Is Future Storage Converging Around Hyper-Converged?


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Depending on who you talk or listen to, hyper-converged storage is either the future of storage, or it is a hype niche market that is not for everybody, particular not larger environments.

Admittedly, there is a lot of hype in and around convergence, including hyper-convergence. On the other hand, there is also a lot of reality in various converged infrastructure (CI), hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), cluster in a box (CiB) and other solution bundle approaches.

Not every data center is the same; your data center will be different depending on whether you are a small office home office (SOHO), remote office branch office (ROBO) with a few servers, a departmental workgroup, small medium business (SMB), small medium enterprise (SME), large enterprise, web-scale or cloud services provider.

How converged is the hyper-converged market? There are many environments that can leverage CI along with HCI, CiB or other bundles and pod-type solutions. Granted, not all of those environments will converge around the same CI, CiB and HCI or pod solution bundles as everything is not the same in most IT environments and data centers. This also means that not all CI, CiB and HCI solutions are applicable for every environment. For example, some of the larger CI and CiB solutions may be more applicable for larger and do-it-yourself (DIY) scale-out, or hyper-scale converged vs. some of those better suited for lower-end market segments, and vice versa.

Not All Markets Are the Same

I see and hear people defining or describing the CI and HCI marketplace based on the capabilities of certain HCI products, which can limit the total addressable market (TAM) opportunity. Some will tell you that there is no role for HCI or CI or CiB in large-scale environments; however, that view might be based on how a particular product or vendor has defined the market (e.g. around their product).

The alternative is to look past the particular products and what they can do, instead focusing on the broader market segments and their needs, not to mention the larger TAM opportunity. In this latter approach, the focus is on the different markets and then which CI, HCI or CiB solutions and technologies can meet the needs of those.

Let’s face it, some HCI products are very good and well-suited—perhaps even best-in-class—for specific market segments such as medium to larger SMBs, enterprise ROBO and workgroups, while others are optimized for very small SMBs or SOHOs or SMEs, larger enterprises or even web, cloud-scale and service providers.

Not All Applications Are the Same

There is a common perception that CI and HCI are only for virtual server infrastructure (VSI) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) markets, in some cases with a focus on or around VMware. In the lower-end market segments (e.g. smaller and mid-sized SMBs), the focus for CI, HCI or CiB solutions may be general purpose VSI supporting database and email messaging, among other things. In larger environments, the focus may be for dedicating the CI, HCI or CiB solution to support VDI or specific databases, among other things.

However there are also other candidate application and deployment scenarios for CI, HCI and CiB. For example, there are also market opportunities for traditional databases, big data including Hadoop analytics and data warehouse using various tools including SAS, SAP HANA and Hadoop distributions from Cloudera along with others from Hortonworks and Pivotal, to name a few. Then there are converged data protection (the other CDP) solutions that do more than the basic purpose built backup appliance (PBBA) data protection target.

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