Converged Infrastructure Bets Are In: Where Are They Paying Off?

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EMC Making The Point With VSPEX




So while HP pioneered the idea of converged infrastructure it was EMC, along with partner Cisco, that turned the concept into a well-known driver of data center infrastructures. EMC in the late 2000s was the largest storage vendor, but unlike its competition had no server offering. It collaborated in 2009 with top networking vendor Cisco, which had just introduced a blade server line, to build a reference architecture that included both their companies' technology along with virtualization technology from VMware.

Instead of publishing their reference architecture, however, the three instead formed a joint venture, eventually named VCE, to develop Vblock converged solutions that were fully configured and tested before shipping to customer sites.

After EMC archrival NetApp countered VCE with its FlexPod reference architecture, EMC fought back with VSPEX. With VSPEX, EMC published a reference architecture to show solution providers how to integrate the vendors' technology into a single managed offering.

VSPEX originally included EMC's VNX and VNXe SMB storage arrays and Cisco's UCS servers and networking technology. However, EMC is keeping its partner options open. Networking technology from Cisco rival Brocade is in some VSPEX blueprints, and EMC has signed an agreement with Lenovo to eventually make that company's servers part of an entry-level series of VSPEX blueprints.

EMC, Hopkinton, Mass., also updated VSPEX to include more of its storage technology, including its Avamar and Data Domain deduplication technologies.

EMC has signed up several distributors as well, including Arrow, Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Avnet, to do the actual integration of the VSPEX solution on solution providers' behalf before drop-shipping it directly to customer sites.

Solution provider eGroup works with both VCE Vblocks and VSPEX, said Flowers, adding that the EMC VSPEX Proven Infrastructure offering provides an alternative to a fully integrated VCE Vblock.

"VSPEX serves as a solution validation point for customers who choose their own server platforms but still want to ensure everything functions properly for their intended use case and workload on EMC storage," Flowers said.

VSPEX helps eGroup ensure EMC storage array code levels are supported by the server and virtualization components before it is deployed or before an update is rolled out, Flowers said. "This simplifies the IT environment, as it prevents the customer administrators from having to do all the legwork themselves to validate every component independently and brings further value to our solution and service offerings," he said. Customers may not always know what VSPEX is, but they know who EMC, Cisco and VMware are, said David Gottesman, principal of San Francisco-based Gottesman Consulting, which is partner to both EMC and VCE.

"A box-pusher will sell a box," Gottesman said. "But for my customers, we start the conversation understanding their skill sets, and then I may come back to them and say this looks like something for EMC, Cisco and VMware. And then I say I have a converged infrastructure in mind—here is what it is; here's how it scales over time." — Joseph F. Kovar

NEXT: HP: Innovation, Stepped-Up Strategy

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