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To understand the competition between Nutanix and SimpliVity, it’s necessary to understand how these two leading vendors position their technology in relation to the larger marketplace.
First, some background. Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a software-defined scale-out environment that runs on virtualized servers. The hypervisor component virtualizes all hardware elements to federate configuration settings across all instances of the infrastructure. Core elements include the hypervisor, software-defined storage, and software-defined networking.
HCI architecture varies across vendors. There are five major architectural approaches to HCI, most of which include some element of cloud:
1. Full primary HCI stack: Native HCI components to create computing environment. Approach used by: Nutanix.
2. Hardware appliance: Deploys HCI software on installed base of x86 servers. Approach used by: HPE SimpliVity.
3. Server virtualization: Owns the hypervisor; adds native or partner solutions like software-defined storage or networking to create HCI. Approach used by: VMware vSAN.
4. Storage virtualization and data services: Owns software-defined storage and advanced data services, partners as needed for additional HCI components. Approach used by: Dell EMC.
5. Public cloud: Offers an HCI platform from the public cloud. Approach used by: Microsoft Azure.
Nutanix and HPE SimpliVity in the Marketplace
Nutanix leads the HCI market in revenue. According to IDC, in 2018 Nutanix held a 30.4% market position, and HPE SimpliVity a much smaller 4.76% position.
VMware comes in at number two in the IDC findings, and Dell EMC (not counting VMware) comes in number three. Cisco is number four, leaving SimpliVity at number five.
Gartner’s 2018 “Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure,” placed Nutanix at the top of the Leaders quadrant, followed by Dell EMC and VMware, then SimpliVity. Gartner places Cisco in the Challengers quadrant.
Nutanix was founded in 2009 and remains an independent public company. The company went public in 2016 but has yet to show a profit. Nutanix refers to itself as a cloud computing company thanks to its cloud-enabled, highly scalable, federated HCI infrastructure with software-defined storage. Nutanix delivers services via software and/or hardware HCI appliances, which they offer directly and as an OEM.
Nutanix core services include storage, hypervisor, security, software-defined networking, and HCI management. Their turnkey platform, Acropolis, combines all core components and is integrated with additional Nutanix features. Acropolis provides a turnkey HCI environment with a hypervisor, Nutanix software, server virtualization, software-defined storage and storage management, virtual networking, and cross-hypervisor application mobility.
Its key products include:
- AHV: Hypervisor
- Prism and APIs: Unified management interface
- Flow: Software-defined networking
- Calm: Application orchestration and lifecycle management
- Xi: Cloud services including Xi hybrid cloud and orchestration tools
- Karbon Kubernetes: Containers distribution
Nutanix still concentrates on enterprise data centers, but expanded its market by adding ROBO, edge, and hybrid cloud support. They also actively market to service providers and mid-size companies as well enterprise customers.
Nutanix Pros and Cons
- High availability: Replicates across on-site and remote physical nodes, practices asynchronous writes, and supports protection domains.
- Simplified management: Simple deployment, configuration, and new user training. One-click upgrades for multiple components, and an intuitive user interface with Prism. Prism and Prism Central make it easy to centrally manage multiple clusters from a single web portal, and built-in analytics enable admins to troubleshoot a federated system. Automated tiered storage, intelligent storage management, and workload balancing on SSDs and HDDs optimizes storage media.
- Performance: Does not use RAID, which accelerates I/O performance over RAID scenarios. Also provides data locality where a VM uses its host’s storage. Native storage optimization and deduplication optimizes data storage, and easily expands clusters with linear performance and storage gains per added node.
- Support: Nutanix has an excellent support reputation, with fast communications to experienced engineers.
- Higher costs than some alternatives: Nutanix does not compete on low price, although its software licenses are cost-effective. And choosing Nutanix native hypervisor saves on purchasing costs for another provider’s hypervisor.
- Located on host: VM storage is located on its host, which has performance advantages but also makes it harder to migrate data into different storage pools with changed policy settings.
SimpliVity: The Basics
SimpliVity was founded in 2009, and in 2017 HPE acquired the company for its HCI portfolio. HPE SimpliVity defines itself by hyperconverged simplicity, availability, and scalability at a lower cost. Like Nutanix, it is an appliance-based HCI that does not have a native hypervisor. It used to be exclusive to VMware, but in a bid to increase its client base added support for additional hypervisors.
From the beginning, SimpliVity’s value prop was hyperconverged primary and secondary systems at a reasonable price. Most HCI systems have high availability baked in, but no other manufactures HCI systems with native backup and secondary storage management.
- HPE SimpliVity models 380 and the 2600. The 380 is a 2U rack-mounted HPE ProLiant DL380 Server running SimpliVity software to create a fully realized primary and secondary data environment. The 2600 runs on HPE Apollo 2000 servers. It can support 4 nodes in a 2U dimension, and converges general workloads from ROBO and edge computing.
- SimpliVity RapidDR: Automates and accelerates off-site disaster recovery on HPE SimpliVity nodes.
- Integrated HPE tools: SimpliVity works with HPE tools like Composable Fabric software-defined networking, OneView, and OneSphere.
SimpliVity Pros and Cons
- Native data protection: Hyperconverged primary and secondary storage is a key part of SimpliVity’s value proposition. Includes data replication, and backup and recovery of VMs and disks. IT can assign replication and backup policies, and processes are very fast.
- Management simplicity: Centralized management simplifies HCI management tasks, and VMware and Hyper-V admins can choose to use familiar hypervisors within SimpliVity.
- High scalability: IT can add additional nodes on-site and in remote locations, and create shared storage pools with linear performance and capacity expansion.
- Accelerated performance: Each node houses an Accelerator Card with DRAM. The CPU offloads writes to the card’s DRAM, which acknowledges the write. SimpliVity dedupes delta level changes and compresses at the DRAM level before writing the compressed data to persistent storage.
- Integration with HPE tools: HPE SimpliVity integrates with HPE tools like OneSphere and OneView. For example, HPE GreenLake Flex for SimpliVity enables consumption-based pricing of HCI and automated technology refresh management.
- SimpliVity only runs on specific HPE servers: End-users cannot leverage their existing servers from other vendors, or even different servers from HPI’s server portfolio.
- Constricted requirement: Meanwhile, competitors like Nutanix take advantage of HPE’s constricted requirement by actively marketing to customers with HPE ProLiant and/or HPE Apollo servers.
- Lacks native HCI hypervisor: HPE does not have its own native HCI hypervisor like Nutanix does. Its partners VMware and Microsoft both offer their own full HCI stacks: VMware vSAN and MS Azure respectively. Although both vendors are more than happy to sell their hypervisors to their partners, this might create a precarious position for HPE SimpliVity, as a direct HCI competitor.
Nutanix vs. HPG SimepliVity Comparison Chart
|Nutanix AHV based on KVM, VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer (IBM Power platform only supports AHV)
|VMware and Hyper, and some integrated partner offerings like Citrix
|On-site and remote replication, native asynchronous DR using protection domains; needs 3rd party backup
|Backup integrated into platform is distinct value-add
|Higher, although Acropolis (Native AFS) can save the cost of buying a 3rd party hypervisor
|Includes hyperconverged secondary storage, saving on the cost of a 3rd party backup system
|Started with enterprise workloads; drilling down to mid-sized, ROBO, and edge
|Started with SMB; expanding to ROBO, edge, and enterprise workloads
|Hardware or software appliance; hardware vendor-neutral
|Hardware appliance, requires HPE ProLiant or HPE Apollo servers