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Key findings from TBR’s 2H18 Hyperconverged Platforms Customer Research

  • TBR forecasts the HCI market will reach $15 billion by 2023, representing a significant growth opportunity for data center vendors.
  • Survey incidence data indicate that the majority of potential customers have not yet begun their hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) journey.
  • Emerging solutions, such as Lenovo’s TruScale Infrastructure Services and AWS Outposts have the potential to shake up the HCI market.

Opportunity for successful HCI vendors is great, as the market will rapidly expand through 2023

The HCI market evolves to meet customers’ changing demands. As customers embrace digital transformation, the opportunity in HCI increases, and vendors invest and adapt to become agents of change for customers. TBR estimates the HCI market will increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $15 billion by 2023 as customers leverage HCI for a wide array of needs, both traditional and emerging.

A majority of potential customers have not yet purchased HCI, creating opportunities for all HCI vendors to gain customers. Incidence data from TBR’s research show that only 27% of companies surveyed purchased HCI. This demonstrates the massive opportunity that remains for vendors to gain net-new customers in the space. Converged infrastructure (CI) leaders Dell EMC and Cisco have a distinct advantage over other HCI peers, as their CI legacies have afforded them incumbent status with existing CI customers. Despite the incumbent advantage, there is opportunity for any vendor to capitalize on emerging buyer preferences. For example, software is an increasingly central piece of the HCI story, and with 79% of respondents indicating that they would consider consumption-based HCI purchases, strategic marketing and investments can enable any HCI vendor to rise through the ranks.

While Lenovo is not a leading vendor at this time, 30% of respondents indicated they considered Lenovo for their HCI purchase. Lenovo’s restructured portfolio, its recent unveiling of TruScale Infrastructure Services, and the rapid positive changes in its overall data center business are likely to bolster gains for the vendor in HCI as well. Although Dell EMC’s and Cisco’s leadership in the HCI space has been established, the opportunity in HCI remains vast, even for fast followers in the space. Digital transformation only stands to reinforce this trend as HCI becomes more widely adopted.

Customers leverage HCI for private and hybrid cloud installments as security remains a top concern with public cloud adoption

It is clear the private and hybrid cloud value proposition is a benefit HCI buyers are looking to achieve, with 80% of respondents indicating they leverage HCI for private or hybrid cloud installments. A majority of customers (60%) leverage their HCI for database management, and many of these customers indicated their database management use was for mission-critical purposes. This underscores the need to protect critical and sensitive data. TBR’s research showed that buyers are making additional investments in security in conjunction with HCI, particularly network security.

Graph depicting 2H18 security software purchased with hyperconverged

Going forward, the emergence of AWS Outposts in the market will challenge current HCI deployment trends as Amazon Web Services (AWS) messages its Outposts offering as being able to seamlessly integrate with AWS public cloud, addressing a key driver behind HCI adoption for private cloud installments. AWS Outposts are expected to hit the market in 2H19, so it will take some time before the impact of Outposts is known. However, that AWS is making its Outposts offering available as a managed service will improve ease of use, and will likely increase demand, especially among existing AWS customers as the underlying hardware of Outposts will resemble that of AWS’ public cloud environment.

Lenovo unveils TruScale Infrastructure Services, consumption-based data center pricing

In February Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) unveiled TruScale Infrastructure Services. A Hardware as a Service (HaaS) solution with subscription-based pricing, TruScale makes DCG’s entire ThinkSystem and ThinkAgile portfolio available to customers “as a Service” through both Lenovo sales associates and channel partners. For a monthly fee, customers will gain access to data center infrastructure, which can be installed at the customer’s location of choice. Cost will be based on power consumption, as power consumption is a relatively accurate way to measure usage without compromising infrastructure security. The hardware remains Lenovo-owned, -maintained and -supported, and with no minimum usage requirement, customers gain the financial flexibility available through public cloud offerings without the risks associated with taking data off premises. Further, the monthly pricing structure includes installation, deployment, management, maintenance, remote monitoring, system health checks and removal of the hardware once the subscription expires. Pricing details of the solution have not yet been disclosed and are likely to be determined case-by-case. The solution is currently available only in English and priced in USD and Euros.

DCG’s late-to-market status will be advantageous in the consumption-based pricing realm

DCG is a fast-follower in consumption-based pricing, as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Dell Technologies have offered consumption-based pricing for over a year. While these offerings have greater market longevity, as they are typically multiyear agreements, customer adoption remains relatively nascent for consumption-based pricing models. These deals are more complex than traditional hardware sales, and therefore require a mindset shift in some ways to promote adoption, just as cloud did initially. DCG’s entrance into the market times well with customer interest, and the vendor’s later arrival to the space will not prove to be a major inhibitor to growth.

The total inclusion of DCG’s channel partners, in addition to its direct sales force, in providing TruScale, is an asset and distinction for the group. Because Lenovo’s services portfolio is not as mature as that of vendors such as Dell EMC, providing channel partners with this opportunity will prove to be a win-win as it enables channel partners to sell attached services while affording Lenovo a more passive revenue stream. Involving the channel has been an initial challenge for some vendors offering consumption-based pricing as the partners need to be incentivized to pursue it over a traditional hardware sale, in which they would get a lump sum payout versus a subscription-like payout. TBR believes that because Lenovo has arrived to market later than peers with its consumption-based pricing offerings, it was able to work out channel partner challenges before going live with the solution.