Cisco Exec: Strong HyperFlex Demand Is Delaying Partner Shipments, But We're Stepping Up Manufacturing

Cisco Systems said Friday that it has seen higher-than-expected customer interest in HyperFlex, its foray into the hyper-convergence market, and that has led to delays in shipping the product to partners for testing purposes.

"We are prioritizing customer orders [of HyperFlex], which has slowed delivery to partners who want to get lab gear," Todd Brannon, Cisco's director of product marketing for Unified Computing System (UCS) servers, told CRN in an interview. "We said we'd have a six- to eight-week production ramp and we have delivered on that."

Several partners told CRN earlier this week that Cisco has pushed back the timeframe for HyperFlex channel shipments indefinitely, after initially telling them they'd receive it in March.

Brannon acknowledged the shipping delays and said Cisco has responded by stepping up manufacturing of HyperFlex.

"We're hearing the frustration from partners. They all want to get [HyperFlex] gear into their labs," he said. "We've upped the forecast and are getting the materials to do it. This is definitely temporary."

Over the next two months, Cisco will get HyperFlex onto the two-week lead time between orders and fulfillment that is standard for UCS, Brannon said.

HyperFlex, unveiled in early March, marries Cisco UCS servers with software-defined storage technology developed in partnership with Springpath, a startup founded by former VMware storage engineers. Springpath's HX Data Platform pools storage from solid-state and conventional hard drives and turns it into an enterprise object storage system.

Some Cisco partners told CRN they're concerned that version 1.0 of HyperFlex lacks features found in competing offerings, like erasure coding, which breaks up data into chunks and stores them across a range of locations and media types.

Brannon said Cisco HyperFlex doesn't use erasure coding or RAID storage -- another technology used to boost storage resiliency -- because Springpath's file system is purpose-built for hyper-convergence and offers better performance.

Partners have also noted that HyperFlex doesn't support all-flash arrays, but Brannon said that's also by design. "We don't want to use all-flash arrays for hyper-convergence because there's a heavy price tax," he said. "Hyper-converged startups are using all-flash in a way that we don't think is efficient."

Data-intensive workloads are one example where flash is useful, but customers tend to run those on bare metal, according to Brannon.

"If someone is looking for an all-flash-based system, we will probably point them to a Flexpod," said Brannon, referring to the converged infrastructure that combines Cisco UCS servers with NetApp storage and is jointly sold by both vendors and their partners.

Cisco plans to make HyperFlex sales and marketing training available to all 2,152 of its UCS partners worldwide, said Brannon. Cisco is focusing on its top 125 UCS partners, but expects to have 900 UCS partners trained by the end of July, he said.

Meanwhile, Cisco was a late entrant to the hyper-convergence space and has some catching up to do.

Nutanix, the top startup in the hyper-convergence space, with more than $312 million in funding, is expected to have its initial public offering sometime in the coming weeks. SimpliVity, the No. 2 player, with more than $276 million in funding, has said it's seeing good results as well.

The momentum of the startups, along with VMware's improvements in version 6.2 of its VSAN technology, are ratcheting up pressure on Cisco to get HyperFlex into the market soon.

Brannon agreed, but said Cisco is confident that customers will embrace HyperFlex as something different and unique from current offerings in the market.

"The startups have created a lot of mind share around hyper-converged infrastructure, and we're definitely entering into a slipstream in a market that is about to take off," Brannon said.

"The critical thing was to get to market with a hyper-converged product this year, and we've done that. That is why we are prioritizing shipments to customers."

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