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The fastest growing sector of the data center from an infrastructure perspective is hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platforms that unify the management of compute and storage. In general, HCI platforms have been limited to the lower end of the market because they typically come in the form of an appliance that doesn’t offer the same level of scale that can be attained by traditional rack-based systems.

But as HCI platforms continue to advance, they are starting to not only be used in a scale-out fashion, faster I/O backplanes such as NVMe in next-generation servers are creating an opportunity to deploy HCI platforms in place of rack-based systems. With that opportunity in mind, Arrow Electronics has added Pivot3, a provider of an Acuity HCI platform that partners can deploy on standard x86 servers or resell on appliances built by Lenovo.

Mark Maisano, vice president of global channels at Pivot3, says that while there’s no shortage of options when it comes to HCI platforms, larger rivals such as Dell EMC, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise are conflicted about the opportunity. They all have a large installed base of rack-systems that they are trying to entice customers to upgrade to next-generation converged infrastructure systems. But HCI platforms such as Acuity can not only scale much higher these days, the total cost of owning them is substantially less. Maisano says the alliance with Arrow creates an opportunity for partners to more aggressively pursue those opportunities.

HCI platforms are critical to partners because more workloads are clearly heading to the cloud. IT organizations need a compelling argument to keep workloads running in a local data center. In many cases, over a two- to three-year period, it’s less expensive to run certain classes of workloads locally than it is to host them in the public cloud. Channel partners that can make that case are likely to be warmly received by internal IT teams that have a vested interest in maintaining control over their data center environment.

Naturally, competition across the HCI category is already fierce. Channel partners looking for one last point of differentiation, however, should consider all their options.