In a recent post I talked about whether NetApp may choose to move into the hyper-converged appliance market.  Since then, Cisco has released their own hyper-converged offering called HyperFlex, a product based on UCS and software from Springpath (rebranded as the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform).  Until now, Cisco has been part of the hyper-converged market through partnerships with software vendors.  The most notable of these has been SimpliVity and OmniStack, however relationships exist with StorMagic, Atlantis Computing and Maxta.  This makes their move to offer a Cisco-branded platform somewhat interesting to say the least.

Let’s look first at the StorMagic, Atlantis and Maxta situation.  StorMagic is more suited to ROBO type deployments that scale out to hundreds of systems; think department stores (or other shops with lots of branches), medical practices or remote areas where technical support is limited.  This is particularly niche and not directly suited to high-end deployments in the data centre.  Atlantis and Maxta are more midrange, but the relationship is perhaps the inverse of what is being done with HyperFlex, in that these vendors are using Cisco UCS hardware as one of many solutions to provide hardware choice, rather than using Cisco as their only channel to market.

Cisco has been (to my mind) more of a channel opportunity for SimpliVity, however this position is slowly changing with the availability of OmniStack on Lenovo (previously IBM) hardware.  This move could prove interesting as Lenovo looks to grow their brand in a similar fashion to the laptop business.  What about the view from where SimpliVity sits?  From Chris Mellor’s perspective over at the The Register, nothing changes, as OmniCube/OnmiStack offer more efficient and advanced features than those in HyperFlex.  How long that lasts remains to be seen.

hyperflex2Springpath

Looking in more detail at HyperFlex, it’s worth talking for a moment about Springpath.  The company (formerly known as Storvisor) presented at Storage Field Day 7, back in March 2015 and without a doubt the delegates were massively impressed by what the technology offered.  Springpath’s HALO platform is a distributed and virtualised storage layer, similar to the storage component found in Nutanix and SimpliVity’s products (similiar in the sense that storage is distributed in a redundant/protected fashion across all nodes in a cluster).

Springpath went quiet back in November, with no blog posts or press releases since that time.  The Register posted an article on the situation in December 2015, highlighting cancelled events and the dropping of their PR company.  Based on this new good news relationship with Cisco, you would have expected Springpath to at least make a press release on the subject.  However there has been radio silence on the announcement.  More mysteriously, the slider on the Springpath homepage had been updated to include a link to the Cisco blog post announcing HyperFlex.  This has since been removed.  It looks like Springpath aren’t in a good place and the relationship with Cisco may be their lifeline to cashing out the company.

The Architect’s View

We’re in a very interesting position in the marketplace as hyper-convergence matures and the server vendors start pushing their own products.  The market has become hardware focused with Cisco now selling their own product line, EMC/Dell pushing VxRAIL, Dell working with Nutanix and HPE focusing on StoreVirtual.  Even though there are (significant) differences between these platforms, the message may get lost as the leaders in the market focus on higher level messaging like operational efficiency, consolidation and flexibility (like multiple hypervisor support).  This is going to make life tough for the software-defined startups, who will have to direct their focus into showing how their platform ticks all the boxes already described and more.  2016 could see more casualties than just Springpath as this market segment gets even hotter.

Further Reading

 

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Copyright (c) 2009-2016 – Chris M Evans, first published on https://blog.architecting.it, do not reproduce without permission.

Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.