Back in 2016, Evaluator Group undertook a new study, titled “HCI in the Enterprise,” with the objective of determining where and how hyperconverged infrastructure was being used in enterprise-level companies (those with 1,000 or more employees). Many of the HCI vendors were talking about their success selling into the enterprise, but our experience with end-user clients and with the market in general suggested there was more to the story.
The 2016 study (which involved about 150 respondents), included questions about drivers, use cases and which products respondents chose. We also followed up the survey with live interviews with about 15% of respondents. We determined that enterprise IT was indeed using HCI, but not generally for what one would call Tier 1 use cases.
The prevailing sentiment was that HCI could be an excellent solution for many lower-tier applications. Was HCI being used in the enterprise? Absolutely. Was it being used for mission-critical workloads? Not so much.
In 2017 we expanded the survey to include questions about where companies would NOT use HCI and why not. Again, we surveyed about 150 respondents.
Can HCI Do Mission-Critical?
In the second study, when asked which use cases were not appropriate for hyperconverged infrastructure, the most common response was “mission-critical.” We found that enterprise IT by and large thought the technology, the available products and the vendor base was too new. Of the reasons given for not choosing an HCI, “maturity” was the most common, by a good margin. But this year the results were different.
HCI Technology is Maturing
In the 2019 iteration of the survey (which also involved about 150 respondents), when asked which use cases were not suitable for HCI, the most common answer was “none,” meaning respondents thought HCI was good for any applications. When asked why, respondents chose “vendor lock-in” more frequently than any other response; maturity dropped to fourth on the list of drawbacks.
The fact that more respondents pointed to a supplier relationship problem than problems with HCI product characteristics or maturity is an indicator that this technology has crossed a threshold of acceptance. This translates to a buying signal. When people stop talking about how well (or poorly) a product functions and instead are concerned about the customer experience, they’ve made their choice.
HCI for Consolidation and Database
Applications and use cases constitute another indicator of acceptance.
When we asked which use cases hyperconverged infrastructure was supporting, the answer given by well over half the respondents was “consolidation.” This is up significantly from last year, an indication that IT is more comfortable with this technology and is putting more applications on their HCI clusters. The results for “database” were interesting as well. In most companies, databases are some of the most important applications. “Database” as a use case was up 50% from last year, showing that more enterprises think HCI is indeed a solution suited for mission-critical environments.
Hyperconverged infrastructures got their start in small and midsized companies, with some penetration into larger organizations for VDI, remote offices and specific applications. Over the past few years, enterprises have steadily increased their usage of HCIs, a conclusion that’s confirmed by the latest IDC report highlighting the 50%+ year-over-year growth of this technology segment. Based on a three-year study by Evaluator Group, enterprise acceptance of HCI has crossed a threshold and become an infrastructure solution that’s appropriate for databases and other mission-critical applications.