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Cisco HyperFlex system upgrade targets hybrid cloud

The Cisco HyperFlex system is now available with AppDynamics, CloudCenter and other software for managing hybrid cloud applications. The new all-in-one system scales to 64 nodes.

Cisco has added to its hyper-converged infrastructure platform tools for running and managing hybrid applications split between public and private clouds. The latest technology in the Cisco HyperFlex system makes it a stronger competitor in the market, analysts said.

Cisco introduced this week the 3.0 software release for HyperFlex. The announcement came a day after Cisco said it would acquire Skyport Systems Inc., a maker of highly secure, cloud-managed, hyper-converged systems.

In general, HyperFlex combines software-defined storage and data services software with Cisco Unified Computing System. UCS integrates computing, networking and storage resources to provide efficiency and centralized management.

The latest release packs a lot more Cisco software into HyperFlex, which should improve interoperability and simplify support, said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass. "Cisco has taken many of the assets that used to be separate in their stable and made it available under a single [HyperFlex] umbrella."

The new features should also make HyperFlex more competitive and useful as a hybrid cloud platform, analysts said. In the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) market, Cisco has lagged behind rivals Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Nutanix.

Software added to the Cisco HyperFlex system

HyperFlex customers now have the option of Cisco AppDynamics integration for monitoring performance of applications running on HyperFlex and across clouds. Other cloud-related management software available for the HCI system include Cisco Workload Optimization Manager (CWOM) and CloudCenter.

CWOM helps IT staff determine the resource needs of workloads. CloudCenter provides application-centric orchestration.

Other new features include support for Microsoft's Hyper-V virtual machine (VM). HyperFlex supports the more popular VMware ESXi, but Hyper-V is often used to run Microsoft applications.

Release 3 of the Cisco HyperFlex system also contains support for Kubernetes-managed containers, making HyperFlex friendlier to developers building cloud-native applications.

Along with cloud apps, companies can run more enterprise applications on HyperFlex. Cisco released validated designs and guides for running Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and Splunk software.

The most prominent use case for HCI systems is running business applications on a general computing platform, according to Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Roughly 30% of enterprises use HCI for general computing, followed by private cloud at 19%.

Increased scalability in the Cisco HyperFlex system

Cisco has increased the scalability of HyperFlex. Customers can raise VM density by joining HyperFlex systems into clusters, which can now contain up to 64 nodes. The previous maximum was eight.

Cisco has also added support for stretched clusters, which makes it possible to have nodes span multiple geographical locations.

Overall, analysts expect the new features to help Cisco add to the more than 2,500 companies using HyperFlex today.

"This announcement, combined with the market still being ripe for adoption, is a great combo going forward," said Mike Leone, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "It will be interesting to see how the customer base grows now that they're on a more level playing field with the competition."

Plans for Skyport acquisition

The Skyport acquisition brings a tightly knit hardware and software product to Cisco's portfolio. The system is primarily used to run business-critical data center applications.

"I think Cisco's goal is to get the automated, security-wrapped provisioning software [in Skyport] and just fold it into their cloud and infrastructure management tools broadly," said Nemertes analyst John Burke.

That may be so, but for now, Cisco has provided no details, saying in a statement it plans to use Skyport's "intellectual property, seasoned software and network expertise to accelerate priority areas across multiple Cisco portfolios."

The Skyport team will join Cisco's networking group, led by general manager Jonathan Davidson, and the data center and computing systems product group, headed by general manager Liz Centoni. Cisco did not disclose financial terms.

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