Notes from #GartnerDC: Hyper-converged infrastructure brings simplicity, better economics

December 14, 2015 | Posted by

By Bruce Milne, Vice President & CMO

I spent the better part of this week at the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference in Las Vegas. It was an exceptional event and a great turnout of about 2000 attendees, reportedly 68 percent of who were first timers. The turnout was a bit of a surprise, but it suggests to me that this event will continue in a similar format in for the foreseeable future.

Among attendees and vendors alike, one of the conference’s favorite features was the survey functionality that Gartner incorporated into virtually every presentation. It allowed attendees to submit real-time feedback on the presentations, which provided unique insights into the opinions, priorities and top issues of the audience. That insight, in turn, allowed the analysts presenting to adapt their comments to the audience and helped vendors (like us) understand customers’ needs that much better.

Gartner’s key theme and advice for IT organizations was to consider what they call “bimodal” IT initiatives. Mode 1 refers to optimized ongoing operations, while Mode 2 refers to more agile IT practices, such as piloting new technologies, A/B testing of approaches, and short, frequent deployment schedules. Gartner suggested that all IT organizations should target both optimized Mode 1 and exploratory Mode 2 initiatives.

Throughout the three days I was there, I met architects, IT directors and implementers. Every person that I talked to was either implementing or evaluating hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) for their business, which validated for me the 60 percent compound annual growth rate that the analysts were predicting for the market over the next few years. Hyper-converged initiatives were invariably classed as Mode 2 projects, and VDI, BCDR, Remote and Branch Office, and data center refreshes and optimizations were driving most HCI deployments and pilots.

The questions I heard from attendees indicated that there was still some confusion and skepticism about the difference between converged and hyper-converged infrastructure. HCI’s roots in software-defined storage helped customers internalize the real value and economies that it could deliver.

A review of the questions and priorities I heard from attendees supports the assertions from analyst Roger Cox that the factors driving the extraordinary interest in hyper-convergence could be boiled down to two fundamental drivers: simplicity and economics.

I took simplicity to mean consolidation of management of all the elements of compute under a single framework – the reduction of specialized skills required to manage local and remote datacenters, and the ease of deployment and expansion of hyper-converged infrastructure. Economics, of course, ranged from the elimination of expensive and proprietary SAN’s and storage arrays, to lower acquisition costs of commodity X86 hardware, to vastly improved utilization rates for deployed infrastructure.

Customers appreciated proof points like the total cost of savings of Pivot3 implementations reported by the analysts. One example showed a reduction of 39% for a standard VDI implementation. Attendees indicated that they need more of this anecdotal evidence to help them make qualified recommendations to their IT leadership about Mode 2 HCI initiatives for their businesses.

One thing that I took as a personal challenge was the number of people who expressed surprise about Pivot3’s performance leadership, superior utilization rates and the breadth and scope of our customer deployments (we power over 1600 customers and 16000 deployments!). That’s a mindshare deficit that our marketing team is excited to change.

This was a terrific event for any IT organization that is thinking about their strategic initiatives. The content was hard-hitting, incisive and well aligned with the needs of architects and implementers. We look forward to continuing the discussions with hundreds of interested businesses that we started in Vegas.

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