Cisco snuffs HyperFlex development, hands HCI future to Nutanix

Cisco recommends HyperFlex customers migrate to Nutanix hyperconverged software, which can run on Cisco UCS hardware.

An IT technician works on laptop in data center, with other IT staff in the background.

When Cisco and Nutanix partnered in August, it raised questions about the future development of Cisco’s HyperFlex platform. The other shoe dropped this week as Cisco said it would cease development of its hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) system.

Cisco announced the end-of-sale and end-of-life dates for its HyperFlex Data Platform (HXDP); the last day to order any products related to the system is September 11, 2024, and the last day to renew to an existing subscription is February 28, 2029. Active customers will be able to continue receiving Cisco support as necessary.

Cisco now recommends HyperFlex customers migrate to the Nutanix converged system.

Under the partnership, Nutanix hyperconverged software can run on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) hardware. If customers decide to move away from a hyperconverged package, they can repurpose existing Cisco HyperFlex hardware as standard Cisco UCS servers, Cisco stated.

“Cisco made the decision to discontinue its Cisco HyperFlex HCI product family, based on evolving customer needs and market dynamics. This decision has been timed to best support our customers, partners, and employees,” Cisco said in a statement.

“Cisco remains committed to simplifying hybrid multicloud operations and is providing a path for customers with the recently announced partnership with Nutanix to deliver the industry’s most complete, best-in-class HCI solution. Cisco will support existing Cisco HyperFlex customers over the next five years and will offer platform migration support and services with our solution partners in the channel.”

Nutanix software has been available on Cisco UCS rackmount M5 generation servers, but now Nutanix is being made available on current M6 generation Cisco UCS rackmount servers with full lifecycle support from Cisco, the vendors stated.

The vendors are also offering a package called Cisco Compute Hyperconverged with Nutanix that combines Cisco’s SaaS-managed compute and networking gear with Nutanix’s Cloud Platform, which includes Nutanix Cloud Infrastructure, Nutanix Cloud Manager, Nutanix Unified Storage, and Nutanix Desktop Services.

“Cisco HyperFlex deployments most often utilize the VMware ESXi hypervisor, which is also an option for the deployment of Nutanix. In general, the simplest migration strategy is to use 'shared nothing' vMotion between the two ESXi clusters, where the two clusters share no storage resources, they only require network connectivity between them to move the entire VM,” Cisco stated. “In addition, Nutanix has developed a free migration tool known as Move, which can schedule migrations and adds further advanced options compared to simple vMotion migrations.”

For more migration information, the vendors offer a Nutanix Migration Guide.

The vendors have also taken the relationship a step further by announcing that Nutanix Cloud Platform’s built-in hypervisor, AHV, and Nutanix Flow Network Security are now integrated with Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) offering. ACI is Cisco's core software-defined networking package and includes policy management software as well as networking gear. The idea is to enable enhanced enterprise-wide cloud application security policies, bolster microsegmentation support and simplify overall network operations in multicloud environments, the vendors stated.

Industry experts said Cisco likely saw the writing on the wall in the hyperconverged arena.

“Cisco never leaves a good market, and so I think we can be sure that they were not seeing much of an opportunity for their hyperconverged systems,” said Tom Nolle, founder and principal analyst at Andover Intel.  “I think there are a couple of reasons for that, one more recent and one longer-term.  The longer-term one is that hyperscalers have never really liked buying vendor gear at high margins; they have enough demand to build their own, and what they do buy they get at such thin margins that it might be better for the winner to have lost the deal!  The shorter-term, meaning more recent, issues are more complicated.”

According to Nolle, it's clear that public cloud growth rates have declined, “and while there's still a body of believers who think this is temporary, they're wrong,” Nolle said.  “The high-growth period of the cloud is almost surely past.  Thus, the market for hyperconverged gear can only get more pressured down the line.”

“Second, it's clear that the focus of hyperscalers is shifting to GPU hosting, like AI.  I think this is in part a response to the long-term issue I just noted, but whatever the reason, Cisco doesn't stand much of a chance being a leader in that space,” Nolle said.

Nutanix, VMware, and HPE are typically the leaders in the HCI arena, with Cisco’s HyperFlex offering trailing those vendors by a significant margin, according to industry watchers.

According to IDC, HCI combines hypervisor, compute, networking, and storage technologies, encompassing them into a single system.

“Consolidated HCI systems have become a popular alternative to the traditional three-tier IT architectural approach with discrete SAN/NAS storage, compute, and networking resources that often require skilled IT staff to provision, operate, and maintain,” IDC stated in a report from earlier this year. “HCI systems can simplify deployment and management for IT organizations facing staffing challenges, especially at remote sites. They can also help improve agility for digital-first organizations that pursue new workloads, such as analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), to gain greater business benefit from the data they collect.”

IDC says most enterprises deploy HCI systems in core data centers, where the most common workloads are business intelligence/analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), security applications, "big data" databases, and business applications. IDC surveys show that IoT is the top use case for HCI in edge environments, followed by business, security, analytics, and infrastructure management applications. Other common workloads at edge sites include development tools and applications, structured database/data management, big data databases, and AI, machine learning, and deep learning.

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