VARs Say VCE To Target SMBs With Entry-Level Vblocks

Channel sources said that VCE is adding a new entry-level Vblock offering and engaging with Avnet to produce the new solution in order to bring its Vblock cloud server and storage architecture to SMB customers.

At the same time, VCE is building new Vblock configurations based on EMC's secondary offerings including its Isilon scale-out NAS appliances as a way to increase its reach into customer data center.

The moves mark significant changes in how VCE approaches the cloud architecture business, as the company has until now targeted mainly midrange and enterprise customers with solutions for which it directly handled all the configuration and testing.

VCE, a joint-venture company set up by EMC and Cisco along with investment from VMware and Intel, develops cloud architecture solutions consisting of EMC storage, Cisco server and networking technology, and VMware virtualization technology.

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The company currently offers five different Vblock solutions, all of which are configured by VCE and shipped as pre-built, pre-tested packages to customers. Four of those solutions, the Vblock Series 300, are based on four different models of EMC's VNX midrange arrays, while the fifth, the Vblock 700, is based on EMC's Symmetrix VMAX enterprise storage array.

However, CRN has learned the company is planning to address the small business market with the introduction of a new series of solutions, the Vblock Series 100, based on EMC's new VNXe small-business storage array.

Such a move would parallel VCE parent company EMC's massive push into the small business market initiated early last year with its introduction of the VNXe.

VCE is also for the first time engaging an outside partner, Avnet, to assemble the Vblock Series 100, according to channel sources. Avnet, along with Arrow, Ingram Micro, and Tech Data, is a current VCE distributor.

At least four solution providers confirmed all or part of VCE's small business plans.

An Avnet spokesperson declined to comment on upcoming Vblock plans, and refered questions to VCE. Rick Lacroix, a VCE spokesperson, said there would be no comment on his company's upcoming product or channel plans.

Both moves make sense to Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider, close partner with both EMC and VCE, and early support of the Vblock solutions.

"You can see where this is going," Shepard said. "VCE is ramping up, but it's expecting high volumes, so it's using Avnet. With Vblock 100 based on the VNXe, VCE is trying to address customers who are looking for smaller all-in-one solutions."

Another EMC and VCE solution provider, who requested anonymity, said his company has in the last 30 days installed four VNXe arrays, and that a Vblock solution based on the VNXe is the right approach for smaller customers.

"VCE provides a tremendous value by offering a single point of support for customers," the solution provider said. "SMB clients with only one or two IT people like a unified approach. And integrating VNXe into the Vblocks will bring the floor down on pricing."

For larger customers, VCE is also increasing its product range with plans to integrate other EMC products into new Vblock offerings.

According to channel sources, VCE will soon introduce a new Vblock based on EMC's Isilon scale-out NAS system.

Next: VCE Gaining Market Momentum

In addition to providing customers a pre-configure, pre-built scale-out NAS solution, an Isilon-based Vblock would also bring VCE into the big data market given EMC's move this week to integrate native support for the Hadoop big data software.

Channel sources say they expect other EMC offerings, including its Data Domain dedupe solution and its Avamar backup and dedupe software, to also be integrated into Vblocks in the near future.

VCE, which was officially launched just two years ago, has been gaining market momentum. EMC last month reported during its fiscal year 2012 analyst conference that the order rate for Vblocks in the fourth quarter exceeded $800 million on an annualized basis, and that the company is closing in on its billion-dollar run-rate goal.

The bulk of VCE's business goes through indirect sales channels.

Both VCE and Avnet declined to comment on upcoming Vblock plans.