IT infrastructure transformation is increasingly all about cloud, prompting vendors to develop management platforms providing visibility and control across on- and off-premises IT environments. Containers, which play a role in facilitating application portability, can help organizations better leverage internal and external IT environments.

Increasingly orchestrated, automated and developer-friendly ecosystems pull public clouds closer to on-premises environments, thus enabling the goal of seamless hybrid IT.

The server landscape is changing. Use of hardware accelerators (GPU, ASIC, FPGA, etc.) is enabling a new, more flexible range of on-premises server use cases, including big-data analysis and SQL database calculations. When integrated into a larger hybrid IT approach, these capabilities reinforce the importance (and uptake) of on-premises server deployment.

An October survey of 710 members of the 451 Alliance looks at some of these trends and the ways in which they affect IT infrastructure management decision-making.

 
 

Server Trends

 
 

Traditional stand-alone servers remain the backbone of the compute infrastructure for most organizations for the foreseeable future. The pace of x86 server installation has remained relatively stable since 2017, with roughly comparable anticipated increases and decreases in x86 server purchasing plans for 2019.

x86 server commodification makes replacement cycles affordable for larger organizations with staff and facilities in place to manage on-premises infrastructure. Indeed, 42% of respondents from very large organizations plan to increase the number of x86 servers over the next 12 months.

 
 
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Dell and HPE remain the dominant x86 server vendors among respondents. Dell has a strong following among organizations of all sizes as well among as those in the APAC region and the government/education and healthcare sectors.

Usage of HPE x86 servers is in higher use among very large (with more than 10,000 employees) and among respondents from the EMEA region. 

Cisco x86 server usage is also above average among very large organizations and with organizations in the financial and healthcare sectors.

 
 
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Servers are a commodity; therefore, cost factors heavily into the vendor selection equation. This holds true for respondents across all company size categories. Cost is an even stronger consideration factor among respondents from the APAC region and among those in the $100m to $999.99m revenue range. Customer service and support is an important server vendor selection factor for more than half of the overall respondents, rising to 70% for respondents from the APAC region. Service and support is a slightly above-average factor for organizations in the government/education (65%) and services (66%) sectors.

The ability to support current IT systems is of key importance (75%) to respondents whose organizations are skeptical about new technology trends and tend to take more of a wait-and-see approach.

 
 
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Cost considerations propel many organizations toward the use of multiple server vendors. Commodity server hardware standardized on Intel platforms allows organizations to mix and match x86 servers across vendors.

The most common driver for using multiple vendors is cost optimization, with roughly two-thirds of organizations identifying this as the key reason for using multiple x86 server vendors. The cost factor resonates even more strongly with senior management job titles (81%) and for organizations in the financial sector (83%).

Sometimes a single vendor cannot meet all an individual customer’s needs. This is especially true for very large organizations with more than 10,000 employees.

In some cases, individual business units with organizations can dictate which vendors’ products to use, with 19% of respondents indicating that different business units use different vendors.

 
 
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Hyperconverged Infrastructure Trends

 
 

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is viewed as a fast-track method to achieve infrastructure modernization. For digital transformers, the technology allows for relatively quick elimination of legacy equipment, particularly in branch or remote locations, and it can be managed seamlessly along with centralized datacenter infrastructure.

Adoption of HCI is highest in larger organizations, those in the financial and healthcare sectors, and among early technology adopters.

 
 
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Hyperconverged infrastructure customers are increasingly considering software-based deployments as opposed to appliances, which carry the perception of vendor lock-in. Nevertheless, dedicated boxes remain popular.

Dell shows strength in very large organizations; 42% of HCI respondents with at least 10,000 employees are using Dell hyperconverged products. The integration of EMC into the business continues to improve Dell’s ability to sell into larger enterprise environments.

Nutanix fares well in companies with more than 1,000 employees, with high marks for technical expertise, customer service and support, and strategic vision.

 
 
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Use of multiple HCI vendors can fill capability and feature gaps. The HCI market continues to evolve across vendors and technology capabilities, which in turn spawns increased adoption. As a result, the drivers behind using multiple HCI vendors within one organization differ from those buying x86 servers.

While optimizing for cost is a key driver for multiple HCI vendor use, the ‘no vendor fills all requirements’ factor is more critical for HCI vendor selection than it is in the x86 server vendor selection process. This is an even greater consideration for companies that are more than 25 years old and those executing on digital transformation strategies.

Use of multiple HCI vendors can be tied partly to multiple hypervisor use in the IT environment. For example, a customer might use Nutanix for AHV and VMware for vSphere.

 
 
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There are plenty of opportunities for vendors to differentiate in both the x86 server and hyperconverged markets. While value for money remains critical regardless of compute infrastructure type, customers will look closely at product and service portfolios after the initial purchase. This behavior suggests customers will stick with a vendor if the initial experience is positive, but that vendor must demonstrate that it has both the portfolio and strategic chops to serve as a partner in the future.

As with x86 servers, HCI customers look to value for money more than any other attribute when selecting a vendor. However, other attributes, including technical expertise, customer service/support, ease of use, and support for current IT ecosystem, also factor heavily into the vendor selection process.

HCI vendors’ strategic vision influences both recommendations and repurchase decisions far more than any other attribute.

 
 
Key Attributes for HCI Vendors.png