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When you play the game of HCI thrones, you win or you slowly shrivel up

Dell Technologies, Nutanix have more than half the market licked

Top dog Dell Technologies and second-placed Nutanix have more than half the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market cornered between them.


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HPE, Cisco and Netapp all have a single-digit share and virtually no prospect of catching up.

According to Wells Fargo and IDC numbers, the HCI market was worth $1.23bn in the fourth 2017 quarter and $1.9bn in the fourth 2018 quarter – a 57.2 per cent rise.

Dell Technologies – the sum of Dell, EMC and VMware – had $460.3m in revenues in 4Q17 and $895.1m a year later, up 74.9 per cent. Nutanix revenues in 4Q17 were $371.0m, and $576.2m in 4Q18. Dell OEM'd Nutanix software with its XC series hardware, so a little double-counting is going on here.

Sales in the Others category – think Datrium, Pivot3 and Scale Computing – were $393.9m in 4Q17 and $646.1m in 4Q18, a rise of 64 per cent.

HPE's 4Q17 and 4Q18 sales were $100.4m and $147.4m respectively, a 46.7 per cent increase, meaning HPE's relative share decreased. No wonder it is now partnering with Nutanix in an attempt to grow sales.

Cisco HyperFlex sales were $56.3m and $75m in 4Q17 and 4Q18, up 33.2 per cent, meaning Cisco undergrew the market.

NetApp was the poor HCI relation, selling just $8m of HCI product in Q417 and $26.7m in 4Q18. That was a rise of 232.8 per cent but from a small starting point.

HPE, Cisco and NetApp's market shares were 7.74, 3.94 and 1.4 per cent respectively. With the Others having 33.94 per cent, Dell and Nutanix jointly accounted for 52.78 per cent.

Unless the trailing trio can outgrow the market, they will likely never amount for much as HCI suppliers.

El Reg thinks HPE was early into the market with the acquired LeftHand Networks (StoreVirtual) product but had no answer to VMware's VSAN software and EMC hardware, being simply swept aside by this fast-reacting pair. HPE's SimpliVity purchase took a year or so to be integrated, leaving it struggling to catch up.

Cisco's HyperFlex is trailing and its growth rate falling. NetApp's late entry with its SolidFire Elements-based product is paying a high price for being late. The 1.4 per cent market share is almost derisory for a company of NetApp's standing.

The underlying and fundamentally obvious elephant in the room is that hyperconverged servers need hypervisors and vSphere is the dominant hypervisor. Add in vSAN and VMware is running away with the HCI market's favoured virtual SAN software because most HCI servers use vSphere.

EMC had bought VMware before the HCI market started getting going, then Dell bought EMC and gleefully placed the crown on its own head.

Michael Dell rules in the Game of HCI Thrones, and no one else has a hope of replacing him. ®

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