Hyperactive Growth

My prior piece on the “hype” around Hyper Converged generated a lot of discussion, and that was the hyperactivemain intent of writing it. I had always planned to provide a piece on the opposite side of the spectrum to even things out. In a very short time period, Hyper Convergence has gone from a new concept with a handful of startup companies participating, to a hyper growth mode, where the major OEM’s are now scrambling to bring their own unique solutions to the market to make up for lost ground. It’s very much an exciting thing to witness, and I for one enjoy being able to comment and discuss it. As always commentary is welcome. Cheers for now.

 

Posted in Enterprise Tech, HyperConvergence, Nutanix, Rack Scale, SimpliVity | 2 Comments

DevOpolis Edition #1: Hello World

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 4.52.15 PMSo with the number of VMware vExperts topping 1000, it was becoming a little unwieldy to continue to scan through a thousand blogs and curate a vExpert Weekly Flipboard magazine, alas I let it kind of wither and die on the vine. If anyone else in the community has the time to carry on with the concept please let me know.

Now I find myself working in a different area and focus, much less standard virtualization and much more Cloud/DevOps oriented. I read a lot and am always trying to educate myself on the various platforms and products relevant to this space and as such, I’m creating a new Flipboard Magazine called DevOpolis that will be dedicated to a host of technologies, but will primarily focus on DevOps, Containerization, Automation, Cloud Computing, OpenStack, OpenCompute, and other Open Source efforts. So for your reading pleasure, please check out DevOpolis Edition #1: Hello World

As usual feedback is much welcomed. If you would like to have your blog added to my list just shoot me a message on Twitter @Bacon_Is_King. Hope you enjoy.

Posted in Cloudy, DevOpolis, DevOps, Enterprise Tech | Leave a comment

With Hyper Converged: Don’t Believe the Hype???

public-enemy-2013-rock-n-roll-nominee-black-enterpriseIt’s about time for a contrarian viewpoint around Hyper Convergence, and what better place to put it forth than from one of its prime cheerleaders (me). With EMC entering the Hyper Converged marketplace with VSPEX:Blue, and the impending releases of the major VMware OEM partners and their EVO:Rail solutions, I thought I would take a hard look at the state of the Hyper Converged market 5 years on and try to give a fair analysis of the market in terms of where it’s being successful and where it’s not.

Disclaimer: I have no proprietary information to share here, all of this comes from my observations of public statements made by various customers, and vendors in this space.

OMG THE TAM IS HUGE!

Nearly all of the Hyper Converged vendors will pitch that the TAM (Total Addressable Market) is huge. idc_marketscape_2014_hyperconverged_suppliersThe three claims by the analyst community that I have seen are Gartner: 6 Billion by 2014, IDC: 17 Billion by 2016, and Forrester 40 Billion by 2018. That’s a pretty big stretch and an amazing growth rate if it turns out to be true. The reality on the other hand is something totally different. Let’s take the recent IDC analysis of the Hyper Converged market. This graph has Nutanix clearly in the lead, a point that I find to be 100% valid. It also has them with roughly 5X the sales of its nearest competitor SimpliVity and Scale Computing, which I would also say is valid. Let’s face it, they have a good head start on everyone else in the market place having had product shipping since roughly 2011. Nutanix is claiming a run rate of business of around $300 Million.

Do you see the rest of the players in this space accounting for the other 5.4 Billion that Gartner claimed would be the TAM for 2014? No, at best you can equate the rest of the markets combined run rate of business at roughly $500 Million per year. Now for an emerging market that’s fairly impressive, but lets put it into a different context, 500 Million is roughly the entire Fibre Channel HBA market world wide. For all the claims that Hyper Convergence is taking over the data center, one has to ask how is that so if these companies, who are pioneers in the space, are not taking off in terms of sales that would make a dent in the multi-billion dollar Server/Storage market, let alone eclipsing a legacy storage transport market?

Now to be fully fair, I’m pretty sure that the analyst firms are bundling in the standard Converged Infrastructure players into this market space as well. The devils always in the details, and if we were to include VCE/FlexPod/Exadata/PureSystems etc into the mix that 6 Billion number looks a lot more appealing than my estimated 500 Million. VCE hit a run rate of 2 Billion this year per their claims. For those playing at home, thats 4X the entire Hyper Converged market today.

So Easy A Caveman Could Do It.

so_easy_a_caveman_can_do_it_tv_show_announcementHyper Converged vendors are most certainly first and foremost selling Simplicity. Nearly all of their sales pitches discuss how simple it is to deploy, manage, and configure (sounds like a VMware course title), and from what I’ve seen they deliver on that promise. I took the EVO:Rail challenge at VMworld Europe and knocked it out in 15:06, that’s a full 6 seconds  past the 15 minute claims by VMware for reading the document and doing any error correction in the data entry portion. So whats the problem with that? Well all of the Hyper Converged systems are Channel Sales driven, that means VARs (Value Added Resellers) are you go to market vehicle that bolsters your sales team. None of these companies are taking the business direct, even EMC is saying that VSPEX:Blue will be 100% channel.

Riddle me this, if I’m a VAR, and I already get slim margins on Hardware Sales (anywhere from 3-7%) where do I get to make the bulk of my money? That’s right, Services. What happens to all those billable hours that I used to charge for installing and designing the “legacy infrastructure” for my customers as their “Trusted Advisor” when I sell them a Hyper Converged system that they can have up and running in 15 minutes on their own?

This is a question I’ve posed to many people and no one seems to have a compelling answer so far. I know there are huge margins in the Hyper Converged space. These products are not cheap, but the OEM’s are the ones making the bulk of the money here, not the Channel partners who are selling it. Sure there will be SPIF’s and incentives to push product, that’s the nature of the beast, but what about those sweet, sweet, billable hours that are so much gravy ladled over the IT sales process? I’m sure there is a good answer out there somewhere to this question, but so far I’ve not heard a compelling one, and in my own experiences one of the first questions that arrises during the initial conversation with VAR’s I was working to recruit was: “How do I make up for this lost revenue?” Good question. Anyone have a good answer?

The Mis-Match Game

The last point I wanted to touch on was what I call the “Mis-Match Game”, how do the Hyper Converged matchgameplayers address the mismatch between Storage and Compute ratios that invariably will appear with an all-in-one approach? How do customers still find a way to leverage their investments in the legacy stack that they have depend on for the last two decades? Some of the vendors in this space attempt to do this by opening up the Storage functionality to external compute, but that will only let you scale compute resources. The challenge ends up being what if I want just a little bit of storage, or a whole bunch of compute?Certainly for some IT Shops it will not be a major concern if I have to scale one additional node, but what if that scalable unit is 4 like it currently is with EVO:Rail? Invariably there is a mismatch and customers end up buying more of what they truly need and as an industry, we have been pitching “right sizing” of environments since the dawn of time. This can be a fairly hefty financial impact for a target market that is currently geared towards the SMB/Mid-Market customer whose IT budgets are fairly tight to begin with.

This poses a significant challenge to customers and vendors alike, and to be honest, I find some of the arguments against this point to be very weak. What the customer makes up for in reduced complexity, they lose in terms of a very rigid infrastructure model that is not well adjusted to unforeseen change or mutation. I’ll tell you that speaking from my own experiences, the holy grail of an “All-in-One Datacenter” sounds great on paper to many customers, but it doesn’t always end up being so elegant in practice. As this space continues to mature, it will be interesting to see how the current crop of vendors attempt to address this point.

 So which way do we go with Hyper Convergence??

looney tunes abominable snowmanNone of above is a terminal to the Hyper Converged space. To the contrary, this space didn’t even exist 4 years ago, it’s starting to build an attractive run rate of business, and there is significant validation of the Hyper Converged concept by the entry of EMC, HP, Dell, etc. who are always looking to increase their bottom lines.

Let’s be real here, it takes time to change 20+ years of how IT has done business and it won’t happen overnight. I simply offer these examples as check points against much of the Hype that I see every day. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the echo-chamber of the influencer community to which I belong and play, customers tend to have a lot more riding on their infrastructure bets, namly their jobs. So they are going to cast a far more skeptical eye on these solutions, and in turn will be voting with their wallets.

Coming soon: Moving Beyond Hyper Converged, Rack Scale.

 

Posted in HyperConvergence, Nutanix, SimpliVity, Virtualization | 11 Comments

2014: Validation of Hyper Convergence – 2015 Hyper Converged Goes Mainstream

2014: Validation of Hyper Convergence

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 12.38.37 PMLooking back on 2014 I saw it as  the year that Hyper Convergence  has come into its own as a legitimate data center technology. It’s rare that I don’t run into a customer in my day to day discussions that is not evaluating one of the current Hyper Converged vendors, or looking to adopt or develop a strategy for how Hyper Converged can become part of their IT infrastructure to some extent. I chalk this up to three main factors that continue to be the major challenges that IT faces today :Complexity – Data Growth – Scalability. The Hyper Converged systems today aim to address those three areas, but they also are seeking to become the standard building block unit for most virtualized workloads.

Delivering Simplicity

simplicityThe Hyper Convergence promise is simplicity. That’s the first and foremost value proposition provided to the end user. The ability to plug in, turn on, and deploy workloads in a time frame that surpasses the traditional multi-vendor reference architecture deployment model is a strong motivating factor for customers who are looking at the Hyper Converged appliance based model. This is especially true if they have a strong understanding of their workload needs, and are looking at a fairly static growth pattern. That is one of the key winning aspects of a Hyper Converged solution over the engineered Converged Infrastructure plays like vBlock and Flexpod. Compared to the first generation Converged Infrastructure systems, the design aspects involved with Hyper Converged systems often are a driving factor in its adoption as well. You need 5000 VDI seats? Simple, here is a 400 desktop based appliance, go do the math. To some that may seem as an oversimplification, but that is indeed the approach that many Hyper Converged vendors will take when engaging with customers, and at times it’s hard to argue against that approach. The ability to design around pre-determined chunks of compute and storage, ie: the lego data center approach, is another strong factor in favor of Hyper Convergence. The abstraction of the complexity that goes into making all of the interwoven pieces of the legacy stack work together is removed, thus the removal of complexity of design, this all points to the ability to deliver simplicity.

A Jack of All Trades

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The “one size fits all” approach to the data center is not without its pitfalls. Sure Hyper Converged solutions are simple to design, easy to deploy, and  are well suited to a majority of virtualized workloads, but I’d hazard a guess that most data centers are not a simple homogeneous environment, and that is why in the first two years of their arrival, the solutions have been targeting the specific use cases around ROBO, QA/Test/Dev and VDI. Much like the same way that Virtualization made its inroads into nearly every IT shop on the planet. this new way of providing infrastructure is going after the low hanging fruit, yet I see adoption and acceptance occurring at a more rapid pace than what VMware faced from 2004-2009.  One could ask, If the appliance based Hyper Converged solutions address all of our data center needs, then why are we not seeing it become the defacto  infrastructure platform adopted today?

Well, this is where I get to throw out, “it’s complicated”, because in theory Hyper Convergence can address almost any workload that is virtualized today.  Still, the entrants in the space are young, and that means that the focus will first and foremost be on the lower risk spaces of ROBO, Test/Dev, and VDI. This isn’t necessarily a limitation of its capabilities, but more so a realization that risk aversion tends to rule the day when it comes to production infrastructure. I do not expect this to be the case for 2015, especially since VMware is enabling so many OEM groups to become market participants without having to do much in the way of actually creating anything other than the vessel of delivery.

Prediction Time: 2015 Hyper Convergence Goes Mainstream

On the last episode of In Tech We Trust, we discussed Hyper Convergence in detail as part of the 2014 Trends, and I offered some of my thoughts on where I see the space going. To elaborate a bit further, I would expect a few things to happen this year.

nutanixI’d look for Nutanix to IPO this year. Hitting the 5 year mark, with nearly 3 of those with a shipping product bodes well for them, along with their published run-rate of business hitting the 200M mark and a 2 Billion Valuation. Stronger expansion into Europe and APJ, coupled with the reseller agreement with Dell are also beneficial. I’ve also seen a toning down of some of the more caustic rhetoric from some of their team members, that tends to be a sign that the adults have taken a stronger leadership role. All of this points to the move to go public. I personally believe they should have launched their IPO prior to VMware announcing EVO:Rail, but  the case can still be made that the momentum of VMware’s EVO partners going into the market, and a general shift for standard virtualized compute adopting more of the “Software Defined” aspects will offer numerous reasons for the street to see investment value. Does this mean I think that Nutanix is the clear winner in the Hyper Converged space, no it does not, but for now they have the strongest mind-share, and a diverse enough offering to give them top billing.

simplivitySimpliVity should be looking towards a very large D round of funding that will facilitate further growth.While they do not get the kind of marketing and community buzz that Nutanix does, SimpliVity has a very robust platform and significant intellectual property in their portfolio. Their partnering with Cisco is a much smarter move in my view than the Nutanix/Dell relationship (more on that on another post), and will allow them to leverage the large UCS installation base and strong Cisco partner network. What remains to be seen is how much integration between the two platforms will be done as there is no direct UCS integration right now, though I believe it would be prudent for them to work on that quickly. The original platform based on Dell worked to launch the product, but I see the Cisco relationship being the one that brings them a larger measure of success and awareness. I’d also look for them to announce a secondary hypervisor support in 2015, most likely being Hyper-V which has good traction in the SLED/FED space (an area I see SimpliVity having much success in).

evoEVO:Rail will be great for VMware, but not so great for the OEM’s that have latched onto it. As a 1.0 product that has the added benefit of being able to take a wait and see approach to the Hyper Converged market, I was a bit disappointed in what eventually will hit the street for customers. EVO:Rail is going to be a very expensive solution, even at the lower end of the OEM spectrum with manufacturers like Super Micro being part of the group. While not all the OEM’s have pricing out, I’ve seen 180k as a starting point, which puts it as one of the more pricey solutions based on the number of VM’s or Virutal Desktops that are currently being supported.. Yet even as I say this, it will be hard to beat the marketing muscle and ability to penetrate into the customer space that VMware can enact when coupled with the major OEM partners. Once again, VMware has dictated direction to the OEM’s, this time the server vendors. In the past it was directed at the storage companies with VAAI, but now, there is greater profitability to push more of the “Software Defined” Data Center into customers hands and to have a dominant position as the paid Hypervisor of choice. EVO:Rail as its constituted today is not a very solid Hyper Converged platform, but the fact that HP, Dell, HDS, SM, and others now have a “good enough” entrant to compete with Nutanix and SimpliVity (even at the cost of their own home grown/partner solutions) is a big enough deal to make it the solution that SimpliVity and Nutanix will have to compete against as well as the traditional status quo of legacy rack solutions. I plan to expand on this in greater depth with its own blog post soon.

federation-logo-largeThat leaves the great unknown being the EMC Federation, and what comes from EMC/VCE for their entry into the Hyper Converged space. I think its easy to see that they will use EVO:Rail as one vehicle, but I’d also look for some kind of new solution that would look to leverage the ScaleIO technology. I’d go one further to say that their larger focus will be on the RackScale technologies.

Closing Thoughts

For a majority of virtualized workloads, and for customers looking to heavily virtualize,Hyper Convergence is a good fit. The “simplicity” message resonates strongly, as does the TCO argument which can in some cases be 3X reduction across the board. True there are caveats about maturity of the vendors involved, but if we see more VC money pour into the established, and up and coming players, along with an IPO by one of the founding groups many of those fears will subside. Most notably though, the validation of the Hyper Converged approach by VMware entering the market with EVO:Rail, and the rapid adoption and partnering by the major server OEM’s, points to this being a true disruptive technology transition that is here to stay.

Cloud dynamics are going to play a factor in this market as well, as we see companies adopt a Hybrid Cloud approach or move into Public First or adopt a Full Private approach. Yet that battle space is still being identified, and looks to be more relevant to a specific subset of very large Enterprise customers.

2015 will be the year that many companies start to look or at least entertain a “Hyper Converged First” approach to specific workloads, and use cases. What remains to be seen is what impact RackScale and Hybrid Cloud play in the designs (that will be a new set of blog posts all to themselves). And as a last note, the changes with technologies such as Open Stack, Docker, etc. will play a big part in how our next generation data centers are designed, and that is where I can see a robust “cloud ready” appliance based on the Hyper Converged model or Rack Scale approach become the defacto standard for infrastructure deployments.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this space as the year goes on. I’m working on several deeper dives into the Rack Scale side of things and hope to be able to provide some content soon. Thanks for reading.

Posted in Enterprise Tech, HyperConvergence, Rack Scale, Virtualization | 7 Comments

SNLDD Episode #10: Oh the Humanity

It’s been a while since we have had a chance to get the gang together for a good SNLDD episode. While there is ncaho real specific topic for this weeks show, we will be playing a round or two of Cards Against Humanity which will probably be terrifying, funny, and most certainly politically incorrect. At some point I’m going to build my own set of technology related decks, but since this is a last minute thing like everything else we do, we will be playing with the current DevOps deck. (click for a preview) and through the power of the inter-web, we can play online via Pretend You’re Xyzzy

As with all things SNLDD expect technical errors, glitches, and confusion. Link to the Google+ broadcast will be forthcoming.

Link to tonights episode to watch live.

Posted in SNLDD | 1 Comment