Cisco HCI: Spring(Path) Has Sprung

Networking giant has been very busy the last few weeks, what with last month’s Mobile World Congress and the Jasper Technologies acquisition ($1.4 billion) and this week’s Partner Summit and CliQr Technologies acquisition ($260 million). While the kitchen sink wasn’t included in the recent flood of announcements — although IoE will be featured at both Cisco Live Melbourne and Cisco Connect Singapore later this month, so that’s not yet been ruled out completely — almost everything else in its solutions portfolio was.

The company said yesterday’s datacenter announcements featured innovations in three areas: networking, hyperconverged infrastructure (aka HCI) and hybrid cloud orchestration. I was most intrigued by the hyperconvergence ( Systems) announcement.

We’re announcing the next generation of hyperconvergence, said Todd Brannon, Cisco’s Director of Product Marketing for the Unified Computing System portfolio. He believes the company is going to transform the market, similar to what they did with ACI (aka SDN). Unlike the first-generation vendors, Cisco is coming out with a complete solution (built around SpringPath, a hyperconvergence software vendor backed, in part, by Cisco, and the company’s compute platform), he said. “We’re going to leapfrog the market,” Brannon told IT Trends & Analysis.

While HCI is still a very tiny part of the overall IT market, Cisco’s timing appears to be excellent. According to a recent study from Enterprise Strategy Group, 70% of IT respondents plan to invest in HCI over the next 24 months. The overall IT market will grow 0.6% (to $3.54 trillion) this year, converged infrastructure is growing at 6.2% (to $2.5 billion), year-over-year, and HCI is heading for the stratosphere at 258X, with sales shooting up 155.3% (to $278.8 million) for the last reported quarter.

The first movers in hyperconvergence — i.e. and — did a good job as far as they went, but they didn’t go far enough, said Brannon. Customers tell us they want simplicity, but they don’t want silos… they’re also interested in being able to scale… and want to run more of their applications on them, he said. In short, the existing solutions are “incomplete”.

“We’re coming in with a complete solution… there’s very real functional differentiation in this product.” HyperFlex “can deploy in under an hour and that includes the network… [with] 48% higher performance and 30% better TCO”.

In addition to HCI, Cisco also expanded its SDN-ready 9000 that deliver ‘up to 10 times performance improvement at industry leading price points [and] give[s] Cisco customers a two-year innovation advantage over competitive technology.’ “We’re delivering 10/25/40/50/100Gpbs across the entire portfolio,” said Thomas Scheibe, Director of Technical Marketing & Solutions Engineering, Cisco.

The pricing is very competitive, he added: “25g at the price of 10g, 100g at the price of 40g”.  In addition there is end-to-end visibility and security, support for over a million containers per rack, and Hyperconverged Fabric.

Other announcements included: software enhancements that enable ACI support for Nexus 7000 switches; new Nexus 3000 switches; and the Nexus Fabric Manager, which automates the fabric lifecycle management.

Analyst Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst, ZK Research, noted there’s as much or more news coming out of this event as he’s seen in a long time, including the CliQr and datacenter announcements. “The acquisition of will certainly fuel the Cisco-VMware fire, as ’s primary competitor is VMware’s vRealize cloud management suite.”

He said one of the most interesting implications is that CliQr can turn ACI into an “as a service” offering. “There’s no question Cisco has stepped on the ACI gas pedal as it is trying to become the de facto, market leading SDN solution.”

Cisco’s decision to enter the hyperconverged market through an OEM agreement with makes more sense than trying to buy either SimpliVity or Nutanix, said Kerravala. “While doesn’t have the brand name of the hyperconverged market leaders, it’s a better fit for Cisco as it has made investments in the company and has likely heavily influenced the direction of the product. Under the terms of the agreement, Cisco has the option of acquiring if it meets certain financial goals. In many ways, this is similar to the model that Cisco used to bring Insieme and Andiamo into the company.”

He also believes leveraging UCS and its installed base could pay big dividends for Cisco. Hyperconvergence is “moving up the market and is an important part of having an agile infrastructure than can meet the needs of DevOps. This is the wave that Cisco is trying to catch and appears to have the right strategy in place.”

Author: Steve Wexler

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