The Hyperconvergence Wars Cometh – TechReckoning Dispatch v3n3

The TechReckoning Dispatch, Vol. 3, No. 3. Sunday, March 13, 2016. The Hyperconvergence Wars; Thanks, Obama!; Toxic Data; Security only for the 1%; 10 Years of AWS; No Labels.

Mommy, Daddy, What Did You Do During The Hyperconvergence Wars?

This, the year of Our Lord 2016, may in fact be the year of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Or, if it’s not, then 2017 will be the year when a lot of failed HCI products get pulled off the market. Combining servers with storage has been on the cusp of the Big Time for a few years now. Nutanix seems to be the leader of the vertical integrated solutions that combine hardware and software. VMware says VSAN is king of the software-only solution. Soon entering the arena are solutions from EMC’s VCE and now Cisco and an update from HPE.

Cisco has had several partnerships to get into this market, but are now OEMing software from Springpath. (That article at The Next Platform by Timothy Prickett Morgan – you should read it; you’ll learn something.) Their UCS server platform shook up the market in 2009 when it was introduced, but some argue that their success is more about their partnering strategy with folks like VCE and NetApp than their ability to sell naked servers.

VCE’s VxRail seems to me like EVO:RAIL, in that it includes VSAN, but it is priced to move. VCE can move racks, but do they want to move these scale-out boxes in the mid-market? (Check out the upcoming VSAN cloud-based analytics. Cloud-based control planes and cloud-based analytics for on-prem hardware are definitely a thing.)

I don’t know much about the upcoming HPE next-gen HCI box yet. But you people who make fun of HPE forget that 1. they move more servers than anybody else by a large margin; and 2. they were the only big company to have their storage revenue go up last quarter. (Breakdown by type) If things go right, we will be drawing parallels between HPE and the resurgence of Microsoft. Big ships, once they get pointed in the right direction, are powerful, y’all.

Server architectures: Blades vs Racks redux?

If you were around 10 years ago, you may recall we fought a lot about blade servers vs “traditional commodity” rack-mounted servers. Turns out nobody won that fight, although blades never took over everything in part because their proprietary parts and their “buy another expensive chassis” expansion architecture.

In some way this HCI vs separate storage device feels like that fight again. This time, though, the HCI solutions use commodity hardware and scale-out architectures, so don’t think that the battle will have the same playbook.

Or is it really about Simplicity?

People tell me they buy HCI for the convenience. Part of this is just removing the storage hassle — compared to old-gen SANs, next-gen HCI storage fabrics are scale out (just add more boxes) and turnkey (without a lot of nerd knobs and high priest incantations). You’d think that HCI would enable the boss to vote the storage team off the island, but the tribe usually doesn’t seem to speak in that direction. The virtualization team often likes that the storage team doesn’t have to be involved, though.

If in fact it’s really about the simplicity, then I’d predict the HW+SW market will take off now that the big boys are in the market, because they are the simplest solutions. The simplicity driver might also imply that every time VMware’s Duncan Epping or Cormac Hogan writes an article about VSAN configuration options, VSAN sales should go down, because it makes VSAN seem more complicated. (OK, I’m just trolling, but you see my point, no? Stop with the nerd knobs already.)

Why not HCI?

People say they *don’t* buy HCI because it mushes compute and storage together; IT admins feel funny in their tummy when they can’t scale servers and storage separately. Also scale-out HCI, although having cloud-like properties, isn’t the way the real cloud-scale players like Google and Facebook do it, so if you’re up at that level, HCI is off the table.

Alternate future: separate storage arrays also lose their nerd knobs and get simpler and more turnkey, eliminating the simplicity advantage of HCI. People made fun of Nutanix for using the slogan “invisible infrastructure,” but again, what else do you call it when you talk to your storage via Slack and it just works? More on disappearing need knobs next week.

I’m no pundit, so I think all we need to do is watch the performance of HCI from HPE, Dell-VCE, and Cisco over the next 18 months to see if we’re ready to move from the early adopter $1B market to HCI being the new normal. And of course track startups Nutanix, SimpliVity, Scale, and the pure software plays (including in the container space) to see if their technology head starts are enough to keep them ahead of their competitors who have the big swinging channels. Unlike the joke about not needing to run faster than the bear, just faster than the guy next to you, the actual business bear will eat everybody that runs out of money.

On thing that’s for sure, we are going to see a lot more of this kind of pissing from VMware GM Sanjay Poonen, which everybody really enjoys! See the smiley?

Worth A Click

Following up from last week, the DOJ and Obama say they aren’t kidding around. All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again. Why Are We Fighting The Crypto Wars Again? by Stephen Levy on BackChannel, a magazine on Medium.

In theory at least, intelligence and law enforcement agreed to accept the fact that crypto was here to stay, and if they wanted to gain access to encrypted communications and files, they would do so by warrants and their own cryptanalysis, and not by demanding that the systems themselves should be weakened. But now it seems the United States is welching on that deal.

Data is a toxic asset by Bruce Schneier on his blog via Greg Knieriemen’s excellent Enterprise newsletter. Like Nuclear Power, we thought Big Data was going to save us; instead, we’re left with the Toxic Waste.

All this makes data a toxic asset, and it continues to be toxic as long as it sits in a company’s computers and networks. The data is vulnerable, and the company is vulnerable. It’s vulnerable to hackers and governments. It’s vulnerable to employee error. And when there’s a toxic data spill, millions of people can be affected. The 2015 Anthem Health data breach affected 80 million people. The 2013 Target Corp. breach affected 110 million.

I went to the RSA Conference last week, and it was more of a zoo than VMworld is. Security seems to be in a somewhat bubbilicious moment. But unlike enterprise infrastructure, we assume there are enterprise solutions and SMB solutions. But security affects us all — Violet Blue quotes Gartner analyst Anton Chauvkin observing a lot of RSA vendors are building solutions just for the security-1%ers.

Very, very few of the vendors seem to be bothered to think of Does this shit work and is it cost effective?!!”, especially compared to all the other stuff you can buy. … In fact, the expo reminded me of the awesome paper “Market for silver bullets” [that you should all go read now!] and this quote “You’re proposing to build a box with a light on top of it. The light is supposed to go off when you carry the box into a room that has a Unicorn in it. How do you show that it works?”

I really like Werner Vogels observations about his decade growing AWS. It’s so easy to just spout platitudes when you’re asked to sum up, but my challenge to you is to see how these apply to your own projects. 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Amazon Web Services. The following observation can both apply to our own projects as well as perhaps giving us insight into Amazon’s view of the PaaS model.

One of the most important mechanisms we provided was to offer customers a collection of primitives and tools, where they could pick and choose their preferred way to engage with the AWS cloud, instead of only providing one framework that they are forced to use, which includes everything and the kitchen sink. This approach has enabled our customers to become so successful, that even later generations of AWS services make use of exactly the same primitive services our customers have become accustomed to.

Escaping the Essentialist You: Avoiding Technology Dead Ends by Steve Chambers on Medium. How fixed is your mindset?

“He’s a mainframe guy.” “She’s a full-stack developer.” “They are digital natives.” “You are not cloud native.” … Imagine if you stopped at the first thing you found you were good at, the thing that someone massaged your ego about, and didn’t try anything else: isn’t that a life unfulfilled?

Keeping Up

I’ll try to make the Storage Field Day 9 party in San Jose this Wednesday. Make sure you watch SFD9 online. I might be going to OSCON. I’m probably not going to OpenStack Summit. I’m probably going to ZertoCON in May. I’m thinking about going to DockerCon in June. Going to any of those? Let’s connect.

Just Hit Reply

Is 2016 the year of HCI? Can our plucky young startups withstand the onslaught of the Empires? Next week let’s talk about Slack. Love it, hate it? For either of those topics, just hit reply on this note and send an email to and I’ll include your comments next week.

The TechReckoning Dispatch. A periodic newsletter from John Mark Troyer with links and opinions about enterprise technology. Thank you for being my friend. ArchiveSubscribeEmailTwitterFacebookWebsite. “You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar And I’m young enough to look at, and far too old to see All the scars are on the inside I’m not sure that there’s anything left of me Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it It’s time we had some leave We’ve been living in the flames We’ve been eating up our brains Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on.”

posted by on March 14, 2016