When the Gartner 2015 Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems results were released last year, it was clear that the integrated systems market segment was very active. The report showed that hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) continued to represent the fastest growing area in the data center. With the release of this year’s results, it is even more obvious that it continues to grow at an incredible pace.
As you would expect with such a hot market trend, HCI continues to receive lots of attention from analysts, press, vendors, and customers alike. And in this year’s Gartner 2016 Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems report, Gartner again claims, “Hyperconvergence is disrupting the integrated system market, with major system vendors joining the growing number of startups (some of which are now mature).”
2016 Magic Quadrant summary of activity
The Magic Quadrant chart above is interesting if you are looking at it for the first time, as it does a great job in placing all vendors in different areas of the quadrant based upon their capabilities and maturity. But to me, this chart unfolds into an even more interesting story when you lay out all three years side by side (Gartner first started reporting on this segment in 2014, providing me with three years of reports to compare.)
Some might argue that the criteria of the segment has changed year-over-year, so we can’t accurately compare vendors the same way; I disagree. I think it illustrates a maturity story of a new segment of the industry. According to a news report from Gartner, the industry is witnessing a 79 percent growth rate in the HCI segment—slated to reach almost $2 billion in 2016—and this market is dominated by a few new faces, but mostly incumbent vendors.
3 years in review
2014 started off with fewer vendors than we have today, mostly established ones, but some new players entered this space. With adjustments that Gartner made in 2015, most vendors were reorganized into either the bottom left (Niche Players) or the top right quadrants (Leaders). I like the 2015 view because it accurately defines the maturity of the market and how the different vendors were establishing themselves. The 2015 chart is also interesting as it shows five new vendors entering this segment and competing for market share.
The recently published 2016 chart shows continued maturity of the HCI segment with the 13 vendors that were present in 2014 increasing to 19 vendors overall. Also, of the 10 vendors that were in the bottom left of the 2015 quadrant, five have now moved into different areas. Again, this is a reflection of the mature solutions these vendors are providing customers.
The 2016 report really starts to identify the leaders in the HCI space and the progress they have made over the past three years. Although some of the well-known leaders in this space continued to do well, I am a firm believer that early leaders don’t always win the race. Take this historical example: I remember a company called Netscape and the giant lead they had over other web browsers back in the early days of the internet. But, that lead was lost after a couple of years; Netscape now resides in the history books, usurped by Microsoft and other browsers.
Another observation I see on this chart is the Nutanix placement. Even after its recent IPO splash, it is interesting to see that Gartner is scaling them back and being a little more realistic about their platform.
I believe this is because Nutanix has only one solution, and that solution cannot meet the needs of the enterprise or support any application at any scale, which includes mission-critical applications. HPE, as well as other enterprise vendors, understands that while hyperconverged solutions are suitable for many workloads, many other workloads require a differentiated hardware architecture. That’s why HPE has built an Integrated System portfolio of solutions including Hyper Converged, HPE Synergy, and 3PAR StoreServ storage. In addition, HPE offers other solutions such as eight-socket platform servers and 16-socket HPE Integrity Superdome X Servers to support the demands of in-memory database applications.
I think HCI is a great addition to enterprise and midsize business IT, and I’m glad that Gartner is recognizing it as a new category; it brings a layer of simplicity to the data center that IT has been craving for many years. The introduction of Converged Infrastructure that HP provided over nine years ago was a great first step, and now HCI becomes a natural progression of its vision for data center simplicity. That being said, the concern I have with certain HCI solutions is that some vendors are creating NEW islands of management and data. For example, SimpliVity and some of the other HCI vendors do not integrate into the existing infrastructure and actually puts additional strain on an already strained IT staff. So when choosing an HCI vendor to invest in, please make sure that “lack of integration” is an item highlighted on your list that you want to avoid.
I’d like you to consider a couple of other observations as well. As maturity in the quadrant increases and vendor placement changes, remember that maturity in a marketplace always contributes to better solutions for customers. Many of the HCI vendors in 2016 are transitioning laterally from Niche Player into the Visionary quadrant, while only three vendors (already positioned in the Leaders quadrant) continue to make progress to the upper right. These are the HCI vendors to watch.
I read a recent article in CRN by Michael Jenkin stating that Nutanix, HPE, and EMC lead the hyperconverged market. I would beg to differ. I think the current growth leaders in the Integrated Systems quadrant are SimpliVity, Nutanix and HPE…of which HPE made the most progress during the past year.
If you take anything away from the Gartner 2016 Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems, I believe it is that the HCI market segment is still maturing. According to IDC, over 50 percent of potential customers are still investigating HCI technology. When they make their investment, it will be with vendors that come with a proven track record and can support mission-critical applications.
And with that, I will end by saying the results are in, and it’s left to you to make your own assessment. But if you are making a wager for 2017, my money (as it was in 2016) is still on HPE continuing to move up and over to the upper right in the Leaders quadrant.