2018 HCI Predictions: Big Changes to Servers and Storage

By Lee Caswell, VP of Products, Storage and Availability Business Unit

Lee Caswell, VP of Products, Storage and Availability Business Unit, smiles for a head shot.

Lee Caswell, VP of Products, Storage and Availability Business Unit

Digital transformation is not just a marketing buzzword. It’s a competitive necessity that even the most established companies are aggressively adopting: take GE with a new focus on software, look at Tesla reinventing cars with technology or see how financial services are being remade for millennial investors.

HCI Means 2018 Will Not Be the Same
HCI will drive long-lasting changes to IT staff, servers, and storage architectures. In 2018, we will see these changes adopted most quickly by companies that are locked in competitive battles where HCI is the latest technological tool to speed responsiveness to a changing environment.  Smart companies will see HCI as an essential tool where IT becomes a service to applications, rather than their master.

The massive adoption of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), led by VMware vSAN, is driving momentous changes deep into IT organizations of all sizes. As application users demand that IT deliver a brand new level of quick-twitch agility, IT owners are turning to HCI to reduce planning cycles with developer-ready infrastructure that is ready on-demand across traditional and cloud-native applications, and that is seamlessly available from the edge to the core to the cloud.

Here are three specific trends we expect to see as HCI adoption races at a pace not seen since the early days of virtualization. Look for these changes to IT staff, server architectures, and storage systems as the bulk of IT deployments change from three-tier architecture silos to the flexible policy-based management offered by HCI.

1. HCI Will Consolidate IT Staffs
HCI consolidates compute and storage management so IT can rethink how to organize to be more responsive to application owners. For organizations that have separate storage and compute teams, HCI offers the opportunity to combine teams to simplify management where storage capacity and performance are simply another policy-based attribute of applications.

In 2018, expect to see IT organizations merge storage and compute teams in response to HCI adoption, not to cut IT jobs or costs, but to improve responsiveness to the fast pace of application changes that characterize today’s digitally-centric business models. Newly-formed hyper-converged IT teams will focus on the exact needs of applications running in a virtual machine (VM) or container so that applications can be provisioned more quickly, changed easily to meet dynamic business, and debugged centrally from a single management console.

2. The Resurgence of Rack Servers
With persistent storage now efficiently provided across the same servers that are providing virtual compute resources, HCI will reverse the blade server trend of the past decade. The addition of shared storage into commodity server platforms is made possible because of low-latency flash and new HCI software, such as vSAN. The compelling economics of high-volume servers will encourage users to “rehydrate” their servers with cost-effective flash and will re-energize the rack server market at the expense of proprietary blade systems.

In 2018, we will see storage re-emerge in server platforms with an increased range of storage options, including new composable infrastructure, that enable customers to tune the ratio of compute and storage resources to meet the needs of their application environments.

3. New HCI Features Will Outpace Traditional Storage
The HCI market is characterized by development cycles that are faster than proprietary SAN and NAS systems for both hardware and software. Even though both markets rely largely on Intel CPUs, the server-based supply chain economics of HCI combined with a business model that separates software development from hardware timetables leads to a more efficient model where HCI technologies and features are delivered every six months. Storage systems, in contrast, are typically on an 18-month cycle for software and a 36-month cycle for hardware.

Additionally, the cloud deployment of HCI, such as VMware Cloud on AWS, will bring additional benefits to customers where new cloud features are delivered every 90 days with a common set of applications services available across the hybrid cloud. HCI software companies, including VMware, will capitalize an expanded platform footprint that now extends from the edge to the core to the cloud.

In 2018, we can expect that traditional storage development cycles will slow as the shrinking SAN market forces storage suppliers to sharply reduce development efforts at the same time that server hardware development increases because of expanded HCI and cloud markets opportunities.

HCI to Impact to Staff, Infrastructure and Legacy in 2018
HCI is a core aspect of the data center to the cloud and in 2018, we predict it will take center stage, particularly as the movement of data from physical storage into the cloud affects how we approach our IT strategy.