Hyper-Convergence Startup SimpliVity In Software-Only Makeover, Aims To Run Tech On Any Server Hardware

Hyper-convergence startup SimpliVity is focusing more on selling its technology in software-only form as it looks to attract a broader range of customers, according to CEO Doron Kempel.

SimpliVity, which sells its hyper-convergence software preloaded on server hardware from Dell, is on track to generate about half of its revenue from software sales this year, Kempel said at a SimpliVity event in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday.

"We are becoming more of a software company, which was the original vision," said Kempel.

[Related: Cisco In Talks With IPO-Bound Nutanix About Strategic Hyper-Convergence Partnership]

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SimpliVity also has "meet in the channel" partnerships with Cisco Systems and Lenovo, in which partners of both vendors integrate and sell SimpliVity software on server hardware.

SimpliVity, Westborough, Mass., intends to eventually make its software run on any type of server, said Kempel. The startup has yet to make its software run on servers from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Supermicro, a Taiwan-based maker of white-box (unbranded) servers.

Some SimpliVity customers have shown an interest in running the startup's software on HPE servers. While that's not possible today, this capability is "coming," said Kempel, without elaborating. HPE wasn't immediately available for comment.

Dan Serpico, CEO of San Francisco-based SimpliVity partner FusionStorm, said he supports the startup's push to become more of a software vendor.

"I think it's ideal, because it allows partners to continue to focus on their infrastructure skills. And with SimpliVity’s agnostic approach to hardware, it enables partners of all kinds to participate," Serpico said.

Nutanix, SimpliVity's main startup rival in the hyper-convergence space, is also moving to sell more of its technology in software-only form, and has also raised the possibility of targeting the service provider segment.

SimpliVity and Nutanix have practical reasons for pushing into software, as doing so gives them the broadest possible reach. Nutanix filed for an IPO in December but hasn't yet pulled the trigger, while SimpliVity has hinted that an IPO is part of its strategy.

SimpliVity and Nutanix together have basically created the market for hyper-converged infrastructure, which refers to compute, storage and networking running on x86 hardware. But the startups are pursuing different competitive strategies.

Nutanix is going after VMware's server virtualization business -- a longtime stronghold that's now in gradual decline -- by developing its own KVM-based hypervisor called Acropolis. It also supports Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization format.

SimpliVity remains closely aligned with VMware, and while it has said it's working on supporting Hyper-V, support has yet to materialize. Kempel, for his part, said SimpliVity doesn't see value in competing on the hypervisor front.

Ken Payne, CTO of Abba Technologies, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based SimpliVity partner, said hyper-convergence has reached the point where customers are familiar with the advantages of using the technology.

"Our challenge is to make sure we can explain all of the differences between the offerings on the market," Payne said at the SimpliVity event. "Hyper-convergence is becoming more mainstream; we need to be smart about bringing its value out."