Cisco partnership with Nutanix raises questions over HyperFlex

Cisco and Nutanix have set up a global strategic partnership to produce the Cisco Compute Hyperconverged with Nutanix product, which is to be sold through Cisco’s channel.

It comprises Nutanix Cloud Platform – its hyperconverged software suite – running on Cisco UCS servers and networking in the chassis as well. The two claim it is the industry’s most complete hyperconverged solution for IT modernization and business transformation.

Jeremy Foster, SVP and GM for Cisco Compute, said: “Customers are asking for solutions that are simple, sustainable, and future-ready. This partnership answers with a complete solution spanning virtual compute, networking and storage across customer datacenters and public clouds.”

Nutanix chief commercial officer Tarkan Maner echoed this, saying: “As organizations look to keep up with the pace of innovation, they need an integrated  hardware and software platform to support application deployment anywhere. This partnership will deliver an expanded market opportunity for both organizations.”

The Cisco-Nutanix offering integrates Cisco’s SaaS-managed UCS compute, networking, and Intersight management with the Nutanix Cloud Platform suite: Nutanix Cloud Infrastructure, Nutanix Cloud Manager, Nutanix Unified Storage, and Nutanix Desktop Services. It will support UCS rack and blade servers, including initial support for C-Series Servers and planned, future support for UCS X-Series. The offering will be sold by Cisco using its go-to-market reach.

HyperFlex specter at the feast

What you wouldn’t know from this is that Cisco has its own hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) offering: the HyperFlex HX-Series, based on software it obtained by acquiring HCI vendor Springpath and its HALO software for $320 million in 2017. This software was combined with Cisco’s UCS servers and its networking technology to produce the HyperFlex product line.

Cisco HyperFlex HCI hardware
Cisco HyperFlex HCI system hardware

Since then the HCI market has become dominated by VMware with vSAN and Nutanix. The other players – such as Cisco HyperFlex, HPE with Nimble dHCI and Simplivity, and Scale Computing – have relatively minor market shares. In January IDC gave VMware a 41.5 percent revenue share ($982.3 million) with Nutanix second on 24.6 percent ($581.2 million). Huawei (4.7 percent), Cisco (4.4 percent), and HPE (3.5 percent) were a long way behind.

GigaOM in a February HCI Radar report said networking giant Cisco had fallen back from being an enterprise HCI Leader in January 2021 to being a Challenger in 2023.

In March this year, Cisco introduced HyperFlex Express products, offering a lower-cost entry point than before, plus HyperFlex nodes built with AMD EPYC processors. Cisco’s DD Dasgupta, VP product management, cloud and compute business unit, blogged at the time: “We were able to drastically reduce the number of combinations that went into the new Hyperflex Express product, optimizing available supply and lowering cost. We’re passing on these savings to our customers and partners by reducing the entry point for HyperFlex by up to 50 percent.”

Fast forward five months on from that 50 percent price cut and HyperFlex’s role in the Cisco-Nutanix partnership world is unclear. We asked Cisco some question about HyperFlex and the new Cisco-Nutanix offering to find out more. We’ve reproduced Cisco’s answers verbatim.

Blocks & Files: What is the positioning of this offering versus Cisco’s HyperFlex hyperconverged products which have Cisco’s HX Data Platform software running on UCS servers with Cisco networking? 

Cisco: This partnership expands choice and a simplified path to best-in-class solutions.  The new partnership opens up opportunities for customers to run the Nutanix platform on Cisco’s industry-leading, cloud-managed compute infrastructure. The companies have a mutually developed roadmap to deliver the full portfolio of Cisco servers, SaaS management, and Nutanix cloud platform capabilities, plus, the latest accelerator, network, and drive technologies offer customers a flexible, integrated hyperconverged platform to modernize their IT environments.  

Blocks & Files: Will Cisco Compute Hyperconverged with Nutanix co-exist with Cisco HyperFlex? 

Cisco: Cisco HyperFlex remains globally available. There are no changes to the HyperFlex product roadmap today. This partnership expands choice and a simplified path to best-in-class solutions.  

Blocks & Files: Is Hyperflex being discontinued? 

Cisco: Cisco HyperFlex remains globally available. Cisco has a strong history of collaborating with industry leaders to create converged solutions. This partnership follows demand from our customers to combine these best-of-breed solutions.  

Blocks & Files: Will there be a HyperFlex-to-Cisco Compute Hyperconverged with Nutanix migration path? 

Cisco: There will be opportunities for collaboration with both Cisco and Nutanix technology partners to build broader solutions with this new offering. Solution partners in the channel will be armed with an exciting new combination of leading technologies.  

We don’t know how HyperFlex use cases would differ from Cisco-Nutanix HCI use cases and think they are still being considered.

Cisco-Nutanix HCI product availability is expected within three months.