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Hyper-converged prospects? Thanks to firm-gobbling habit and OEM deal, Dell has 3

VSAN, ScaleIO and Nutanix join horse race

EMC-Dell deal Dell has three horses in the hyper-converged system race: VMware’s VSAN colt, EMC’s ScaleIO mustang and OEM’d Nutanix’s filly. Come 2017, VMware and EMC should be inside Dell and eyes will look quizzically at the Dell Nutanix OEM deal.

Specifically, Dell says it has the broadest hyper-converged stable offering available from any supplier, and this constitutes five product sets:

  • VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes using PowerEdge servers,
  • Resold EMC VCE VxRail appliances which use VMware’s VSAN,
  • Resold EMC VCE VxRack Node (SW-defined storage building block ) and System 1000 FLEX rack-scale hyper-converged system,
  • XC Series – the OEM’d Nutanix HCIA software – using the newest Xeon E5-2600 v4 (Broadwell) CPUs, and
  • VMware Virtual SAN support for Dell’s Hybrid Cloud Platform (reference architecture with vRealize).

Virtual SAN Ready Nodes are WMware-certified, pre-configured, hyper-converged, ready-to-go hardware products sold by Dell and other server OEMs to provide the hardware underpinnings for a virtual SAN.

EMC’s VxRail is the EVO:RAIL follow-on, a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance running VMware’s VSAN v6.2 software.

VMware’s VSAN was upgraded to v6.2 earlier this year and is regarded as a much stronger virtual SAN offering than earlier releases.

VxRack systems are converged rack-scale infrastructure systems in the vBlock mode, and support EMC’s ScaleIO virtual SAN product. This has just been upgraded to v2.0, supports vSphere and HyperV hypervisors and scales out further, EMC says, than VSAN.

The XC was upgraded to the XC6320 with doubled performance and capacity in October last year. This used a range of Xeon 2600 v3 processors. and the step up to v4 Broadwell Xeons will increase performance again. There are a range of 1U (XC630-10; 8 - 20 core) and 2U (XC730-16G; 14 - 17 core) appliances and SAP NetWeaver support has been added.

Dell Storage General Manager Alan Atkinson told us: “We’re delighted with the Nutanix business. We want to drive it forwards.”

He says that the hyper-converged system market started taking off about two years ago. Four to five quarters ago, it started to get massive traction and is now going gangbusters. And: ”We think we’ve shipped more hyper-converged products than anyone else.”

It’s a broad range with Dell’s Chief Commercial Officer, Marius Haas, referring to “differentiated purpose-built appliances, integrated systems, factory installed solutions and flexible reference architectures.”

The market is maturing, getting to critical mass. Matt Eastwood, an IDC SVP, said customers “[are] wanting a variety of entry points for hyper-converged infrastructure. Dell is certainly there and ready, with hardware-only, VSAN hyper-converged product, ScaleIO VxRack and VxRail systems, Nutanix systems and its Hybrid Cloud reference architecture; six entry points and three partner suppliers; EMC, Nutanix and VMware.

Atkinson makes the point that Dell is conservative about who it will partner with, choosing best-of-breed allies, and not simply cramming a catalogue with everybody and anybody. He was perhaps contrasting Dell’s approach with that of Lenovo and its seven hyper-converged partners.

There is now a four-way market fight underway between Cisco (Springpath), Dell/EMC, HPE and Lenovo – the mainstream incumbent hyper-converged infrastructure product vendors – with startup Nutanix enjoying Dell support and fellow startup Simplivity also enjoying a degree of mainstream vendor partnership.

Startup GridStore offers Hyper-V-focused hyper-converged product too. Then there's also Pivot3, Scale Computing and others.

That makes at least nine suppliers offering hyper-converged HW/SW products plus a cohort of software-only suppliers such as Atlantis, Maxta, etc. There's bound to be a market shakeout eventually but, for now, the hyper-converged tide is rising strongly and lifting all boats to the joy of their crews.


  • VCE VxRail, VCE VxRack Node, Dell VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes (customer-build), and the latest Dell XC Series appliances are globally available today from Dell and Dell PartnerDirect channel partners.
  • Dell Reference Architecture for EMC Converged Infrastructure, VMware Virtual SAN support with Dell Hybrid Cloud Platform for VMware, and Dell VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes (factory-installed) should arrive in the second 2016 quarter.
  • The VCE VxRack System 1000 FLEX is available today direct from Dell in the US. Global and channel availability are planned for the second 2016 quarter. ®

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