Cisco HyperFlex Already "Sizzling" In Hyper-Converged Market

Less than a month out of the gate, partners say Cisco's new HyperFlex Systems hyper-converged infrastructure offering is already turning heads in the market.

"We are seeing a huge, huge uptick in opportunity on HyperFlex. We've already got 22 [potential customers] in the pipeline and it's just a few weeks in," said Scott Miller, director of data center at Cisco partner World Wide Technology. "Early indicators are that there's great buzz and a lot of interest from both the Cisco sales team and customers."

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant confirmed to CRN on Wednesday that HyperFlex is now shipping. "We have a healthy pipeline given it has been out in the market for just a few weeks," said a Cisco spokesman.

Solution providers try to make sense of what big vendors jumping into the hyper-converged market means for the overall landscape.

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Partners say there's a broad range of potential customers already interested in HyperFlex -- from Fortune 500 companies, to midsize customers, to the federal government.

"The way Cisco has it -- with the storage- and the compute-optimized and flexible configurations -- we're able to tailor it to meet a lot of different needs," said Robert Keblusek, CTO of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies, a Cisco Gold partner. "We're definitely getting opportunities for [HyperFlex], there's no doubt about it. We've already got a few in the pipeline … It's definitely got some sizzle to it."

Cisco unveiled its HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure product line on March 1 during the Cisco Partner Summit 2016 in San Diego. HyperFlex consists of Cisco UCS servers and software-defined storage technology the company developed through a strategic partnership with Springpath, a hyper-converged startup founded by former VMware storage engineers.

The hyper-converged market is being shaken up in 2016 with new investments and technologies coming from the likes of Cisco, Dell and HPE, while hyper-convergence startups Nutanix and SimpliVity have collectively raised nearly $590 million in financing.

Channel partners say their sales reps are seeing those competitors in the field. But they say Cisco is differentiating itself in the market with the ability to offer HyperFlex's combined compute and software-defined storage technologies, along with Cisco's networking expertise.

"HyperFlex comes fully packaged," said Miller, noting that the combination of pent up demand from customers and Cisco's focus on the hyper-converged market, is "generating a pretty strong pipeline of interest."

Cisco's brand recognition is also going a long way with customers who already have a relationship with the vendor in areas such as networking, collaboration or Cisco UCS.

"Cisco is really taking a leap forward here with a single unified platform that they're really selling as a Cisco product now. That's going to make a big difference in the marketplace because that trust that comes along with the Cisco brand and relationship with customers … who would prefer to make a Cisco-centric purchase through a partner like us," said Keblusek.

Partners are expecting their hyper-converged sales to spike in 2016 compared to last year, thanks to HyperFlex.

Cisco created a strategic channel partnership in 2014 with SimpliVity, where Cisco channel partners can add SimpliVity's software and proprietary hardware card to UCS servers. The solution received mixed reviews from channel partners with some saying the strategic partnership was paying off in meaningful sales growth, while others said it had not generated interest in the market.

Both Cisco and SimpliVity say the HyperFlex launch won't affect their alliance going forward. SimpliVity CEO Doron Kempel recently told CRN that he felt no pressure from Cisco as a competitor.