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EMC is poised to announce next week VSPEX, a private cloud reference architecture that will compete not only against rival NetApp's FlexPod architecture, but the VCE Vblock offering which has been backed by EMC, according to sources close to the storage giant.
Both EMC and VCE declined to respond to comment.
VSPEX is based on EMC's enterprise-class VMAX storage system, which has an advanced parallel processing technology based on the latest Intel processors, sources said. That gives VSPEX the potential power of a high-performance computing (HPC) server when married to an embedded hypervisor like VMware or Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor.
The VMAX advanced parallel processing technology, sources said, opens the door for VSPEX to do battle with Cisco’s Unified Compute System server which is at the center of the VCE partnership between EMC, Cisco and EMC’s VMware subsidiary. EMC holds the majority stake in that partnership with about a 60 percent ownership with Cisco, which has partnered closely with NetApp on FlexPod, holding about 35 percent of the company.
VSPEX sets up an enterprise battle directly between VCE and EMC’s own VSPEX, said Keith Norbie, vice president at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider and EMC partner.
"VSPEX surely will compete with Vblock," Norbie said. "But it furthers the process of EMC realizing they're not so focused on the storage side, and are now more focused on the cloud side."
EMC is already in the server business, Norbie said, who noted that EMC's Isilon and Data Domain storage appliances are essentially Intel-based white box servers with the company's software inside.
Adopting a reference architecture like VSPEX is not a technology issue, but rather a political issue, Norbie said. "The tech layer is not the issue. That part is a snap," he said. "Of more concern is the political layer, or what they should be doing. As EMC advances further into the hybrid cloud, the individual components become less important while the political ramifications become more important. The first question is, how will we do this? The second question is, should we do this? The 'how' is easy. The 'should' is harder. It disrupts alliances."
Norbie said that he is wondering when EMC will carry this move a step further by offering cloud storage gateways like those offered by Nirvanix.
"For a cloud public storage play, VSPEX doesn't seem to be the answer," he said. "VSPEX is a private cloud. I want to see EMC make a public cloud play."