EMC: Bringing Hyperconvergence To The Masses

may be busy figuring out its pending future with Dell, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that while the overall IT market is inching along at 0.6% growth this year (albeit to $3.54 trillion), the converged infrastructure (CI) market is growing at 10X — 6.2% year-over-year (to $2.5 billion), and the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market is growing at 258X, with sales shooting up 155.3% (to $278.8 million) for the last reported quarter. It’s still early days for HCI, but EMC would love to see the kinds of results achieved in the server virtualization space with its latest additions, the VCE VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure appliances (HCIA) for VMware environments.

The economic benefits of VxRail are very clear, said Gil Shneorson, VP and GM VxRail, EMC. You can start very small and grow as you need. “That’s very appealing,” he told IT Trends & Analysis.

Customers also don’t have to worry about planning ahead. “You don’t have the upgrade event in the future… or have to face issues when you buy a new solution”.

EMC has taken all the guesswork out of it, with the integration and automation (and aggressive pricing), said Shneorson. “We think we are the only ones who are doing this.” Integrating the hardware and software together, and supporting it, “that is very important and a very enticing value proposition.”

They may be the only ones ‘doing this’, but there are a lot of companies buzzing around the CI/HCI market. IDC estimates that total worldwide spending on converged infrastructure will hit $17.8 billion in 2016, up from $4.6 billion in 2012. It breaks the market down into three segments:

-Integrated systems are pre-integrated, vendor-certified systems containing server hardware, disk storage systems, networking equipment, and basic element/systems management software;

Certified reference systems are pre-integrated, vendor-certified systems containing server hardware, disk storage systems, networking equipment, and basic element/systems management software; however, they are designed with systems from multiple technology vendors; and,

-Hyperconverged systems collapse core storage and compute functionality into a single, highly virtualized solution. A key characteristic of hyperconverged systems that differentiate these solutions from other integrated systems is their ability to provide all compute and storage functions through the same server-based resources.

Gartner also divides the integrated systems market into three broad categories:

Integrated stack system (ISS) — Server, storage and network hardware integrated with application software to provide or appliancelike functionality. Examples include IBM PureApplication System, Exadata Database Machine and Teradata;

Integrated infrastructure system (IIS) — Server, storage and network hardware integrated to provide shared compute infrastructure. Examples include Vblock, ConvergedSystem and Lenovo Converged System (formerly PureFlex); and,

-Hyperconverged integrated system (HCIS) — Tightly coupled compute, network and storage hardware that dispenses with the need for a regular storage area network (SAN). Storage management functions — plus optional capabilities like backup, recovery, replication, deduplication and compression — are delivered via the management software layer and/or hardware, together with compute provisioning. Examples include Gridstore, Nimboxx, , Pivot3, Scale Computing and .

According to Gartner, integrated system sales grew 30.4% over 2013, totaling $8.7 billion and constituting approximately 10% of all server, external controller-based storage and data center networking spend by the end of 2014. It is growing rapidly, albeit from a low base, led by Cisco, EMC/VCE, Oracle, Nutanix, NetApp and HP. Challengers are and Lenovo; Visionary is SimpliVity; and Niche Players include IBM and .

If anything, the market is poised for even faster growth, according to Enterprise Strategy Group. It’s research on hybrid cloud trends found that 70% of IT respondents plan to invest in HCI over the next 24 months, and 85% of these same respondents indicated that they plan on leveraging their existing investments in private cloud software, like VMware vCenter Server and vCloud Director framework technology, to serve as the foundation for their hybrid cloud environment.

“As such, the new VMware and VCE VxRail Appliance could make for a very compelling offering to for those looking to implement a highly flexible and highly scalable hyper-converged infrastructure appliance, with private and hybrid cloud computing capabilities, while still leveraging the same VMware management tools that they have been using for years,” said Colm Keegan, ESG Senior Analyst, in a canned quoted.

VxRail looks good with the Dell acquisition, according to Geoff Woollacott, an analyst at Technology Business Research, Inc. “Now they can pump that through the Dell supply chain to keep costs down,” he said. “We know Dell allows for easy plug-and-play configuration of servers and laptops, and this can cascade down to CI and HCI [converged and hyper-converged infrastructure] boxes. They can also push this new capability through the existing EMC enterprise sales force for IT customers wanting to consume infrastructure rather than build it, and this will accelerate as the power of these converged boxes become more real and more proven.”

Dell/EMC competitors should be worried about the merger, according to a recent post from Steve Duplessie, Founder and Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. A survey of non-Dell/EMC customers found that they expect the new entity could be more attractive than their existing vendors in terms of technology innovation, volume discount pricing, and end to end service and support.

That will be especially true in innovative areas like VCE. ‘If anything, VCE — already the 800lb gorilla in the converged space — will get even MORE innovation assets, because now customers get Cisco, EMC, and Dell R&D bucks (a huge pile of bucks).

A year ago EMC announced the VSPEX BLUE Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance: compute, storage, networking and management powered by VMware EVO:RAIL and EMC software. It said many of its customers want to consume infrastructure this way, and it wants to make converged infrastructure as consumer-like as possible.

Some 53 weeks later, and VMware says it has the most widely deployed HCI solution in the market, with more than 3,000 customers. It shipped more than 20,000 CPUs in just the last quarter, and is adding 500 new customers quarterly, and revenue was up 200% year-over-year.

Shneorson believes EMC has done a great job of addressing the HCI needs of big and small customers, especially for those with branch offices that don’t have the skills available in the datacenter. “Today we feel that we have actually addressed 99% of their problems.”

The Fiddly Bits

The VxRail Appliance family brings together EMC data services and systems management capabilities with VMware’s hyper-converged software that includes vSphere, vCenter Server and Virtual SAN. Entry systems for small and medium businesses and remote offices start at a list price of $60,000 and options for performance intensive workloads have more than 76 TB of flash – over 2X more flash than any other hyper-converged appliance.

The appliances are fully loaded with integrated EMC data services including replication, backup and cloud tiering at no additional charge. RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines provides per-VM replication and automated disaster recovery for critical workloads. Virtual SAN active-active stretch clusters provide site level, zero data loss protection. Integrated vSphere Data Protection provides backup and recovery using existing tools and can optionally backup to Data Domain for centralized storage and management.

VxRail Appliances are orderable today and will start shipping in March. All-flash VxRail Appliances with data reduction capabilities will be available in Q2.

Author: Steve Wexler

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