HCI Solutions: Interest in All Forms Runs HighBy Michael Vizard | Print
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ANALYSIS: Demand for HCI solutions is soaring because they enable IT organizations to reduce the costs of acquiring new platforms and running them.
In general, the primary customer interest in HCI solutions comes from the ability to manage compute, storage and networking as a single turnkey system, said Ajay Gupta, global head of product marketing at Huawei.
"Most of the saving comes from the operational side of the budget," said Gupta. "The trend is clearly toward having less boxes to manage."
The Right HCI Solutions
Depending on their levels of expertise with a specific HCI platform and the type of workloads customers are running, solution providers say they often need to mix and match products and technologies to come up with the right HCI solution.
For example, Kentaro Kawamori, director of solutions at SoftwareOne, said the solution provider tends to favor software-only approaches to HCI, given its history of focusing on software solutions. Interest in HCI is running high, not only because it enables many IT organizations to consolidate storage and servers, but it's also viewed as a step toward building a private cloud.
The challenge is that private clouds built using HCI don't yet integrate neatly with public cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. Because of that issue, there's a lot interest in the work VMware and AWS are undertaking to integrate their respective platforms, Kawamori said.
"Most of the focus today is on developing a cloud strategy," Kawamori said. "There's a lot of interest in what VMware and AWS will come up with that works out of the box."
In contrast, Daniel Serpico, president and CEO of FusionStorm, says that while the HCI solution that the solution provider deploys almost always involves a new hardware system, it's not even uncommon for it to involve VMware software, such as VMware Virtual Storage Area Network (VSAN), being attached to a traditional rack system. The challenge now is getting all the interest in HCI turned into actual sales, Serpico said.
"There's still a lot more interest than actual revenue," Serpico said.
Many IT organizations are still trying to navigate what type of workload should be deployed on-premise, Cliff Grossner, research director for IHS Technology Group, said.
"If it's a stable workload, it tends to lend itself to being deployed on-premise," Grossner said. "Variable workloads tend to do better in the public cloud."
In fact, solution providers would be well-advised to be wary of HCI hype, said Dave Kresse, vice president of products and alliances for Nimble Storage. There's a role for HCI, but IT organizations more often need to be able to scale compute, storage and networking independently of one another, he said.
"There's clearly a desire to shift dollars from infrastructure to applications," said Kresse. "But you need to remember that a lot of workloads need to be able to scale independently.
Therefore, it's important for partners and customers alike to have access to a broad range of platforms from a single vendor that share a common management framework, said Todd Brannon, director of product marketing for the Unified Computing Systems portfolio at Cisco.
"Different systems are needed for different types of workloads," Brannon said. "But all those systems should be based on a common management plane."
Regardless of the approach pursued, HCI is here to stay. But just like all the other platforms in the data center, it is competing for the highest percentage of workloads in the data center alongside converged systems, blade servers, racks and even mainframes. The challenge facing solution providers now is lining up the right workload with the right platform in a way that the customer doesn't wind up regretting later.
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.