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The fierce fight for dominance over hyperconverged systems—which combine servers and storage into a single offering—escalated considerably in the channel, following a move by Nutanix to allow its software to be deployed on servers manufactured by Cisco.

While Nutanix initially pursued a hardware strategy in the last year, the company has also opted to make its software available for use on other hardware platforms. Nutanix annouced Aug. 18 that it will support that software running on C-Series family of servers in the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) portfolio as part of what it describes as a “meet in the channel” strategy.

Nutanix already has reseller agreements with Lenovo and Dell, which will soon merge with EMC. But Cisco has opted to resell hyperconvergence software developed by Springpath on its servers to counter Nutanix. Cisco also holds a minority stake in Springpath. For its part, Dell is expected to continue reselling Nutanix systems as well as a broad range of converged and hyperconverged systems sold by the VCE unit of EMC. Those VCE systems are primarily based on UCS servers from Cisco.

Nutanix, meanwhile, is pursuing a platform strategy that spans everything from appliances to cloud platforms running its software, regardless of whether Nutanix made the underlying platform, said Howard Ting, vice president of marketing for Nutanix.

“Customers can opt to deploy our software or buy an appliance,” Ting said.

Eric Sheppard, an industry analyst with IDC said that kind of flexibility is critical in a hyperconvergence space that is rapidly evolving.

“Hyperconvergence has evolved in terms of the number and types of workloads it can support. It’s a lot more than VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure],” Sheppard said. “But people clearly still want choice when it comes to hyperconvergence hardware.”

For solution providers, being able to mix and match hyperconvergence software and hardware is crucial. While the overall storage market may not be growing, spending across the segment is shifting significantly toward server-based storage that is software-defined and cloud-attached, Sheppard said. As such, solution providers have a major opportunity to drive service revenue as IT organizations look for external expertise to help them make that transition.

In general, a macro shift toward all forms of software-defined infrastructure (SDI) is well under way. The rate at which that shift is occurring varies widely, however. Nevertheless, many of the customers who are making this shift earlier than others are opting to embrace hyperconverged platforms to accelerate that transition. However, less clear is to what degree that transition will ultimately involve new hardware to drive hyperconvergence software or software that is deployed on existing systems that have already been deployed.

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications, including InfoWorld, CRN and eWEEK. He currently blogs daily for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, Channel Insider and Baseline.