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Top data center industry news stories of 2017

It's essential to stay ahead of the data center industry news, as the market moves quickly. See which product launches and acquisitions made headlines in 2017.

In 2017, data center industry news saw a surge of activity, from major acquisitions to new products and features.

Hyper-convergence was particularly at the forefront of some major companies' strategies, as the technology gained significant traction in the enterprise. Some of the most noteworthy developments included large vendors purchasing smaller hyper-convergence companies to tighten up their hyper-converged strategies; Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) took on SimpliVity, and Cisco bought Springpath.

As the year comes to a close, let's look back on the most significant updates in the data center and what those updates mean for IT pros.

HPE fortifies hyper-converged strategy through SimpliVity purchase

At the start of 2017, HPE made data center industry news headlines, as it revealed its acquisition of SimpliVity, a software startup based in Westborough, Mass. The acquisition, which cost HPE $650 million, marked the vendor's attempt to strengthen its position in the hyper-converged market. SimpliVity earned its title as the No. 2 hyper-converged vendor and produces OmniCube, an appliance that integrates up to 12 core data center functions on enterprise servers. With SimpliVity's software, HPE plans to add data services features to its existing products.

Since SimpliVity's customers were mainly small and medium-sized businesses, the deal with HPE could build up the startup's roster of enterprise customers. In addition, experts predicted SimpliVity could be an integral part of HPE's multi-cloud strategy, as well as a link between hyper-converged and composable infrastructure.

"The long-term view seems to be that the world will move to composable," Gina Longoria, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, an analyst firm in Austin, Texas, said in January. "I'm not sure how and when that will happen, but they see it as an evolution."

Cisco purchases Springpath to improve HyperFlex

Cisco was another company that attempted to strengthen its hyper-converged strategy through an acquisition this year. Cisco in August announced the purchase of Springpath, a hyper-converged software vendor based in Sunnyvale, Calif. Cisco integrated Springpath software in its hyper-converged product, HyperFlex, and the recent deal brought long-term cohesion to the partnership, Eric Hanselman, an analyst at 451 Research, said back in August.

Some IT pros believed they would reap benefits from the deal, including James Safonov, who used HyperFlex as the head of IT and information security at City Harvest in New York. The acquisition could bring tighter integration between Cisco's and Springpath's technologies, as well as improvements to the HyperFlex platform, he said.

Red Hat steps into hyper-converged arena, open source style

Red Hat also took a swing at hyper-convergence this year with its release of an open source, software-only offering in July. The hyper-converged bundle, called the Red Hat Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, combines Red Hat virtualization software with Gluster storage and automated installation and configuration through Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ansible.

The announcement marked a recent trend among hyper-converged vendors to offer software-only products that allow IT pros that take a do-it-yourself approach to hyper-converged infrastructure to mix and match, as opposed to platforms that weave together hardware and software components. The approach enables customers to cut costs and avoid vendor lock-in. Nutanix also latched onto this trend with its release of a software-only version of its hyper-converged stack.

It remains to be seen whether Red Hat's offering will make a splash the way that Dell and Nutanix have in the hyper-converged market, however.

IBM further secures the z Systems mainframe

IBM's new product release could be an opportunity to reinvigorate the market for mainframes.

IBM targeted security-sensitive, specialized markets with its introduction of the latest version of the z Systems mainframe. The IBM z14 integrates Pervasive Encryption with cryptographic hardware to protect against in-flight data and network APIs without interrupting business applications.

IBM's previous mainframe system, the z13, was released in early 2015, but it primarily targeted zSeries customers. The z14 will target IT departments that have never had a mainframe, but want improved security, such as high-level companies interested in advanced technologies like artificial intelligence.

IBM's new product release could be an opportunity to reinvigorate the market for mainframes. The mainframe isn't going away, as it offers security and compliance features that the cloud cannot for applications that handle large data stores.

Azure Stack rolls out with complications, delays

After a tumultuous year of promises and delays in the data center industry news, Microsoft in September finally rolled out its Azure Stack hybrid cloud offering, although the majority of the five authorized OEMs said they hadn't finished tests to certify compatibility with their respective servers. In addition, companies cannot build a single Azure Stack environment across multiple locations with the early version of the platform. Multirack deployments may be possible in early 2018, however.

An initial 12-node limit on Azure Stack's scale is an issue for potential customers, including David West, the senior vice president for hosting services at Appriss Retail in Louisville, Ky. The company provides predictive analytics to large retail companies, and Azure Stack could reduce the need to buy and provision servers that customers don't see.

"If [Microsoft] wants Azure Stack to be rolled out in a serious manner, they need to get rid of that 12-node limit," West said in August. "As soon as it stops scaling, you have effectively broken the promise of being on premises."

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