Dell and Nutanix
The big mystery among the big names is "what is Dell up to?" If you are thinking Nutanix, don't be absurd. Dell could never pay Nutanix as much as they'll get from an IPO, and the only thing that matters at Nutanix right now is that massive payout. The exit of everyone's dreams is so close that the Nutanix leadership can taste it and nothing on this earth is going to keep them from their dump trucks full of cash.
So if Dell isn't going to build an IEM out of Nutanix, what is the company up to? I know many cynical IT types who believe Dell is up to nothing; that it is resting on its laurels and that innovation within the organisation has ceased. I am not one of those people.
Michael Dell is many things, but he's not stupid. If I have figured out that IEMs are on the immediate horizon – and the massive disruption they will cause – then so has Dell. Not being a public operation, however, the company has no reason to reveal its plans until it’s ready to obliterate competitors in one decisive push.
That said, Nutanix has recently made some big strides of their own towards an IEM with its recent Acropolis announcement. It doesn't have the full suite of software widgetry that Dell could bring to bear, but it may not need it.
The Dell/Nutanix partnership is perhaps the most interesting one in this entire space.
The little guys
You can be excused if you haven't heard of Yottabyte. This is a small, public cloud provider from Detroit that decided it needed to roll its own hyper-convergence and eventually data centre convergence software. Yottabyte is by no means the only small/startup IEM contender, but I am going to use it as my example because I have worked very closely with it during the past six months.
Yottabyte doesn't have massive venture capital funding or marketing budget. It just has a stable of loyal customers and it ploughs profit from its public cloud operations back into R&D.
The result of years of this R&D is yCenter. It can be a public cloud, a private cloud or a hybrid cloud. Yottabyte has gone through and solved almost all the tough problems first – erasure coded storage, built-in layer 2 and 3 networking extensibility, management UI that doesn't suck – and is only now thinking about solving the easy ones.
Yottabyte is a completely random tiny company with 80 per cent of an IEM already built and is only just starting to realise what it can do with it. I've spent hundreds of hours with Yottabyte helping them design a hybrid cloud partner ecosystem that will not only include regional service providers, it will make discovering and utilising them easy.
Yottabyte didn't push back and say it needed to control all aspects of the ecosystem. it didn't come back demanding a means to limit the service providers' role, own every element of the customer relationship or otherwise marginalise everyone except itself.
If all goes well, by the end of next year Yottabyte will have a prototype IEM. What Yottabyte has got is already pretty impressive, and adding the last few elements honestly shouldn't be that hard. The hard part is done, now it's just a matter of getting some venture capital and going forth and marketing the thing.
I bring Yottabyte up as an example mostly because it’s a textbook perfect case of "buy or bury" in the IEM space. If Yottabyte ever gets to C-round funding, a whole lot of executives at a whole lot of companies will have a great deal of explaining to do.
Yottabyte isn't the only example. I can't talk about most of the others because they're in stealth, but some have emerged organically. Maxta and Mirantis, for example, have a partnership that can deliver a hyper-converged OpenStack solution as an appliance. It's not exactly an IEM, but it could be the start of one.
SimpliVity just announced KVM support, and has OpenStack integration for both its KVM and VMware-based solutions. I could keep going up and down the line and list a bunch of companies or company combinations that deliver the building blocks of an IEM, but I suspect you get the picture by now.