VCE and the Vblock truly fascinate me. I’ve really never seen a product where so many people who have never used it are saying it can’t work, while the reports from people who have deployed it are so glowing. It almost feels like some screwy tech version of the Twilight Zone. I could see the arguments before the first deployment was successful, but after years of success and high growth often approaching triple digits, you’d figure that some of the detractors would have shut up.
A better analogy might be the PC market, where people for years said you couldn’t sell a PC unless it was modular and upgradeable and continued to say that after we were up to our armpits in laptops and all-in-ones that weren’t modular and couldn’t be upgraded. Oh, and years after the most profitable vendor, Apple, pretty much abandoned the whole upgrade concept.
Well, VCE isn’t standing still. This week, it made some rather interesting announcements reflecting partially some of the changes that resulted from its being folded back into EMC. These are changes that suggest an even tighter focus on customer loyalty and satisfaction than it already had and a move to provide more choice.
Answering a Big Question
VCE was primarily a partnership between VMware for software, Cisco for networking and servers, and EMC for storage. But as we move to the software-defined data center, there clearly is a growing tension between legacy vendors like Cisco and new software powerhouses like VMware. We kind of had to figure this conflict was going to become interesting. Well, the VxBlock resulted largely from the tension between Cisco’s ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) and VMware’s NSX. You’d think, given that the software component in a software-defined anything was preeminent, that VMware would have an advantage in this fight. And clearly VMware thinks so, because it has been in Cisco’s face at several of the more recent enterprise shows and events that I’ve attended.
You’d also figure that some VCE customers would agree with VMware and want its solution, rather than Cisco’s, in their Vblock. VCE is pretty tightly focused on its customers’ needs, but figuring a way to do this without really pissing off Cisco is likely a good part of why VCE is now part of EMC.
Regardless of how we got here, VxBlock is a new Vblock-like solution but one with the choice of Cisco or VMware’s software management components. Given the high degree of consistency in a VCE solution, we should shortly have the strongest apples-to-apples comparison between Cisco’s and VMware’s solutions and know whether the new guy on the block is truly better shortly.
Choice is a good thing, but real data like this is even better.
Whenever I hear the term “cloud,” I imagine technology executives hiding under their desks hoping the damn thing will go away. Cloud clearly has been a disruptive force in the market and it reflects a massive change in the way individuals and companies buy and consume technology. Initially, there were two choices: Fight the change or embrace it. And much like it was with client-server computing, the “fight option” died an early death. Now it is either enable the cloud or create a cloud solution yourself. EMC and VCE are on the former path. Cisco diverged and is on the latter path, which likely also speaks to why VCE is now part of EMC.
This means that, to be compliant with this strategy, VCE has to embrace and interoperate strongly with cloud services. This announcement showcases that move. The component is called VCE Foundations for Federation Enterprise Hybrid Cloud (VCEFFEHC). (I’m going to make an executive decision not to use that acronym.) Components include NSX, VMware’s vRealize, EMC ViPR (software-defined storage) and technology onramps to VMware’s vCloud Air to create an impressive solution ready for the hybrid cloud.
Wrapping Up: VMware or Cisco Will Come Out on Top
Other aspects to this announcement include one of the biggest moves to all-flash arrays we’ve seen so far, with the integration of EMC’s XtremIO. But while there clearly is a big benefit to the additions to the VCE solution mix, I think the most interesting part is the choice between VMware and Cisco’s SDN solutions and a competitive test crucible at a scale I’ve never seen exist before. We should end up with a definitive answer as to which of these solutions is truly better at scale once the VxBlock systems are in production.
That alone is likely worth the price of admission.
In the end, though, the overall changes in VCE reflect a tighter focus on customer and user satisfaction, which is resulting in some new and interesting choices and should make it even harder for VCE detractors to not look as silly as the members of the Flat Earth Society (which amazingly continues to grow).
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+