Established vendors have also scrambled to keep up with the market, often through partnerships with the startups.
For example, VMware has partnered with numerous hardware vendors for its VSAN and EVO:RAIL products, including Fujitsu and Dell, while HPE has opted to go it alone with its HC-250 StoreVirtual system. Hitachi Data Systems also has a Hadoop-focused appliance, and EMC has both its VCE VxRack, VxRail and ScaleIO products.
Also, in the last few weeks alone, VCE, Cisco and HPE have revealed more about their intentions in the market, while Juniper and Lenovo have also struck a deal.
Hyper-converged infrastructure: Use cases - From VDI to Hadoop
So what is driving demand for hyper-converged infrastructure?
Early uptake has mostly been among smaller and mid-sized businesses with tighter budgets and smaller IT teams, where appliances might be their core infrastructure. But vendors claim enterprises are now making investments too, where operational costs and the need for agility are more of an issue.
Adoption has frequently centred around virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in particular, though disaster recovery and remote office or branch infrastructure deployments are common too.
One of the reasons is the use locally attached storage rather than storage area networks.
"VDI is a good application because it is difficult to work out what resources you need to run it," says 451 Research's Abbott. "It has been hard to do that especially with backend SANs."
But, increasingly, a wider range of virtualised workloads including mission-critical applications are being run on hyper-converged infrastructure, as well as distributed NoSQL and Hadoop-based applications.
The ease with which new modules can be added means systems can be scaled to meet the demands of big-data analytics.
"There are an emerging set of applications - typically cloud native in nature or generated using highly defined software structures to provide resiliency - you start to see those as applications in the hyper-converged world," says VCE's EMEA CTO, Nigel Moulton.
This includes "apps that would run in a Hadoop distribution or that would use containerised Linux or Cassandra-style object-oriented databases as a data store - those sorts of application environments lend themselves to a hyper-converged infrastructure system."
Hyper-converged infrastructure: An alternative to public cloud?
The growing interest in hyper-converged infrastructure highlights a wider point: not all customers are keen to push workloads out to the public cloud with security and performance concerns persisting.
However many enterprises with on-premise infrastructure are keen to realise some of the efficiency benefits of cloud technologies and new application models.
"[IT teams] are starting to see if they can modernise their in-house architectures so that they are at least getting somewhere towards a private cloud," he says.
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