HPE To Cisco, Lenovo, Huawei: When It Comes To SimpliVity, You Are On Your Own

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is putting former vendor sales partners of SimpliVity on notice that their time as a partner of the hyper-converged infrastructure is fast coming to a close.

With the closing this month of HPE’s $650 million acquisition of SimpliVity, Antonio Neri, vice president and general manager of the company’s Enterprise Group, said that means former sales partners of SimpliVity – Cisco Systems, Lenovo and Huawei -- will have to find their own way to hyper-converged infrastructure success.

SimpliVity did not sell its hyper-converged infrastructure technologies, which include its OmniStack software and a proprietary card that sits in qualified servers, through Cisco, Lenovo or Huawei. Instead, it offered the technology as a so-called meet-in-the-channel model where solution providers integrated the SimpliVity technology with the server of choice for the customer.

[Related: HPE Closes $650M SimpliVity Acquisition, Says First Combined Solutions With DL380 Will Ship In May]

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HPE's strategy for SimpliVity is focused on how to land its OmniStack software stack in multiple HPE platforms, Neri told CRN. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company already has unveiled plans to introduce the SimpliVity technology across its storage, converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure offerings.

Ric Lewis, senior vice president and general manager of HPE's Software-Defined and Cloud Group, said in a blog post earlier this month that HPE’s existing hyper-converged infrastructure offerings will benefit from the added SimpliVity technology.

The SimpliVity capabilities will be added to HPE's other offerings as well, including HPE Synergy converged infrastructure and HPE 3Par storage, Lewis wrote. HPE also plans to integrate the SimpliVity technology in the company's ProLiant DL380 servers, and in the second half of the year plans to more closely integrate the HPE and SimpliVity technologies with new capabilities, Lewis wrote.

According to Neri, HPE will support its Cisco, Lenovo and Huawei sales relationships until the company integrates the SimpliVity technology into its own platform, and will support existing SimpliVity customers.

’We will continue to support those until we integrate [SimpliVity] into our platform," he said in an interview with CRN. "Obviously, over time we're going to integrate the solution into our portfolio. Listen, Cisco has their own solution called [HyperFlex]. Lenovo has another relationship with Nutanix. Huawei, I'm not sure about it. But in the end, our goal for the customers who have already moved to the SimpliVity stack with whatever platform, we're going to continue to support that. That's our commitment. That's what we told them. That's what we told the market.’

However, Neri said, HPE over time will integrate the full OmniStack into the HPE converged and hyper-converged infrastructure offerings where it will be run on HPE hardware, after which it will no longer support the existing sales model with Cisco, Lenovo and Huawei.

"I think they have to decide what strategy they want to pursue," he said. "That's a problem they'll have to solve themselves."

It is a problem Cisco, Lenovo and Huawei already are addressing.

SimpliVity forged its relationship with Cisco in August 2014, under which Cisco channel partners could install the SimpliVity software and add-on card into Cisco Unified Computing System servers. SimpliVity has since said that sales through Cisco partners was its biggest route to market.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, with its own HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure offering, is not concerned about the break in the SimpliVity relationship, a Cisco spokesperson told CRN via email.

"Cisco is confident in our market success and product leadership with HyperFlex Systems, and we have a solid road map in place to further increase our competitive differentiation. SimpliVity has told customers that they are the first point of contact for the solution and will engage Cisco TAC [Technical Assistance Center] on behalf of the customer. SimpliVity will provide the software support on their end, while Cisco will continue to support UCS for any customer with active contracts," the spokesperson wrote.

SimpliVity about 12 months later formed a relationship with Lenovo under which Lenovo would offer SimpliVity's technology on Lenovo's System x servers.

Roderick Lappin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Lenovo, Morrisville, N.C., said SimpliVity has been a great partner, but ending the relationship would not constitute a crisis.

"Our No. 1 partner was Nutanix and continues to be Nutanix," Lappin told CRN. "When the acquisition of SimpliVity was announced, we took a wary position. But these things happen all the time."

Lenovo has a great relationship with Nutanix and plans to double down on that partnership, Lappin said.

"We currently have about 12 products we offer with Nutanix," he said. "This includes our Express solutions for SMB customers which don't require deal registration."

HPE has not made definitive statements about what it will do with SimpliVity's relationships, Lappin said. "The SimpliVity team internally hoped they would still work with Lenovo," he said. "But based on our experience with competing with HPE, we're prepared."

SimpliVity also last year unveiled a meet-in-the-channel relationship with Huawei, with offerings directed primarily at international markets that Huawei serves.

A spokesperson for Shenzhen, China-based Huawei told CRN via email that the company's SimpliVity relationship, which was unveiled in December, is still in its infancy, and that most of the go-to-market activities for the partnership were slated for later this spring. "It’s likely too soon to discuss possible 'impact' from the HPE acquisition of SimpliVity," the spokesperson wrote.

HPE's acquisition of SimpliVity was an important move for the vendor, said Jamie Shepard, senior vice president for health care and strategy at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider that partners with HPE, Cisco and SimpliVity.

"For channel partners like us, the competition is ridiculous," Shepard told CRN. "If HPE didn't buy SimpliVity, it would have been hard for it to compete. Now it has great technology for hyper-converged infrastructure and global deduplication."

HPE's decision to stop supporting SimpliVity sales via Cisco is an issue for channel partners, Shepard said. "Cisco will support the UCS servers that went with its deals, but probably not support the SimpliVity side," he said.

However, that should make little difference on the sales side, Shepard said. "Our SimpliVity deals on Cisco UCS were add-on deals," he said. "If customers already had UCS servers, SimpliVity extended the UCS functionality. With the acquisition, we can now sell HPE solutions with SimpliVity."

On the Cisco side, that vendor has done a good job with its own HyperFlex solution, Shepard said.

"We've sold a couple already to existing Cisco customers," he said. "HyperFlex extends the Cisco relationship, and does it easily. Just add an appliance, connect it to the UCS management software, and you're ready to go. Cisco auto-discovers HyperFlex and seeds it as a hyper-converged infrastructure solution. Talk about ease of setup? It's insane. But I expect HPE will do the same with SimpliVity."

John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime Cisco partner, told CRN that he was surprised Cisco was not able to or did not want to acquire either SimpliVity or Nutanix.

However, Woodall said, that's OK, as he is looking for a central control plane in a hyper-converged offering that can do all the heavy lifting in an offering not tied to the hardware.

"For hyper-converged infrastructure now, we need to pick somebody's compute layer," he said. "We don't want to be tied to the hardware."