Yesterday's announcement that Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) plan to acquire Nimble has come as a surprise to most, us included! However, that's not to say it doesn't make sense. HPE's consolidation as an infrastructure vendor has allowed them to focus and invest, hence the acquisition of Simplivity and Nimble to complement HPE's strength in the Enterprise storage and compute markets. On that note, we don't see this as contradictory to the Simplivity acquisition. Whilst we are advocates of hyper-converged infrastructure ('HCI'), that's not to say that the architecture is a good fit for all customers and use cases; so we understand why HPE think it's important for all customers to have an option of both.
Who are Nimble and why have HPE found a billion dollars to acquire them?
Nimble have been successful fundamentally because of a focus on the mid-market, both in terms of their attention and technology development. It's fair to say that the 'mid-market' was undervalued by the traditional storage industry of years gone by. Nimble were the first to really harness the importance of simplicity and intuitive management on a flash-first architecture. InfoSight is absolutely critical to that proposition, which is their intuitive HTML5 management interface featuring predictive analytics; which reportedly leads to the majority of cases being raised and closed by Nimble without customers needing to be aware.
Nimble is a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader with over 10,000 customers and have seen 65% revenue growth since being publicly traded in 2013.
Why is that of interest to HPE?
As stated, HCI is not applicable to all use cases, and as such, it has remained important for HPE to close the gap (primarily commercial) between their entry-level MSA platform and the enterprise 3PAR technology. This acquisition gives HPE a very strong mid-market proposition to customers who previously did not have the same flexibility in choice.
It's perhaps also of interest to HPE that Nimble have recently announced Cloud Volumes (currently only available in the US), a big step towards making hybrid cloud a reality, and have hinted at a HCI solution later down the line. Both could prove critical to an organisation who have committed to helping customers provide cloud-like infrastructure, and thus protect themselves against the impending threat of the likes of AWS to existing revenue streams.
In summary the aim is to make it possible for AWS and Azure capacity to look and feel like a Nimble array, thus providing comparable ease of management and analytics, and as a result greater inter-cloud mobility.
What could the future hold?
As with the acquisition of Simplivity, the integration with OneView to provide a single management pane across infrastructure could prove key to its success. The complexity comes with how OneView does so without hampering the features of InfoSight. Equally, now that HPE has compelling propositions across all sizes and type of use case for both SAN and HCI, it is imperative that communication internally and, most importantly, to customers is clear as to which is a better fit and when.
As we saw with Dell's acquisition of EMC, a diverse infrastructure portfolio has its merits and HPE's recent track record suggest that they agree with that sentiment. Perhaps the only remaining gap is in the object storage market, which is currently fulfilled by an OEM relationship with Scality. Maybe we won't be bowled over with surprise at the next acquisition...
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