Why HP and Cisco passed on VMware EVO

I’ve been accused of being a conspiracy theorist, and I’m sure this post won’t do anything to dispel that perception. I’m talking VMware’s EVO platform and the missing partnership between Cisco and HP. I’m sure that there is a reason beyond technology why two of VMware’s largest server hardware partners have decided to take a pass on the EVO hyper-converged platform. I don’t know how much of this post will be conspiracy, but I’m for sure a theorist. I get paid to not only look at technology solutions but also understand the motives of the vendors in the overall technology market. Taking a look at the market motivators helps IT organizations fully understand their investment in any vendor’s technology.

While watching the VMware EVO hyper-converged announcement at VMworld 2014, the first thing I asked myself was, “Where’s HP and Cisco?” HP, Dell and Cisco are VMware’s largest server partners. I found it hard to believe that VMware didn’t approach all 3 with an opportunity to participant in the EVO platform. I walked away suspicious. There had to be a business driver for HP and Cisco not wanting to leverage an ecosystem that could be used to battle the likes of Nutanix.

Cisco announced their new M4 cartridge based UCS platform on September 4th. Overall the new Cisco hardware is extremely interesting but more important than the hardware platform is the new features of UCS Director. UCS Director has moved from a server management platform to a data center management tool. Cisco announced tight integration with ACI and the ability to manage “external” cloud workloads.

The new UCS features put Cisco in direct competition with VMware’s SDDC vision. If an organization is willing to take the hardware-centric approach then Cisco UCS Director coupled with ACI gives the Cisco hardware-centric data center some of the same options as the VMware software-based solution.

Looking at the VMware EVO partners, there isn’t a vendor in the mix with a complete or at least competitive data center management strategy. My theory is that these businesses are not directly threatened by VMware’s EVO or overall data center strategy. EVO is a major back door into managing the complete data center stack. It pushes hardware further down the food data center food chain. Cisco and HP, on the other hand, have their sights set on the complete management of the enterprise data center.

I’m assured by some of my contacts within EMC and VMware that I’m far off and it’s simply a case of Cisco and VMware not having the right platforms for EVO Rack/RAIL.

While there’s no “conspiracy,” there is a solid business strategy involved with either Cisco or HP not embracing VMware’s EVO platform.  We’ll see how this plays out in the market in the coming months. If EVO see success in the market, the response from HP and Cisco will be interesting.

Update 10/14/14

Evidently, this was one that I over thought.  At least on the HP side.  HP and VMware announced HP EVO:Rail at VMworld 2014 Europe. So there’s that.

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

7 thoughts on “Why HP and Cisco passed on VMware EVO

  1. Keith,

    While it’s true that Cisco and VMware are both trying to define the data center of the next decade I think the EVO:RAIL thing is simpler than that.

    EVO:RAIL is very much a specific 4 server 2u with attached disk form factor. Cisco has nothing close.Cisco would have to build a new motherboard and chassis for it. Given that all the server vendors are busy spinning the Haswell Xeon versions of all their kit and Cisco didn’t see the value. Also since EVO:RAIL specs are tight no room to make Cisco version better.

    Cisco’s new modular servers don’t have ANY dedicated I/O resources sharing boot disk and 2x40Gbps Ethernet in chassis. 16 little servers in 2u is for webscale, render farm Etc. More Moonshot than Blades.

    1. I guess I’m a bit skeptical. I’ve edited the post to not be as sharp, but I don’t see the business value of HP or Cisco embracing VMware’s data center management strategy. I see Cisco doing what HP did with bundling their software and hardware with VMware’s hypervisor opposed to just giving VMware the keys to the DC.

  2. Oh and I forgot:

    HP isn’t doing EVO:RAIL because they don’t want to promote VSAN over Lefthand. Much more profit in software than in selling almost exactly the same hardware as Quanta or SuperMicro.

    1. In my opinion the Left hand and EVA days are numbered as HP 3PAR displaces both, and trust me… HP’s stock price is not going to be effected by Lefthand VSA sales 😉 HP is promoting the CS700x Converged Systems and/or the individually components separately which includes the 3PAR (best in class) storage, C7000 BladeSystem with FlexFabric, and OneView central management software, which is a different architecture than “software based storage placed on a rackmount server”. Assuming you need 4 or more servers the HP CS700x architecture is much more scalable than Nutanix AKA EVO model. Personal I think it is wise to scale compute and storage separately and optimize both. Also, array based storage technology (including the 3PAR) is growing/improving at a fast rate and are modular allowing for one to present new tiers of storage to all systems, including the new 1.9TB SSD drives and what ever the future holds. Also, I like having array based snap shots, replication, encryption, backup integration, and so on that are not unique to physical storage arrays, but arguably better than software based solutions (which by the way software SANs are less efficient than physical storage arrays and require more hardware/spindles). So some of you are thinking about price… Look at EVO, consider the price of vSAN software, the SSD/spinning disk, and disk controllers… It may add up to the price of storage array, such as the 3PAR 7200 😉

  3. I concur with Howard. Put an HP or a Cisco side-by-side with an EVO:RAIL and they get commodified because you can directly compare the offerings with each other. HP and Cisco want to charge a premium.

    And yes, HP have the LeftHand VSA, and Cisco just minted a deal with SimpliVity.

    The EVO:RAIL partners are happy to ship more units, and Dell has yet another way to sell servers into enterprise, who they can then approach with software (Quest etc.)

    I’ll be most interested to see what happens with EMC’s eventual offering, and what happens with EVO:RACK.

    1. I think the central theme is the same. Either server vendors have a holistic view of the data center which allows them to charge more for their entire stack or you embrace the role of a white box manufacturer and sell in volume. VMware would love for both HP and Cisco to embrace the EVO model, but it threatens their margins on not just servers but their other core data center solutions.

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