Why VCE's Newest Vblock Systems Demonstrate Innovation

NEWS ANALYSIS: In VCE's new machines, we are seeing the results of an innovative vendor thinking far beyond the proverbial box.

When VCE started up as an independent co-op company founded in partnership by EMC, Cisco Systems, VMware and Intel in 2009, the idea was to provide a one-size-fits-all, preconfigured block of servers, storage and networking that could run thousands of virtual machines in data centers.

The first Vblocks could do a lot of processing, but if you needed even more computing, you'd have to buy another one—simple as that.

Even with such limitations, the idea built traction because even though the initial outlay for the x86 rack- or blade-powered Vblocks was fairly expensive ($865,000 to $2.2 million apiece), they proved to be warriors in the data center—similar to the way IBM's mainframes built their reps in the 1960s and '70s.

Now VCE—which, you may remember, stands for Virtual Computing Environment—is breaking down these Big Hunk chunks of computing into smaller bites while also fine-tuning them for specific vertical markets. Last February, the Richardson, Texas, and Santa Clara, Calif.-based company launched some scaled-down Vblocks for midrange companies.

Earlier this week, on Sept. 16, VCE introduced several new specialized Vblocks, improvements to VCE Vision Intelligent Operations software, new VCE Cloud Accelerator Services and additions to its partner program.

"In a converged infrastructure solution you are, in theory, better able to use the full potential of the system—software, storage, servers, and networking capabilities," IT analyst Rob Enderle wrote in a media advisory. "Unfortunately, what most vendors think about are the individual software, storage, server and networking components, and that's really not true. A true converged solution is about how well the parts work together, not how good each individual part is.

"VCE is unique because as an entity it focuses almost entirely on the 'converged' part and leaves the components to its partners—Cisco, EMC and VMware—to build. This is why VCE's customer base is both incredibly loyal and massively expanding their use of the company's solutions, and why VCE is adding new customers at a rapid rate."

VCE's new products and services announced this week are:

--Vblock System 340: Incorporates the latest computing, network, storage and virtualization IT from VCE investor companies Cisco, EMC and VMware. VCE claims the new system offers up to four times the performance and two times the capacity of the previous Vblock Systems 300.

--Vblock Specialized System for High Performance Databases: This is architected for the largest, most demanding database deployments (such as Oracle databases) and can support millions of IOPS, hundreds of terabytes of storage and constant availability, while also lowering costs associated with operations and database licensing. Unlike specialized database appliances, VCE's new packages can support mixed workloads and multiple database versions.

--Vblock Specialized System for Extreme Applications: These meet the requirements of latency-sensitive environments such as virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI). The new package features all-flash technology and inline deduplication, and it offers both the performance and responsiveness needed for massively scalable VDI implementations with competitive pricing-per-desktop.

--VCE Vision Intelligent Operations: This was first launched in February and is designed to intelligently and dynamically inform customer management frameworks about Vblock Systems configuration and health. Along with enabling the Vblock system to be seen and managed as a single converged infrastructure object, the new (V2.5) version provides automated updates of new patches and software releases for Vblock components, proactive scanning, and reporting on release and security.

VCE Vision also supports the native discovery of Vblock Systems within the VMware vCenter Operations Suite and offers vCenter Operations Manager as part of an integrated Vblock package. The launch follows VCE's announced integration with VMware's new vCenter Log Insight in August.

--VCE Cloud Accelerator Services: These help customers plan, build and implement scalable as-a-service cloud infrastructure environments. By combining business process, operations and organization transformation expertise with the Vblock's preintegrated service catalog capabilities for self-service portals and chargeback, customers can deploy new, cloud-based offerings quickly and with reduced risk.

--VCE Partner Program enhancements: These increase opportunities and enablement for partners to develop and expand their businesses around VCE's converged infrastructure solutions. Targeted at partners that sell and deploy Vblock Systems, the program includes greater incentives and benefits, new tiers to reward existing partners and streamline the onboarding process for new partners, and new specializations for specific solutions.

"The two new Vblock Specialized Systems should improve VCE's position in two growing use cases: high-performance databases and extreme applications (in this case, VDI)," wrote Pund-IT chief analyst Charles King in a media brief.

"While the former area is a common target for workload optimized appliances, VCE's solution is designed to afford customers far greater flexibility and latitude by supporting mixed workloads and multiple database versions. The latter use case—VDI—is enjoying significant growth, especially in cost-sensitive enterprises that recognize and appreciate solutions optimized for latency-sensitive virtual desktops and other endpoints," King said.

King also pointed out that VCE's automated updates of new patches and software releases for Vblock components, including proactive scanning and reporting on release, save substantial time and effort for users, while lowering risk factors for customers, who now don't have to install the updates themselves.

"The IT industry loves to spotlight those who successfully think 'outside the box,' but in VCE's new offerings, we are seeing the results of an innovative vendor thinking far beyond the box," King said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...