EMC Unveils New VSPEX Option for Midrange Cloud Systems

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-04-12 Print this article Print

In the VSPEX world, customers select computing and networking hardware, software, and services based on the distributor line card and sizing of components based on the requirements of the particular VSPEX solution.

EMC on April 12 introduced a complementary new product, VSPEX, to its hulking VBlock data center system that better fits midsize enterprise IT requirements.

VBlock systems are preconfigured, preintegrated and converged computing systems consisting of networkware and x86-type servers from Cisco Systems, architecture and storage/security/system management from EMC, and virtualization software from VMware. The resulting cloud computing systems can range in size from hundreds of virtual machines to more than 6,000 virtual machines, depending upon the need of the customer.

But not all IT shops need to be running 6,000 VMs, so EMC is coming forth with some options for those many thousands of midrange companies considering a move to a smaller, lighter private cloud that may entail 1,000 VMs or fewer.

VSPEX Basically a New Set of Blueprints

VSPEX, which stands for virtual system specifications, is a set of 14 IT blueprints created by EMC. In the VSPEX world, customers select computing and networking hardware, software and services based on the distributor line card and sizing of components based on the requirements of the particular VSPEX solution.

"You can look at this as similar to what Apple did in finding a middle ground between the Mac and the iPhone with the iPad," said Jeremy Burton, EMC's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, at a launch event at the Terra Gallery in San Francisco. "We're finding middle ground for data centers with this new system."

VSPEX reference architectures establish the minimum requirements around servers and networking necessary to support the business cases that are being solved.

VBlocks, introduced only two years ago, are a highly successful product of the two-and-a-half-year-old VCE partnership. VCE is an acronym for Virtual Computing Environment, but it also could stand for the VMware-Cisco-EMC partnership. VBlock sales have skyrocketed from zero in 2010 to an $800 million-per-year business in 2012 for EMC and its partners, so a need has definitely been filled in the large enterprise market.

14 Starter VSPEX Configs

The 14 initial VSPEX configurations represent the most popular use cases for customers moving to cloud computing, Burton said. These use cases are focused on enabling customers to accelerate deployment of private cloud and end-user computing environments.

For example, private cloud deployment users have the option of running VMware vSphere 5.0 or Microsoft Windows Hyper-V from 50 to 250 virtual machines; for end-user computing deployments, customers can choose between VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop from 50 to 2,000 virtual desktops.

Additional VSPEX configurations will be made available based on partner demand, Burton said.

"VSPEX is all about flexibility and giving our partners choices," Burton said. "We are empowering partners to make this their own solution. We provide the sizing guides, reference architecture and deployment guides, and allow them to align with their vendor of choice."

The aforementioned partners will contribute their wares to this data center package, but another differentiator is the fact that Brocade is available to handle storage networking and Citrix is available for its XenServer hypervisor, cloud management software and virtual desktop deployments.

This means that theoretically, at least, some users may have competing switches and routers from Cisco and Brocade in the same data center, as well as hypervisors from competitors VMware and Citrix. But that's the way of the world; most data centers are a mixed bag of legacy and new IT components. Open standards is becoming a necessary ingredient in real-life IT production -- out of necessity.

Taking this open-door thought a bit further, will this mean that other hardware (servers, storage, networking) also can be swapped out as needed from EMC competitors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Oracle? EMC didn't say no on April 12, but the reality, naturally, will depend upon each use case.

What Brocade Brings to the Rack

Brocade is contributing the following switches:

  • ICX, which bundle up to 100 VMs and feature enterprise-class stackable switching. Two models are included in VSPEX configurations, the ICX 6450 and the ICX 6610, providing up to 48 ports of 1G-bps and 10G-bps Ethernet connectivity.
  • VDX, for VDI solutions that scale up to 250 VMs and up to 2,000 virtual desktops; it enables data center Ethernet fabrics, which provide an intelligent foundation for cloud-optimized architectures. The VDX 6720 is available in 1U and 2U models with up to 60 10G-bps Ethernet ports. The VDX 6710 switch features 48 1G-bps Ethernet ports and six 10G-bps Ethernet ports in a 1U design.
  • 6510 Fibre Channel, which provide high-performance Fibre Channel connectivity for VSPEX-based virtualization and VDI applications (also up to 250 VMs and up to 2,000 virtual desktops); they are configurable up to 48 ports and support 2G-, 4G-, 8G-, 10G- or 16G-bps speeds in an efficiently designed 1U package.
VPEX will be a channel sales-only package available later this quarter, EMC said. Don't call up any of the partners directly; instead, potential customers will need to talk to integrators such as Avnet, Ingram Micro, Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions or Advanced Infrastructure Solutions. 

Chris Preimesberger is eWEEK's Editor for Features and Analysis. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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