EMC Unveils Long-Awaited Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: VSPEX BLUE

EMC Tuesday released a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance that integrates VMware's EVO: Rail software stack with EMC management software and a white-box server, marking its entry into an already-crowded market.

Called VSPEX BLUE, the offering confirms an earlier CRN report that EMC would release a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance as part of its VSPEX converged infrastructure business. It has been expected for some time, with CRN first reporting last May that EMC confirmed it was building such an appliance under the "Project Mystic" code name.

VSPEX BLUE is the first fruit of EMC's new converged infrastructure business unit, which combines the company's VCE and VSPEX solutions. It was unveiled at this week's VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) conference.

[Related: EMC Combines VCE, VSPEX Into New $1B-plus Converged Infrastructure Business]

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Gil Shneorson, VSPEX general manager and vice president, told CRN that the new hyper-converged infrastructure appliance was given the "VSPEX" moniker despite the fact that the traditional VSPEX model has been to provide solution providers with a converged infrastructure reference architecture while letting them do the actual integration.

"This is a channel play, and VSPEX has a great channel," Shneorson said. "So we're extending it to hyper-converged infrastructure. We believe that, going forward, partners can sell both our product and reference architecture solutions."

While several other vendors have built hyper-converged infrastructure appliances based on VMware's EVO: Rail platform, including solutions from EMC rivals such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and NetApp, EMC is adding its own management software as a key differentiator to VSPEX BLUE, said Chad Dunn, senior director of operations for VSPEX at EMC, Hopkinton, Mass.

"We didn't want to have another EVO: Rail appliance where VMware software is sold with a server," Dunn told CRN.

The EMC solution includes VSPEX BLUE Manager, a software application that goes beyond the standard monitoring and management of EVO: Rail to include tight integration with EMC and VMware management consoles, full EMC support and maintenance, and automated patches and updates, he said.

Also included is VSPEX BLUE Market, which provides access to EMC and, eventually, third-party software applications to help customers and partners get more value from their VSPEX BLUE appliances, Dunn said.

VSPEX BLUE Market initially gives customers an easy way to download EMC RecoverPoint software. "There is a license for 15 users included with the box," he said. "Customers can go to the VSPEX BLUE Market to deploy the software at no charge."

NEXT: VSPEX BLUE Designed With The Channel In Mind

Also included is a trial license for VMware Data Protection Advanced, a data protection application based on EMC's Isilon technology.

EMC is also for the first time using the VSPEX BLUE Market to make its EMC CloudArray application, based on the company's 2013 acquisition of TwinStrata, available as an option to its hardware, Dunn said.

"EMC CloudArray tiers block or file data securely to any object storage technology, especially in public clouds," he said. "It caches some data locally, but keeps the bulk in the cloud, with the data encrypted locally and in the cloud. This is the first time CloudArray is offered with an EMC box. We have plans to do so with VMAX in the future."

Introducing VSPEX BLUE is a fantastic move for EMC, said David Lane, solutions architect manager at Anexinet, a Bluebell, Pa.-based solution provider and partner to EMC and VMware.

"It's a pre-configured, validated solution based on VMware's technology," Lane told CRN. "It's different from VMware's VSAN software-defined storage, which is hard to build into a box at the right price."

Given EMC's close tie to VMware, VSPEX BLUE could be the first choice for many customers looking to implement a hyper-converged infrastructure, Lane said.

"Combining VMware's EVO: Rail with EMC management and provisioning will make it the top of the heap in any EVO: Rail consideration," he said.

EMC's VSPEX BLUE will be delivered exclusively through channel partners, Shneorson said.

In North America, EMC will work with distribution partners including Avnet, Arrow and Tech Data to have them do final assembly of VSPEX BLUE using EMC's OEM manufacturing technology. "EMC will provide support for the appliance, hardware and software," he said.

Missing from the list of distributors is Ingram Micro, which will be dropped as an EMC distributor starting this April.