VCE Intros Entry-level Vblocks, Unveils Pre-Configured SAP HANA Appliances

VCE on Wednesday expanded its Vblock converged infrastructure line to the midrange and remote branch office market with the introduction of two new entry models, the Vblock 100 and Vblock 200.

VCE, a joint venture of parent companies EMC and Cisco, also refreshed its existing Vblock solutions, released a new Vblock management software application and unveiled its first application-optimized solution, a Vblock pre-configured with SAP HANA.

VCE is an independent builder of integrated solutions including EMC storage technology, Cisco server and networking technology, and VMware virtualization technology that are shipped to customers only after being fully bundled and tested in VCE's own facilities.

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The new Vblock 100 and Vblock 200 solutions represent the first foray into the midmarket for VCE, which until now has focused primarily on the enterprise market, said D. Martin, VCE's vice president of global channels.

"The midmarket is new for us," Martin said. "It's an expanding market. We've seen demand for converged infrastructure in this space. We think we have a winner on our hands."

The new entry-model Vblocks are indeed a winner, said Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services for Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based VCE integrator for customers in the U.S. and Canada.

Long View Systems has customers who have implemented the enterprise-class Vblock 300 and Vblock 700 solutions and want to extend the solution to their branch offices, MacDonald said. Other customers are interested in Vblocks but find the current models too expensive, he said.

"With the Vblock 100 and Vblock 200, we anticipate customers who are using the Vblock 300 and Vblock 700 to have one platform across all their geographies," he said. "Or the new models can be a complete infrastructure for midmarket companies of small offices."

Long View Systems' VCE Vblock business has been growing strong, especially with customers who either need to roll out a new application but cannot deal with the potential risks of a delay caused by building their IT infrastructure or are looking for a quick way to handle IT infrastructures after a merger or acquisition, MacDonald said.

"We've seen both drivers where customers can't meet tight timelines with traditional infrastructures," he said. "By having the Vblock fine-tuned at the gate, they get operational efficiency on 'Day One' instead of on 'Day X.'"

NEXT: Nuts And Bolts Of The Vblock 100, Vblock 200, SAP HANA Appliance

The Vblock 100 is designed to host up to 200 virtual machines in a 24U or 42U rack mount space with up to eight Cisco C220 M3 blade servers, two Cisco Catalyst 3750-X switches and up to 8 TB of storage capacity on an EMC VNXe3150 or VNXe3300 array.

The Vblock 200 comes configured with up to 12 Cisco servers, two Nexus 5548UP unified Ethernet and SAN switches, a Cisco Catalyst 3750 management switch, and up to 105 hard drives via the included VNX 5300 array.

Like all Vblocks, the Vblock 100 and Vblock 200 are sold only via indirect sales channels, VCE's Martin said.

VCE also refreshed the Vblock 300 and Vblock 700 with increased performance and data throughput thanks to upgrades to their Cisco server and EMC storage components, he said.

To better manage customers Vblocks, VCE also introduced VCE Vision Intelligent Operations software, a new application that provides a single management pane for the various components in the systems, Martin said.

"Think of it as -- and I hate this analogy -- the BIOS on a PC," he said. "It manages all the components of the Vblock as a single entity. The software makes a Vblock look as one seamless product instead of as components, all in a single pane of glass."

VCE on Thursday also introduced the Vblock Specialized System SAP HANA, a fully configured solution combining a Vblock with the SAP HANA in-memory computing and database application.

SAP HANA is available only as pre-configured appliance-like solutions from infrastructure hardware vendors, including solutions recently introduced by VCE rivals such as Dell and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

SAP, along with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint, is one of the biggest use cases for Vblocks today, Martin said. "We have a lot of SAP installs where we fine-tune the hardware for the application, but we haven't pre-loaded the application before," he said.

For Long View Systems, the introduction of the Vblock Specialized System SAP HANA comes at just the right time, Long View Systems' MacDonald said.

Long View Systems is now going through the registration process to be a SAP partner, but the company's expertise comes primarily as an infrastructure provider, he said.

"But most SAP partners don't have infrastructure capabilities," he said. "So I can see us partnering with traditional SAP integrators. You don't become a SAP integrator overnight. And conversely, you don't become an infrastructure provider overnight."

The Vblock 100 is currently available, while the Vblock 200 and the Vblock Specialized System SAP HANA are both currently in early customer shipments, with general availability scheduled for early in the second quarter.