Nearly every leading legacy and startup datacenter hardware player has, or has announced, a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) solution. But how do they really see HCI?
Yesterday provides some clues: An article from The Register discusses declining array sales; a blog post from EMC President of Global Systems Engineering, Chad Sakac, covers the new VCE HCI announcements; and a post from Pure Storage Chief Evangelist, Vaughn Stewart, makes a case for why HCI won’t replace storage arrays.
Disk Array Disarray
Chris Mellor’s article in The Register, Disk array devastation: New-tech onslaught tears guts from trad biz, reveals what is perhaps a significant reason that the storage manufacturers are entering the HCI market, “An EMC chart shows a steep decline in legacy SAN drive array sales.” The article goes on to say, “EMC sees the market moving “toward converged and hyperconverged systems, all-flash arrays and purpose-built back-up appliances.”
Chad Sakac’s post, “A big day in converged infrastructure,” discusses how EMC’s Vblock is helping the company address the sea change in storage. The post was not clear (at least to me) about how Vblocks will incorporate HCI – but Sakac left no doubt that they will, “This is the experience of an ‘engineered system’ like a Vblock or a VxBlock – whether it’s converged, or hyper-converged.”
Sakac also references both VSPEX Blue and EVO:Rack – both of which, along with Vblock, are now part of EMC’s VSPEX converged infrastructure division.
Vaughn Stewart, former Cloud Evangelist atNetApp, wrote an interesting post yesterday about HCI, Hyper-Converged Infrastructures are not Storage Arrays. Stewart starts off endorsing HCI, “I’m a Huge Fan of Hyper-Converged Infrastructures,” but then quickly changes course and relegates the technology to “the low end storage array market.”
Stewart goes on to outright bash HCI – making an argument that data mirroring on a virtual disk basis is inferior to RAID (a technology invented in 1987). Stewart also presents lots of calculations claiming low storage utilization and other supposed HCI limitations.
I’m not going to address Stewart’s claims in this post; they may very well be applicable to other HCI players. They do not apply to Nutanix. Josh Odgers (aka FUDbuster) is writing a post in response to Vaughn’s piece.
Stewart made no mention in his article about Pure’s own apparent plans to introduce an HCI solution.
Since NetApp’s Mike Riley wrote the post, VSAN and Hyper-Converged will Hyper-Implode, last June, it’s unfair to assume that it reflects NetApp’s current day perspective on HCI. On the other hand, even when NetApp unveiled ONTAP EVO:Rail a few months ago, the company made it clear that HCI, without NetApp storage, is not suitable for the enterprise.
A Question of Mindset
Sakac, Stewart and Riley are among the most respected technologists in our industry. But they also work for array manufacturers and naturally see the world through the lens of protecting legacy business.
The tremendous gain in mind share of HCI is driving the storage players to enter the market. This further validates the technology even though the array manufacturers position HCI as a low-end alternative to disk or flash arrays.
Nutanix, on the other hand, eats breaths and sleeps web-scale HCI in all that we do. It’s a question of mind set. The array manufacturers offer customers yet another storage option. Nutanix is revolutionizing the virtualized datacenter.
5 thoughts on “EMC, Pure and NetApp weigh in on Hyper-converged infrastructure”
== Disclaimer: Pure Storage employee ==
Thanks for picking up on the discussion. The post has raised the volume of conversation around HCI deployment considerations. I think it’s OK that we don’t see eye to eye on the market opportunity; ultimately the market decides the areas of mass adoption and doesn’t care much for our opinions.
My recent blog emphasized two topics and should have raised a third (I guess a follow on is imminent). I have long stated that there are many deployment scenarios that a storage array makes little sense like branch offices and mobile service vehicles. My apologies if my perspective stands in contrast to the goals of Nutanix but I would think you are in full agreement with my premise: HCI is a better option in these scenarios than a low-end storage array.
My second point was asking whether the low hardware utilization of HCI (which is based on shared-nothing architectures) limits their ability to be viewed as an enterprise-class storage infrastructure platform. I suspect we may debate over the term infrastructure more than the HW utilization of the platform. History has shown us that efficiency drives down cost and cost is a constant consideration in every IT purchase.
When I take a step back I think the bigger topic to discuss is what problems does HCI – or any next-gen technology – solve? I stated a clear market need currently underserved by the storage vendors. Looking at enterprise-scale infrastructure needs I would imagine we agree on areas of need like reduction of acquisition costs and the simplification of operations in order to scale. HCI can deliver in these areas but it seems limited when the scope is expanded to included a broad set of applications, network fabrics, physical host connectivity, etc.
All products have limitations, so please don’t take the above comments as a knock on the Nutanix platform; however, such limitations guide my perspective as where HCI are viable alternatives to traditional storage models. If you’re saying Nutanix can service all of the market needs today than my blog post stands in error, but I don’t think you would make such a statement.
I wish all of the best to my friends and Nutanix. You have established a new market and I foresee more disruption in your future. Go forth and help customers!
First of all – deep apologies for approving this comment so late. This is a fairly new site for me, and I just didn’t notice it. I hate when people delay posting my comments for even an hour – so I’m really embarrassed about my oversight. I wouldn’t feel quite as bad if your comment was snarky or ill conceived, but it was obviously very well crafted and considerate.
You already know that I’m a fan of yours. I am also a fan of Pure Storage. I think Pure has done a phenomenal job in making so much traction so quickly in a very competitive industry. Your simplification of storage administration is extremely impressive. If I were a customer and was going to purchase an array – it would be Pure. I even recommend Pure to customers who need storage for physical workloads.
When it comes to virtual workloads, however, we’re now at the point where I think almost all are a good fit for Nutanix. We have Fortune 500 customers moving their virtualized SAP, Oracle, SQL and Exchange workloads over to Nutanix. Our reference site includes organizations such as Empire, Serco & St. Luke’s.
But at the end of the day, it is great that early stage companies such as Pure and Nutanix can make headway into the legacy storage market so dominated by a handful of datacenter giants. Clearly we’re delivering value to customers, and to our channel partners who recognize the opportunity to differentiate their businesses by evangelizing a superior solution.
I really thank you because I think this discussion is really valuable, above all for people like me that are trying to understand this concept for a long time.
Just a question about your statement:
When it comes to virtual workloads, however, we’re now at the point where I think almost all are a good fit for Nutanix. We have…
Ok understood that in your opinion Nutanix is very good for virtual (and even I’m not an expert, I agree with you) but, in your opinion/experience, could Nutanix completely substitute a traditional storage array at least in some environments?
This question is just because I work in an enterprise companty that has some EMC VNX that provide datastores (LUNs) using “fiber” or nfs to both our physical and virtual world. My boss just asked to me to have a look at new vendors like Pure or consider a different approach moving toward nutanix. I know that they are different product (Pure within AFA category and Nutanix HCI category) but I would like to understand if there is some good reason/restriction or special cases in which is really not possibile to avoid traditional storage
Thanks for your comments. Yes, Nutanix is run for enterprise applications (SAP, Oracle, Exchange, SQL Server, etc.) for large enterprises across the globe. Nutanix completely eliminates the need for SANs for ALL virtualized applications. Here is a good article about the network challenge with arrays – even AFAs http://longwhiteclouds.com/2016/06/05/your-network-is-too-slow-for-flash-and-what-to-do-about-it/. Please email me if you’d like to have a personal discussion. Thanks, Steve. firstname.lastname@example.org
I read the article about the network challenge and I confess you that I never tought about a simple and obvious thing like that (…only 2 drives to saturate a 10GbE ethernet network …).
Thanks again Steve, your blog is really realy useful!