Gartner Converged Infrastructure 'Magic Quadrant:' Nutanix Top Visionary, VCE Overall Leader

Gartner this week published its first report -- including its first Magic Quadrant -- on the topic of integrated system markets, noting that the multifaceted market is growing at 50 percent annually.

Gartner, in its "Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems" report, a copy of which was reviewed by CRN, estimated the market for integrated systems, which includes single-vendor and multivendor converged infrastructures and hyper-converged infrastructures, will grow more than 50 percent in 2014 over 2013 to reach $6 billion.

Gartner defines "integrated systems" as "combinations of server, storage and network infrastructures, sold with management software that facilitates the provisioning and management of the combined unit."

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That term is more commonly referred to in the industry as "converged infrastructure," which includes hardware from two or more vendors as an integrated solution, or "hyper-converged infrastructure," which refers to those solutions that are integrated into a single hardware appliance.

The forces that are accelerating the growth of the integrated systems market compared to the IT business as a whole include improved performance, perceived lower operating expenditures, greater IT optimization, increased automation and simplified sourcing. They are overcoming perceived barriers to growth, including premium pricing, a preference for self integration and less vendor lock-in, Gartner wrote in the report.

"(Integrated Systems') continual growth rates will pose a challenge to the vendors to maximize share of wallet and margins with a compelling value proposition going forward," Gartner wrote.

Gartner's Magic Quadrant groups IT vendors in one of four quadrants based on how complete their vision for the technology is, and on how well they are able to execute on that vision.

In this week's report, Gartner cited three vendors in the leadership quadrant, which includes the best combination of vision and ability to execute.

The three include VCE, a joint venture between EMC, Cisco and VMware, which produces the Vblock solutions; the Cisco and NetApp alliance, which develops FlexPod reference architectures; and Oracle, which develops what the vendor calls "engineered systems," combining hardware with a specific application such as a database.

In the visionary quadrant, which includes companies considered by Gartner to have a good vision of the industry but which have not net executed on those visions as well as the leaders, Gartner includes Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell, which lie just outside the leader quadrant, and Nutanix and SimpliVity, which are still fairly low on the execution scale.

NEXT: Visionaries In The Gartner Magic Quadrant For Integrated Systems

Of all the vendors in the Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems, Nutanix has the most complete vision, Gartner wrote.

Other vendors highlighted in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems include Teradata, Fujitsu, Hitachi Data Systems, Huawei and Unisys.

One very important part of the converged systems ecosystem missing from the Magic Quadrant is the VSPEX reference architecture designed by EMC, featuring server and networking technology from a variety of vendors.

While VSPEX as a reference architecture is very much equivalent to FlexPod, which was included in the Magic Quadrant, it was not included.

Andrew Butler, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, wrote via email in response to a query from CRN about the decision to exclude VSPEX, that Gartner's goal was to select "predictable" hardware solutions that address both integrated compute and storage within a single managed, switched fabric.

"If VSPEX was deployed on a single hardware platform (like the consistent deployment of Cisco and Netapp in a Flexpod) (sic), then it probably would be eligible. But we made the decision to exclude reference architectures that offer a variety of supported hardware options, as again it was very difficult to fairly compare predictable integrated systems like a Vblock or PureFlex versus a technology that could run on umpteen different server, storage and/or networking options," Butler wrote.

Butler also emphasized that the exclusion of VSPEX is not a negative reflection on the reference architecture.

"We respect the success that EMC is achieving with this strong strategy. As we plan for the refresh of this document in 2015, we will undoubtedly reassess VSPEX and other technologies for possible inclusion. But I do not believe that the technology meets the current market definition requirements of this new (Magic Quadrant)," he wrote.

Solution providers that partner with several of the vendors in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems said they agreed with how Gartner characterized the leaders and the visionaries.

VCE as the top vendor in the leader category makes sense, said Tim Neary, owner and president of Strategic Storage Solutions, an Allen, Texas-based solution provider and Nutanix channel partner.

"The very thing VCE is doing is truly a converged system," Neary told CRN. "VCE is more of a bolt-on of three different companies' stuff. EMC stuff. Cisco stuff. VMware stuff."

NEXT: Leaders Vs. Visionaries

Nutanix makes sense as the top visionary as it is a vendor that is so far ahead of its time, Neary said.

"VCE is more mature," he said. "Nutanix has challenges. Some customers don't understand it. It can be difficult to sell. It can be challenging. So Gartner is probably spot-on with this."

Another solution provider, who requested anonymity, told CRN that market share automatically qualifies such companies as VCE and Oracle, as well as the FlexPod reference architecture, as leaders in the market.

Meanwhile, customers realize there also can be smaller companies making their marks in the market, including Nutanix and SimpliVity, which makes those companies more visionary, said the solution provider, which counts VCE among its vendor partners.

"From a visionary standpoint, it may be crazy to buy those big blocks of infrastructure when small solutions are more flexible," the solution provider said.

The solution provider currently does not partner with companies like Nutanix and SimpliVity, which are still in the "heavy-lifting" phase. "FlexPod and VSPEX are the devils you know," the solution provider said.

However, the market is moving toward the visionaries as customers look at ways to better manage their infrastructures, even if they are still afraid to buy from the startups, the solution provider said.

"I have one customer of FlexPod who said that all the nuances of the technology can be complicated to manage," the solution provider said. "They're looking at simplifying their infrastructure. I had coffee recently with the architect there after a meeting. He hesitantly asked me, 'Have you heard of SimpliVity?' I said, 'Yes, why do you ask?' He said, 'I was afraid to bring it up.'"