Gartner’s Top 10 Hyperconverged (HCI) Software Market Leaders

CRN breaks down the 10 hyperconverged software leaders—from VMware and Nutanix to Scale Computing and Microsoft—that made Gartner’s new 2020 Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software.

Top 10 Global HCI Software Stars

Two vendors stood high above the rest in Gartner’s new 2020 Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software as the majority of HCI software vendors battle for niche markets.

Hyperconverged software is one of the most popular architectures for enabling the hybrid cloud. HCI software provides virtualized compute, storage, networking and management from a single platform running on servers. Like public cloud infrastructure, HCI software is software-defined and API-driven, and can be managed using the same techniques to manage public clouds.

However, Gartner said cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Oracle Cloud ultimately disrupt the entire HCI software market by further extending their cloud offerings to on-premises infrastructure such as with Amazon Outposts, Google Anthos, Microsoft Azure Stack Hub and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

CRN breaks down the 10 market-leading companies that made Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software, along with each company‘s strengths and weaknesses in the space according to Gartner. Many of the vendors in Gartner’s new Magic Quadrant made CRN’s recent 10 Coolest Hyperconverged (HCI) Systems of 2020 list.

Gartner Drops Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, Huawei And Red Hat In 2020

Gartner has changed its inclusion criteria for the 2020 HCI software Magic Quadrant to exclude hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS), which led to Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Huawei being dropped. Red Hat was also dropped due to narrowing its focus to only three use cases.

To be included in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software, vendors need to provide an integrated software stack; combine virtual machine and software-defined storage resources; virtualize local, internal and direct-attached storage rather than shared networked storage; provide a mechanism to pool internal and direct-attached primary storage across servers into abstracted virtual storage; and develop the storage and data management services integrated in the offering.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant ranks vendors on their ability to execute and completeness of vision and places them in four categories: Niche Players (low on vision and execution), Visionaries (good vision but low execution), Challengers (good execution but low vision) and Leaders (excelling in both vision and execution). For this particular Magic Quadrant, no vendors were listed as Challengers.

Leader: Nutanix

Nutanix, which recently named VMware’s Rajiv Ramaswami as its new CEO, won the gold medal for execution on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software, while ranking second place for vision. The San Jose, Calif.-based HCI pioneer provides some of the most comprehensive HCI software capabilities and data services for on-premises and public cloud deployments. Nutanix has recently expanded support for server hardware OEMs, introduced Nutanix Clusters enabling customers to achieve hybrid clouds using HCI software, and expanded its as-a-service offerings.

Strengths: Gartner said Nutanix has one of the largest and most loyal hyperconverged infrastructure customer bases. Nutanix’s software licenses are fully portable between on-premises and public cloud deployments, while its offerings are now supported in public cloud environments with Nutanix Clusters.

Weaknesses: Nutanix HCI is a premium offering and might not be the most cost-effective for scaled-down and edge deployments. The company is not yet profitable by GAAP standards, Gartner said.

Leader: VMware

VMware won the gold for vision in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for HCI Software, while ranking in second place for execution. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtualization and hybrid cloud superstar’s vSAN is focused on providing hyperconverged infrastructure software as part of its broad product portfolio. Over the past year, VMware expanded its HCI-as-a-Service capabilities from AWS and IBM Cloud to enable customers to run VMware HCI in six hyperscale environments.

Strengths: VMware has jointly engineered hybrid cloud support from the largest public cloud providers to support HCI deployments. The $11 billion company has global reach and a significant software install base.

Weaknesses: VMware’s offerings are some of the most expensive in the market, Gartner said. VMware’s vSAN does not support other hypervisors beyond ESX.

Visionary: Microsoft

Microsoft ranks in third place for both execution and vision on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software. Microsoft, the only visionary on the Magic Quadrant, offers the Azure Stack HCI, which is transitioning away from being embedded in the Windows OS to mainly focus on providing HCI software that integrates on-premises and an edge service into the Azure cloud. The new version of Azure Stack HCI is provided as a subscription-based, cloud management offering.

Strengths: The Azure Stack HCI offers common management with the Azure Cloud and the ability to use Azure cloud services around replication, backup and Kubernetes. Microsoft provides a comprehensive edge, core data center and cloud portfolio with familiar management tools.

Weaknesses: Gartner said many organizations are unaware of Azure Stack HCI or confuse Azure Stack HCI with Azure Stack Hub because it is insufficiently marketed and differentiated in Microsoft’s broad portfolio.

Niche Player: Scale Computing

Scale Computing ranks fourth for execution on the Magic Quadrant and among the middle of the pack for vision. The Indianapolis-based edge computing and HCI specialist’s HC3 product is focused on the edge, core IT and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) use cases. Over the past 12 months, Scale Computing has expanded its support for server hardware OEMs, introduced its new low-cost edge HE150 offering, and introduced integrated VDI and resilience offerings.

Strengths: Scale Computing provides extremely low-cost offerings that require limited hardware investment for edge locations. It provides resource-efficient, full-stack software such as its own Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM)-based hypervisor.

Weaknesses: The company has low brand recognition and limited offerings for organizations seeking a single vendor from core to edge to cloud, with support for only one cloud vendor.

Niche Player: Pivot3

Pivot3 ranks fourth for vision and among the middle of the pack for execution on the Magic Quadrant. The Austin, Texas-based hyperconverged and video surveillance specialist’s Acuity HCI software is designed for large-scale, video-based workloads such as analytics, surveillance, VDI and visualization. Pivot3 has recently enhanced its Intelligence Engine to provide auto-healing, quick node rebuild, and intelligent monitoring and analytics capabilities to address large-scale HCI deployments.

Strengths: Acuity is well-suited to support large-scale, video-based workloads as mission-critical infrastructure for such use cases as security and surveillance, while also delivering AI and automation for management at scale for nontechnical users.

Weaknesses: Pivot3’s HCI software may be less compelling than less expensive offerings for use cases that are not deemed mission-critical or are smaller in scale, Gartner said.

Niche Player: StorMagic

StorMagic’s SvSAN product is focused on edge and mission-critical use cases for distributed data centers. StorMagic—which is now part of the HPE Complete program as a replacement for HPE StoreVirtual software—recently introduced innovation around push-button software deployment, subscription pricing, and cloud-enabled Witness as-a-Service and Key Management as-a-Service. The U.K.-based company ranks among the middle of the pack for both vision and execution on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for HCI Software.

Strengths: Gartner said customers find StorMagic to be one of the most cost-effective offerings for edge, remote office/branch office (ROBO) or scaled-down HCI deployments. The company is gaining traction in edge data center use cases via OEM partnerships with HPE and Lenovo.

Weaknesses: StorMagic is not designed for large core data centers or cloud deployments. It also lacks enterprise HCI features such as data reduction, snapshots, remote replication, hybrid cloud integration and AI functions.

Niche Player: StarWind

The StarWind HyperConverged Appliance is focused on edge and mission-critical use cases for distributed data centers. StarWind recently added support for all-flash nodes, nonvolatile memory express over fabrics (NVMe-oF) over TCP and artificial intelligence functionality delivered by StarWind ProActive Premium Support. The Beverly, Mass.-based company ranks among the middle of the pack for both vision and execution on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for HCI Software.

Strengths: StarWind has one of the highest scores for overall customer satisfaction, according to Gartner. New innovation in the hardware and software HCI layers makes it an attractive price and performance option for the midmarket.

Weaknesses: StarWind is one of the smaller vendors in the market in terms of revenue and geographic coverage.

Niche Player: Sangfor Technologies

Sangfor Technologies ranks among the middle of the pack for both vision and execution on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software. The China-based company offers HCI software designed for data center modernization, enterprise applications, cloud transformation, VDI, and backup and disaster recovery. This year, Sangfor focused on end-to-end security and support for Arm, as well as x86 platforms for private and managed cloud infrastructure.

Strengths: With its own hypervisor, Sangfor HCI provides a secure, managed, cost-competitive alternative for the midmarket. Chinese businesses will benefit from a mature support organization.

Weaknesses: More than 80 percent of Sangfor HCI sales come via China, with limited integration with ecosystem partners and local support outside the country. Gartner said Sangfor offerings have not been proven in edge locations.

Niche Player: Huayun Data Group

Huayun Data Group ranks near the bottom for both vision and execution on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for HCI Software. The China-based company provides Archer OS and Maxta HCI software that focus on cloud, core IT and VDI use cases. Its operations are focused mainly in China. Huayun Data Group’s HCI software has expanded its support to KVM and VMware vSphere, and to a wide range of x86 and Arm servers.

Strengths: Huayun Data Group sells its HCI offerings as a one-time perpetual license that can be appealing to cost-sensitive buyers. The company can provide a high-availability offerings with a two-node cluster.

Weaknesses: Sales and support capabilities for Archer OS and Maxta vary by location due to the company’s limited footprint outside China. Buyers may be confused by Huayun Data Group’s use of both Archer OS and Maxta brands for different countries.

Niche Player: DataCore Software

DataCore Software’s SANsymphony HCI is primarily for mission-critical, core IT and edge use cases. During the past 12 months, DataCore has boosted its scalability capabilities and integration with backup software and improved its predictive analytics platform, DataCore Insight Services. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based DataCore Software ranks in last place for both execution and vision on Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software.

Strengths: DataCore is a pioneer in storage virtualization. The company provides a strong set of data services and price-competitive, scaled-down offerings including a two-node configuration for ROBO computer rooms and edge deployments.

Weaknesses: DataCore HCI installations are generally smaller than those of its competitors as the company focuses on midmarket enterprises. DataCore doesn’t support one-click upgrades, making its upgrade process more complex than others.