A Year-to-Year Comparison of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure

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“If you don't know where you are going any road can take you there.” 
--Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

In business, it’s helpful to have a roadmap, showing where you are going and how to get there. Yet, knowing what path to take is often challenging, especially in the fast-moving and ever-changing tech world. Sometimes it’s easier to see where you are going, if you have a sense of where you have been and the progress you have made along the way.

For hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) customers, the Gartner Magic Quadrants for HCI can provide this insight. The reports offer a snapshot of where the industry is now and where vendors rank among Gartner’s quadrants. Yet if customer look at the reports year-over-year, it can also provide interesting insights into where the industry is headed and what vendors are on the right track.

After the recent 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure was released, I reviewed the reports from previous years. This article provides some analysis over a two-year period.

A deep-dive into the report

The first step in analyzing the reports year-over-year is to compare the 2017 quadrant to the new, 2018 quadrants. When you create a comparison view, as the diagram on the left shows, (an aggregate of two years – 2017 shown in yellow and the latest 2018 results shown in red), you can start to see an interesting story form that you cannot see from a single year’s report.

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For instance, in the 2018 Magic Quadrant, the lower left quadrant (Niche Players), collected the greatest population of vendors. Four new vendors joined this category in 2018, one former vendor dropped out (HTBase), with another vendor just recently leaving early in 2019 (Maxta). In 2019, I expect to see more vendors exiting than entering the Niche Players quadrant. Why? As this category becomes more mature, it is harder for newer vendors to catch up.

Another point of note is that although these “Niche Players” come to market with some intriguing and well-featured products, few were able to last the year. This area of the Quadrant is the riskiest for vendor selection and investment, so caution is needed. 

In contrast, the upper right quadrant (Leaders) tells quite a different story. In 2018, one existing vendor (Cisco) enters this section, and two other vendors make progress up and to the right, (VMware and HPE). There also appears to be interesting movement for Dell, as it shifts up and to the left towards the Challenger quadrant, which I feel is somewhat in the wrong direction. And lastly, the 2017 leader Nutanix, stays in the exact same position as the previous year without any movement. Movement up and to the right typically indicates continued investment and new innovation in the HCI solution, so keep that in mind when comparing a vendor’s progress year-over-year.

Critical Capabilities Report provides even more detail

Many factors go into choosing a vendor and solution that is right for your individual situation, and the leader in the market may not be best for every business. That is why I always suggest reviewing the accompanying Critical Capabilities Report from Gartner after a Magic Quadrant is released. The Critical Capabilities Report can be even more important than the Magic Quadrant itself, because it provides a more detailed look at the differences between each vendor’s solutions. By viewing this report,   customers can better evaluate which individual capabilities are most important to their business.

Not always an apples-to-apples comparison

In the latest Critical Capabilities Report for HCI, you can start to see the DNA of each vendor and compare how they rate across six different use case categories. I always encourage readers to dig a little deeper with their research. Why? These types of comparisons allow you to see that not all vendor features are equally compared. Although Gartner tries very hard to equally categorize all functionality together into the use cases, some vendor’s functionality doesn’t always fit neatly into each of Gartner’s categories.

For example, Gartner rates Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) low in one section of the Critical Capabilities Report for not providing cloud backups. This is somewhat of a binary category with a yes or no response, without the opportunity to describe a solution that might prove to be a better for customers. In this case, HPE SimpliVity, powered by Intel®, provides a redundant site for disaster recovery, which gives companies assurance that they will be able to operate from a remote site in case of an unplanned outage at the main site. Some customers see this feature as more cost-effective than cloud backups, but it is a feature that has not yet been able to carry much weight in the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities Reports. Other vendors have similar challenges in other use cases, hence my advice to conduct in-depth research before making a purchasing decision.

Looking back can provide 20/20 insights for the future

The 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Reports are a great place to start your investigation if you are looking into HCI. But keep in mind that to truly take advantage of all that these reports have to offer, you may have to look back to get a full year-over-year analysis. I encourage you to delve into the accompanying capabilities report so you have a full picture of what all the different products are able to provide.

In closing, I want to thank Gartner Inc. for creating the reports. I’d also like to thank all the customers, partners, and vendors that contributed input that make these reports possible.

To learn more about hyperconverged infrastructure, check out the Hyperconverged for Dummies guide or the Gorilla Guide to Hyperconverged Infrastructure.

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About Chris Purcell

chris purcell e1510269412532
Chris Purcell drives analyst relations for the Software-Defined and Cloud Group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The Software-Defined and Cloud Group organization is responsible for marketing for composable infrastructure, HPE OneView, HPE SimpliVity hyperconverged solutions and Project New Hybrid IT Stack. To read more from Chris Purcell, please visit the HPE Shifting to Software-Defined blog.

 

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