Hyper-Converged Trash-Talk: HP Tells Partners VMware's EVO: RAIL Tech Has Shortcomings

Hewlett-Packard is now supporting EVO: RAIL, VMware's software stack for hyper-converged appliances, but it's doing so in a way that could best be described as lukewarm.

HP earlier this month unveiled plans for two new hyper-converged appliances, one based on its StoreVirtual software-defined storage technology and the other based on VMware's EVO: RAIL.

Unsurprisingly, HP wants its channel partners to lead with the StoreVirtual appliance in customer conversations. Yet HP is also seeding a bit of uncertainty about EVO: RAIL, presumably because it comes with VMware's VSAN storage technology, which competes with HP StoreVirtual.

HP, in a Powerpoint deck sent to partners recently which was viewed by CRN, asserts that "EVO: RAIL customers will have to buy new infrastructure every 3-5 years," implying that this won't be necessary for customers that choose the HP StoreVirtual appliance.

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[Related: HP's Dual Hyper-Converged Strategy: StoreVirtual VSA, VMware EVO: RAIL]

HP said in the document that the StoreVirtual appliance "will support Microsoft, KVM in the future with no hypervisor lock in," an apparent dig at EVO: RAIL, which only supports VMware's vSphere hypervisor.

Failover in the HP StoreVirtual appliance is handled at the node, appliance, rack and data center levels, while EVO: RAIL's failover is node-only, HP says in the document.

And while HP's StoreVirtual appliance does volume-level snapshots, EVO: RAIL only does virtual machine-level snapshots, which HP describes in the document as "not intended for long-term production use."

Basically, the only scenario in which HP partners should recommend EVO: RAIL is when customers have already "deployed VSAN or bought into VMware EVO: RAIL strategy," HP says in the document.

An HP spokesperson said the vendor is offering two hyper-converged appliances to "provide customers choice, ensuring the right solution for their unique IT environments."

"As a result, we instructed HP Sales and our partners to listen to the customers, understand their requirements and recommend the solution that will deliver the business outcomes that their business needs," the HP spokesperson said in an email.

A VMware spokesperson declined comment.

HP wasn't part of the first wave of server vendors to support EVO: RAIL, but VMware made a big announcement earlier this month at VMworld in Barcelona when HP came on board. But while VMware has lofty plans for EVO: RAIL, HP apparently isn't as enthused about the implications for its competitive product.

Both HP and VMware were caught flat-footed by the rapid emergence of hyper-converged appliances, which typically include server virtualization, storage, networking and management software running on x86 server hardware.

Well-funded startups like Nutanix and Simplivity grabbed the lion's share of attention in the hyper-converged space. HP is a big fan of Simplivity and considered acquiring it earlier this year, but was unable to strike a deal with the Westborough, Mass.-based startup, sources familiar with the matter told CRN in May.

While HP and VMware are competing in the software-defined storage market, one HP partner downplayed the significance of the recent Powerpoint trash talk. HP has made great strides in developing a converged infrastructure approach that fits different customers and workloads, the partner said.

"Hyper-converged and high-density products need to fit into a more conventional systems architecture and set of management tools," the partner said. "HP has finally figured out that a VMware shop is going to want to manage the converged elements the same way it manages everything else, and the same goes for Hyper-V and Xen environments."