Cisco: New HyperFlex Creates 'True Separation' From HPE-SimpliVity, Nutanix

Cisco's HyperFlex Systems have received a shot in the arm with new capabilities, including high-capacity all-flash nodes, native replication of clusters and new management options, that the company says will leave its hyper-converged competitors in the dust.

"As they're adding these new features, I absolutely think this is a market leading platform," said Robert Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill., solution provider and Cisco Gold partner. "Cisco is showing here how they can pretty rapidly add capabilities to this platform with many of these new features very welcoming for partners and our customers."

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant says it now has more than 1,100 HyperFlex customers since it began shipping the hyper-converged solution – which consists of Cisco Unified Computing Systems (UCS) servers and software-defined strategy technology -- around nine months ago. About 70 percent of those customers already had Cisco UCS in their environment, while one-third are brand new customers to Cisco computing, according to Todd Brannon, Cisco’s director of product marketing for UCS.

[Related: 10 Things You Need To Know About Cisco's New HyperFlex Systems 2.5]

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"Because of what we've done to create a truly complete hyper-converge system that includes the network, the compute, storage software – we've created true separation from the pack," said Brannon, in an interview with CRN. "The first-generation software-only players cannot compete with this level of integration, this level of engineering and we've gone clear separation on performance."

Brannon added that Cisco would continue to support all of their customers that have deployed SimpliVity on UCS even though the hyper-converged startup was acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise last month. He also said Cisco had received feedback from SimpliVity customers that they aren't too happy about leaving UCS.

"We've gotten feedback from the field that customers that have SimpliVity-UCS combination are not excited about letting go of the UCS side of that equation," said Brannon. "So they're starting to take a look at HyperFlex."

Cisco touts the new HyperFlex 2.5 release as delivering break-through performance, intuitive management and enterprise data protection and security.

New features include high-capacity all-flash nodes coupled with support for 40 Gbps UCS fabric networking to expand customer choice and deliver higher application performance. "Not only are we offering all-flash like many of the folks in the industry can do on a hyper-converged basis, but we're also bringing in our 40-Gig fabric interconnect technology that ties UCS underneath," said Brannon.

The networking giant also created HyperFlex Connect, a new standalone HTML5 interface for the management and orchestration of HyperFlex from any device. Connect can monitor performance and capacity in real-time and it's ready for mobile monitoring and management.

"This management interface is very intuitive, very friendly. It wasn't quite there a few versions ago. They now have one of the best interfaces I've seen as far as managing the system," said Sentinel's Keblusek.

HyperFlex 2.5 also includes a native replication option to protect applications as well as new data-at-rest security options using self-encrypting drives. "A lot of the [hyper-converged] platforms that we've dealt with in the past don’t have native replication. There are some in the market that have native replication, but Cisco really excels with that capability that's now in 2.5," said Sentinel's Keblusek.

Kelblusek also said the new data at rest encryption feature is "going to help a lot of customers that might have regulatory compliance requirements around HIPAA or PCI … the data at rest will allow us to start to position this product into those vertical markets more easily."

On the channel front, Cisco has added SmartPlay HyperFlex bundles option to its popular Value Incentive Program (VIP), said Scott Mohr, director of data center and cloud for Cisco's Global Partner Organization.

"We believe that HyperFelx is going to help partners accelerate services in cloud both on-premises and in public and also enterprise cloud options with our service provider partners," said Mohr, in an interview with CRN. "This is one of the fastest growing products we've had and the adoption rates are extremely high."

Keblusek said Sentinel already has several successful HyperFlex deployments in customer environments and expects HyperFlex version 2.5 to add to the sales pipeline.

"We've seen the pipeline increase pretty tremendously, and we're welcoming customers to bring workloads into our labs so they can test it out," said Keblusek. "Cisco has put together a leading package and hit the price point to where it's palatable for customers."