VMware Teaser Gets Tweeted: 'Marvin' Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance

VMware appears ready to launch its new, and now not-so-secret hyper-converged infrastructure appliance soon, possibly at August's VMworld conference.

Fletcher Cocquyt, a sharp-eyed VMware-certified professional and principal engineer at Stanford University, according to LinkedIn, on June 6 tweeted a photo of what appears to be a poster announcing VMware's "Marvin" during a visit to the VMware campus.

The poster appears to be a teaser for a hyper-converged appliance. The text at the top reads, "Introducing the worlds first 100% vmware powered hyper converged infrastructure appliance (sic)."

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Marvin is "arriving Summer 2014," according to the poster.

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Marvin likely is a new name for "Project Mystic," which is a joint project of VMware and parent company EMC to develop a hyper-converged infrastructure offering that would compete with similar hardware appliances from startups such as Nutanix and SimpliVity.

Hyper-converged infrastructure technology combines server, storage, networking and virtualization technology in a software-defined stack running on a single commodity server rather than being deployed as separate hardware components.

News of the tweet was first reported June 8 by Christian Mohn, chief consultant at EVRY Norge AS on his vNinja blog, where he noted that VMware also has a registered trademark on the name "Marvin."

The trademark notification for Marvin, which was filed in January, describes it as " Computer hardware for virtualization; computer hardware enabling users to manage virtual computing resources that include networking and data storage."

VMware declined to comment specifically on Marvin or on the poster. A VMware spokesperson told CRN via email that whatever was seen in Cocquyt's photo can no longer be seen on the VMware campus.

The spokesperson also provided a statement which reads, "Per VMware corporate policy, we don’t comment on rumor or speculation. That said, VMware is not in the hardware business, we are a software company. In this model, we have a long history of working closely with our OEM partners to deliver the best hardware/software combination to our customers. Separately, in the case of VMware Virtual SAN, we have solid relationships with our OEM partners and early uptake has been strong."

Given that the trademark notification for Marvin uses the phrase "computer hardware," and that VMware is a software company working with OEM partners, it is possible that Marvin may be a software stack that can be added to industry-standard hardware, and/or will be available for OEM hardware vendors to use.

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Both are likely, said Jamie Shepard, regional and health systems senior vice president at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and partner to VMware and its parent company, storage king EMC.

Shepard told CRN that, from what he has seen, Marvin combines multiple VMware technologies including vSphere server virtualization technology, VSAN software-defined storage, NSX software-defined virtualization, and vCHS, or vCloud Hybrid Service, which allows the deployment of private clouds based on VMware technology.

"We're going back to the days of the IBM AS/400 servers, where compute, storage and networking were all in one cabinet," he said. "It's something a lot of companies are doing. EMC is doing it with its ScaleIO technology."

VMware's Marvin likely will be available as an integrated software package that can be dropped onto any industry-standard server, and/or as an offering to OEM customers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, Shepard said.

For Lumenate, the hardware platform of choice is Cisco UCS, which VMware currently supports via reference architectures with partners such as EMC in VSPEX and with NetApp in FlexPod, Shepard said. "We want rock-solid hardware to use with virtualized appliances," he said.

Lumenate is already bundling those VMware technologies, although sometimes without NSX, on its own while waiting for Marvin, Shepard said.

"When VMware releases its own stack, it will help us a lot," he said. "VMware is taking what I'm building now and packaging it."

The software stack, whether bundled for now by Lumenate or integrated by VMware, will give customers looking to move workloads between the cloud and on-premise infrastructures a major boost, and could help pull customers out of Amazon public clouds, Shepard said.

"The hyper-converged software stack, because of VMware vCHS, lets customers move resources back and forth between on-premise and a vCHS cloud instead of going to AWS," he said. "Today, customers can move workloads to AWS, but not back. The virtual machines get converted to a proprietary Amazon format."

Having such a bundle suits Lumenate as its customers, the majority of whom use VMware, will not get locked into an AWS cloud, Shepard said.

"Will they get locked into a VMware cloud?" he said. "We can debate that. But vCHS allows customers to move workloads to the cloud and back. AWS doesn't."