VMware Jumps Into Hyper-Converged Market With Two New Appliances

VMware officially entered the red-hot market for hyper-converged appliances Monday, revealing the first two of what it says will be a family of products in this segment.

The first appliance, called EVO:RAIL, consists of compute, networking, storage and management software packaged with x86 server hardware from VMware’s OEM partners, CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a keynote at the opening of the VMworld conference in San Francisco Monday.

EVO:RAIL is the official name for VMware’s long-rumored "Marvin" project. VMware plans to start selling EVO:RAIL through partners in the second half of the year, said Gelsinger.

EVO:RAIL is the fastest way for customers to deploy a VMware-based software-defined data center, Gelsinger said. However, he was quick to note that VMware isn't selling the EVO:RAIL appliance and isn't getting into the hardware business, as has been speculated.

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VMware is working with Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Inspur, NetOne and SuperMicro on the first wave of EVO:RAIL appliances, said Gelsinger.

EVO:RAIL is VMware’s play for a piece of the action in the hyper-converged market, where well-funded startups Nutanix and Simplivity have been getting the lion’s share of attention. Hyper-converged infrastructure typically includes compute, storage, nettworking and management software running on x86 server hardware.

EVO:RAIL is designed for midsize companies and each four-node appliance can run up to 100 general-purpose virtual machines, according to Gelsinger. EVO-RAIL, in its current release, can scale up to four appliances and 16 nodes.

One big advantage of EVO:RAIL is speed; customers can power on an appliance and get virtual machines up and running in 15 minutes or less, Gelsinger said.

While some industry watchers expected Marvin to be a reference architecture, that isn’t the case. Only VMware’s EVO: RAIL partners can sell and support the appliance, and it will be available as a single SKU.

VMware’s second hyper-converged product is called EVO:RACK, and the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor unveiled the technical preview at VMworld. It’s based on the same concept as EVO:RAIL but done at cloud scale, Gelsinger said.

EVO:RACK is a pre-configured rack solution that will let customers get an entire software-defined data center up and running in two hours or less, Gelsinger said.

EVO:RACK also will be sold through partners and includes Open Compute Project-based hardware designs, x86 servers and converged infrastructure, according to VMware.