VMworld 2017: All Things HCI

The VMworld 2017 logo before the day 1 keynote.

As VMware gets its mojo back and the secondary storage part of the market explodes, the world of hyper-converged vendors keep chugging along.

While we’ve seen some consolidation—SimpliVity got bought by HPE, Atlantis Computing didn’t make it—there are still lots of companies trying to make a go of it in the competitive HCI market as standalone companies.

Pivot3 is talking up its position as “one of the top three HCI vendors” according to Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Milne. He told me Pivot3 plans to lead with its technology. The new Acuity platform has a focus on performance and quality-of-service settings, and Pivot3 is adding support for NVMe based flash storage which is fast becoming the new standard for high-performance storage.

Milne told me Pivot3 has over 2000 customers already, and is growing strongly. “We had 85% growth last year, which was actually too fast,” he said. “70% growth is our goal this year.” While there are plenty of companies who would no doubt kill for growth of only 70%, I like that Pivot3 is aware of the perils of growing too fast. Cash is the oxygen for a growing company, and many a fast-growing startup has asphyxiated because it grew too fast and ran out of cash.

Maxta was also making some noise at VMworld this year, directly taking aim at rival Nutanix with it’s “Your Way” campaign. The company was giving out buttons with the slogan “You can’t have it your way with Nutanix” on them, but they mysteriously disappeared. Maxta is talking up the anti lock-in sentiment that is swirling around the industry at the moment, so we’ll see how well this resonates with customers.

HyperGrid was talking up its newly announced HyperCloud offer that seeks to provide the same consumption model as public cloud only on-site. It’s not clear to me how this is different from renting VMs hosted at an MSP, but I still draw analogies between public cloud and renting MIPS on a mainframe, so what do I know? I can see the appeal for leasing data-centre kit like it’s a fleet of laptops.

Scale Computing lobbed a cheeky announcement into the fray, announcing extremely low-latency NVMe-based storage abilities on its HCI gear. CTO Phil White told me that it’s due to the way the company’s SCRIBE storage engine functions. “There’s no hypervisor between the VMs and the storage,” he said. Scale will likely OEM solutions based on this platform as it doesn’t quite match its focus on SMB customers—at least, not today. As NMVe performance becomes more widespread, it will no doubt come to be seen as standard, just as flash storage in laptops is now the norm. Once you’ve experiences it, going back to spinning disk just feels sloooow.