A fundamental change is taking place in today’s digital business: the nature and application of data center technology is evolving, with far-reaching implications for companies of every shape and size. This paradigm shift is underway across the entire IT industry, driven by the demands of an increasingly competitive business environment and profound changes at the architectural level which touches everything, from edge to core.

Channel partners are beginning to discover that traditional computing and storage platforms are not equipped to keep pace with global business, nor are they able to handle the challenges of the massive growth of data and demand for always-available instant access. As more CIOs and IT decision makers look to reduce infrastructure costs while increasing efficiency and agility, the move toward software-defined technologies in 2017 will mark the beginning of the journey as channel partners help their clients evolve IT.

2017 will be the Year of Hyperconverged
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a key stepping stone to actualizing the software-defined data center (SDDC). HCI is the powerful, emergent technology that combines compute, storage, and storage networking on standard x86 hardware, effectively reducing or eliminating the need for traditional discrete IT components. Most HCI platforms feature automated deployment and orchestration features, pooled IT resources, single-pane-of-glass management, out-of-the-box flexibility, holistic scalability and predictive monitoring and analytics of an entire shared infrastructure. And it’s gaining significant traction and adoption in both mid-market companies as well as large enterprises. Gartner predicts that HCI will represent more than 35 percent of total integrated system market revenue in just three years, building towards 67 percent of a $35 billion market in 2021. So how does this fundamental change positively impact the channel?

HCI Requires a Smart, Solutions-Oriented Channel
To enable this kind of transformation in 2017, a smarter convergence of technologies is required. Customers need a solution suite that allows them to add storage and compute as independent building blocks, works with multiple external compute platforms and storage arrays, and embraces a move toward a software-only strategy. This convergence presents an opportunity for a smart channel – a channel in which networking, compute, and storage skill translates into lengthy, profitable service opportunities. By providing a one-stop shop for hardware, software and services solutions, the channel can serve as a true strategic partner in helping clients navigate this hyper-growth market.

HCI and SDDC is the Path to the Software-Defined Enterprise
A truly dynamic infrastructure must keep pace with the growing amount of data the Internet of Things is generating and resource-intensive applications that IT is expected to manage. It must also scale sensibly, over time, in order to support an effective strategy for replacing aging, overly complex data center and legacy storage technologies. With such a solution in place, moving towards a more software-defined enterprise becomes less of a risk and more of a viable avenue for bolstering effective business processes. Dynamic hyperconvergence is the next step in the evolution of software-defined everything with solutions that will provide continuous application delivery and economic models that can be optimized on the fly according to the changing needs of your customers. 2017 will bring further maturity of HCI with more vendor-agnostic features, increased automation of manual processes, and more IT organizations opening up to the possibility of software-defined everything.

How the Channel Can Address Barriers to Adoption
The actualization of the software-defined enterprise in 2017 will have its fair share of hurdles. Customers consistently question whether they will have to rip and replace their entire infrastructure, which carries with it new skills and management platforms, vendor lock-in and potentially a great financial risk associated with sunken costs in existing IT resources. The flexibility and scalability promised by HCI is one of the main reasons early adopters have chosen to deploy hyperconvergence, but not all vendors are able to provide that kind of solution, where “modular building blocks of IT” are added incrementally into a customer’s environment in a “pay as you grow” model. The reality is most companies will need to grow into a hyperconverged environment over time, and as such, the channel should make sure to assess first whether the solution integrates with existing infrastructure resources.

In preparing for the future of software-defined everything, the channel can help customers evaluate which hyperconverged solutions are robust enough to work outside of a self-contained system so customers are not locked into their infrastructure, new or legacy. HCI solutions that are only optimized to run standalone workloads on a single infrastructure actually prevent customers from realizing the full value of their investment in new technology. Adopting hyperconverged systems should not only work well within one’s own architecture, but also should be pluggable into existing systems that stretch their benefits outside their IT ecosystem in order to have flexibly build out infrastructure based on evolving business priorities and customer needs. In this sense the right hyperconverged platform can provide the foundation for a more efficient transition to a software-defined everything IT environment.

If you haven’t considered a hyperconvergence and SDDC strategy or practice, the time to act is now – otherwise you’ll be missing this profitable and disruptive opportunity in 2017 and beyond.