IDC finds another way to count HCI revenues – and Nutanix comes out of this very well

IDC has devised yet another way to classify HCI revenues, this time by counting sales of the software running the heterogeneous storage controller that supplies block, file and object storage.

The new measurement certainly shows Nutanix in a very good light, ahead of VMware – which is market leader in just about any other way you measure HCI revenues

And it certainly pleases Nutanix COO David Sangster, who said in a LinkedIn blog post yesterday: “IDC now views HCI as a software-defined platform to manage all types of data, including Files and Objects. With this new view, the HCI software market share now focuses solely on the software value of HCI and is no longer inflated (or obfuscated) by hardware sales.”

He added: “Modern HCI platforms don’t just provide VM storage. They also deliver storage services for structured and unstructured data.”

But the new IDC definition is no longer about strict HCI. It’s about SDS-CS (software defined storage-controller software) and that is a different and much bigger vendor kettle of fish. Is this definition helpful to the wider IT storage community (a genuine question; we don’t know the answer)?

Let’s take a look at some IDC figures.

IDC has tabulated vendor fortunes in the SDS-CS market from 2017 to 2019.

Dell is the only top seven supplier to not record significant growth in 2019. Note that Cisco, with its HyperFlex HCI software, does not appear in this table, and neither do DataCore, Pivot3 or Scale Computing.

Sangster has provided a pie chart for vendor shares in Q2 2020, which “now more clearly shows how HCI software vendors are faring, with a view of each company’s sales of HCI software, plus file and object storage revenue.”

More than one way to skin a cat

IDC’s Lucas Mearian, research analyst for storage software, says in an IDC abstract: “A key component of any SDS environment, SDS-CS delivers the services needed to abstract, orchestrate, protect, and manage storage resources within a heterogeneous, pooled environment. As SDS has proven itself to be the next generation of storage infrastructure technology, SDS-CS has become the fastest-growing portion of the overall storage software market.”

So is it me to say goodbye to the HCI acronym and wave hello to the less catchy SDS-CS?

 If we were to be cynical, we could say that IDC has run up a nice little earner with this new report. To date the firm has tracked HCI revenues by software owner and systems brand. But the same companies dominate each time – VMware and Nutanix for HCI software, and Dell and HPE for revenue by systems.  The same results each time could indicate a mature market – and mature tech markets are not great for selling reports.

At time of writing it is unclear if this new report complements or replaces the IDC revenue tracker by HCI systems and software owner. We suspect the former and have emailed IDC for a response. We will update if we get an answer.