NetApp Exec: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Simplicity Has Wide Appeal

Not every technology decision comes down to speeds and feeds. In fact, NetApp executive Jeremy Hall said some customers now are willing to give up the features and performance of converged infrastructure (CI) for the simplicity of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).

Hall encouraged partners to carefully assess what customers are asking for based on their needs as a company, and the preferences of their (sometimes younger) IT departments.

"HCI, based on purely the technology right now, doesn’t deliver everything the larger converged infrastructures do. But with the newer generation [of IT professionals] coming in, quite a few of them are pushing back on complex over-structured environments," said Hall, NetApp's go-to-market Solutions Architect at XChange Solution Provider 2018 on Monday.

"People want the cell phone easy, the 'Facebook simple' type of user interface, and they're willing to give up some features, performance or other bells and whistles for a simpler, easier to use environment nowadays," Hall said.

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Customers acknowledge that converged solutions such as NetApp's FlexPod and Dell EMC-VMware Vblock are faster while providing better capacity and performance, Hall said. However, the cost savings and simplicity of HCI is sometimes more critical factors for customers. Vendors like NetApp sell gear and software to drive both approaches.

[Related: NetApp Finally Enters Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Market With Focus On Enterprise-Grade All-Flash Capabilities]

"So the IT staff is pushing back saying, 'We will actually get more man-hours back with HCI. It will be easier to run, and disaster recovery and planning going forward is what's driving our purchasing decision,'" said Hall.

"Hyper-converged is that easy environment where it doesn’t have everything – it can't compete with a FlexPod -- but people want easy," he added.

Doug Moore, vice president of sales and business development for Logista Solutions, a Bessemer, Ala.-based solution provider, was attending Hall's speech at XChange and agreed that customers are searching for simplicity.

Moore, who partners with the likes of Nutanix and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, said customers don’t want to be database or storage administrators anymore. "They don’t want to be any of that. So the simplicity of not only the production environment but also being able to replicate across to a disaster recovery environment is so much easier in an hyper-converged environment," said Moore.

IT research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 20 percent of business-critical applications currently deployed on three-tier IT infrastructure will transition to HCI.

Hall's advice for solution providers selling either converged, or hyper-converged infrastructure is to understand the customer in terms of the age of the IT department.

"Have they been doing it for 25 years? Are they well-seasoned and know all the tricks and bells and whistles to build out an infrastructure? Or is a bunch of fresh out of college grads who have never experienced building a Windows 2000 environment?" said Hall. "You need to evaluate who they are."

He also said listen for keywords customers are asking for. "If they're saying those keywords – 'Look, we want a simple environment. We want to do some automation' – listen to the keywords that actually match up with the products they're going for," he said.