EMC's VCE Unit Puts Pressure On Cisco With Rollout Of VxRack Hyper-Converged Appliance Line

EMC on Monday unveiled VxRack, a new line of VCE hyper-converged infrastructure systems it says will simplify deployment of cloud and mobile apps.

The announcement, made during the kick-off to EMC World 2015 in Las Vegas, marks VCE's entry to the red-hot market for hyper-converged infrastructure, in which startups Nutanix and SimpliVity have been attracting attention and venture capital funding.

VCE's VxRack could also be the latest sign of EMC's evolving relationship with Cisco, which sold off most of its stake in the joint venture last year but still maintains a 10 percent stake.

While VCE's Vblock and VxBlock systems use Cisco UCS servers and Nexus switches, VxRack systems use whitebox servers from Quanta, a Taiwan-based hardware manufacturer.

VCE Chief Marketing Officer Nina Hargus told CRN that VxRack won't compete directly with Cisco, but instead fills a market segment in which Cisco isn't yet competing.

"Cisco doesn't have a low-end server that is appropriate for the VxRack systems," Hargus said in an email. "The Vblock and VxBlock Systems (which feature Cisco UCS) are for tier 1 mission critical apps and VxRack is for tier 2 and emerging born-in-the-cloud applications, so these products have different use cases so customers are looking at different technologies to handle these workloads."

Cisco has been notably absent from the hyper-converged market, although it partners with SimpliVity to sell UCS servers in its offerings.

Scott Miller, data center director of EMC partner World Wide Technologies, told CRN he has doubts about VCE's claim that the VxRack isn't a Cisco competitor.

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"We're kidding ourselves if we don't think it's putting more pressure on the Cisco relationship," Miller said. "It's a surprise Cisco didn't enter this space because it's so disruptive."

Troy Hiatt, system architect with EMC partner Lightedge Solutions, told CRN he thinks VxRack';s use of whitebox server could be an interesting alternative to Cisco UCS.

"I wasn't that impressed with it until now," Hiatt said of the EMC offering. "It's piqued my attention."

After Cisco sold most of its stake in VCE, EMC began offering systems that used VMware NSX rather than Cisco ACI, which had been the VCE factory-installed option for software-defined networking.

According to an EMC statement, VxRack will offer choice of hypervisor, including VMware vSphere, or KVM bare metal. The system uses EMC ScaleIO software defined storage and can be configured with VMware vRealize management and orchestration suite.

Praveen Akkiraju, CEO of VCE, said in a keynote to EMC World attendees that VxRack comes in compute-intensive or storage-intensive flavors. "Networking is part of VxRack," Akkiraju said. "You can connect to Vscale architecture, you can add multiple VxRacks. The workloads are distributed, expect flexible storage, flexible networking."

The systems will begin rolling out in the next 90 days, Akkiraju said, and another version based on EVO Rack technology will be available in August.