NetApp’s recent claim that it will launch a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) platform in the coming months leaves IBM noticeably absent in HCI among major storage vendors.
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And IBM is likely to stay on the hyper-converged infrastructure market sidelines for the foreseeable future.
In a recent interview with TechTarget editors, IBM storage general manager Ed Walsh said IBM doesn’t need hyper-convergence because it has a converged infrastructure (CI) platform that accomplishes the same things. IBM VersaStack combines IBM’s storage with Cisco switching and UCS servers in a similar bundle that other storage vendors sell with Cisco servers and networking.
The difference is that CI bundles such as VersaStack consist of traditional products sold as one package, while HCI puts storage, compute and virtualization in one box.
“They’re solving the same customer problem,” Walsh said of products in the converged and hyper-converged infrastructure market. “They both drive down Opex, give you a better user experience and free up your people to do other things. You can be a purist and say what we do is converged, not hyper-converged, but it’s about the job you’re trying to do. The two worlds are blending together.
“Both give you flexibility in how you deploy time, storage and CPUs,” he continued. “If you have a VMware stack and that’s called hyper-converged to you, we do that. If you want to make it easy to increase CPUs separate from storage, we do that. If you’re saying that’s converged and not hyper-converged, OK, but that’s 80% of the market.”
Of course, the hyper-converged infrastructure market is growing fast and certainly has the attention of server vendors Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco and Lenovo. They are all moving fast to compete with and/or partner with Nutanix, which created the HCI market.
IBM and NetApp don’t sell x86 servers used with most hyper-converged systems, which may have delayed their entry into hyper-convergence. Walsh’s take on HCI is similar to what NetApp CEO George Kurian said a few months ago when he claimed NetApp’s FlexPod CI partnership with Cisco addressed the same needs of HCI. But last month Kurian said NetApp would enter the hyper-converged infrastructure market with a product based on its SolidFire all-flash platform and Data Fabric technology for moving on-premises data to the cloud.
NetApp has yet to say where it will get servers from, and we still can’t be sure whether it will have true hyper-convergence or just re-package existing flash and cloud technology.
IBM’s Walsh does not sound like he is re-considering. Not only does he see CI doing all that HCI does, but he points out CI has scaling advantages over HCI. The CPU and storage are independent products in converged infrastructure.
“We see after 12 months or so our clients want more flexibility in how they deploy storage to servers,” he said. “People are looking to refresh storage and CPU at different intervals.”