EMC Debuts VSPEX Reference Architecture, Targets NetApp's FlexPod Business

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EMC Thursday unveiled VSPEX, its first reference architecture for building converged infrastructures that integrate storage, server, networking, and virtualization, and claimed it will in no way impact sales of the pre-configured Vblock converged solutions produced by VCE, its joint venture with partner Cisco.

With VSPEX, EMC jumps into a new battle with archrival storage vendor NetApp, whose FlexPod reference architecture has done well against VCE's Vblocks.

At the same time, the multi-vendor VSPEX reference architecture, which includes both Cisco and non-Cisco equipment, also gives EMC the opportunity to counter-balance moves by its long-term partner Cisco, which has benefited by working with NetApp in the FlexPod business.

[Related: EMC, NetApp Present Competing Visions For Storage-Server Infrastructure]

EMC is positioning VSPEX as the alternative to the "build-your-own" storage business where customers and their solution providers configure converged infrastructure solutions on their own, as well as to the structured, pre-configured Vblock offerings from VCE, said Gregg Ambulos, EMC's senior vice president of global channel sales.

"When Vblock was launched, the goal was to offer the highest level of simplicity for the greatest control and management," Ambulos said. "VSPEX offers the flexibility of build-your-own with the value of Vblock."

The need for a flexible, vendor-sponsored reference architecture such as EMC's VSPEX or NetApp's FlexPod is open for debate, said Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and long-term EMC partner.

Reference architectures have been developed by solution providers for years to marry the storage, compute, networking, and virtualization layers specific to customer requirements, Shepard said.

"Engineers on my end scratch their heads over vendors' reference architectures," he said. "Why would a vendor want to come out with a reference architecture before a sale is made? You need to consult with customers first to understand their requirements."

Channel partners are supposed to architect customer solutions based on specific needs, Shepard said.

"No one in the channel goes to the customer and says, 'How many VMs do you want? OK, that fits into this FlexPod or VSPEX,'" he said. "No one is doing this. You need up-front consulting."

For instance, Shepard said, a customer may have previously implemented NetApp storage, Cisco servers and networking, and VMware virtualization, and a partner could after-the-fact call it a FlexPod.

Shepard also said that reference architectures are late to the market. "A customer who needs a reference architecture doesn't really need it," he said. "They need the cloud."

NEXT: Selling The Flexibility Of VSPEX

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