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VCE scales up, up and out of exclusive deal with Cisco

New 'VxBlock' goes where Vblocks can't – NSX and other server or network vendors

VCE, the EMC Federation's converged infrastructure company, in which Cisco is now a silent partner, has revealed new scale-out products and the first dilution of its “Cisco-will-always-provide-networking” plan.

The scale-out products are also something of a departure for VCE, which has previously sold converged rigs that weren't extensible. Thanks to a new “VCE Vscale Architecture” it will henceforth be possible to combined vBlocks into ever-larger rigs. VCE's chief technology officer Trey Layton told us 1000-rack assemblies aren't out of the question for those who operate at web scale. Folks who need that bigness will be able to get there with new "VCE technology extensions" comprising only storage or servers. The latter will be Cisco UCS, the former EMC Isilon. For now, anyway: there's an intention to do more "extensions" flavours covering EMC's entire storage range, as appropriate.

The other big change is the introduction of the “VxBlock System”. Like their vBlock cousins, VxBlocks will be integrated, tested and validated up the wazoo (in a good way). Unlike vBlocks, VCE can contemplate the inclusion of non-Cisco parts. For now there's two VxBlocks, one packing VMware's software-defined-networking (SDN) product NSX and another with Application Centric Infrastructure offering, Cisco's SDN competitor/equivalent. VCE promises more VxBlocks will emerge during 2015. Layton told El Reg they could conceivably include components and software from other vendors, because it is only in products named “vBlock” that VCE is compelled to use only Cisco product.

2015 will see another variable enter VCE's world in the form of vBlocks packing pre-configured applications. The company's not saying who it has lined up for these new vBlocks beyond fellow EMC Federation member Pivotal (Cloud Foundry in a box will soon be upon us), but told us it's been pleasantly surprised by the level of interest application vendors have shown in the idea and in the amount of work that's been achieved to date. It's worth remembering that such ideas aren't entirely new in VCE's orbit, as Avaya has long offered a unified communications stack-in-a-box running on pre-configured VMware software.

Also coming down the slipway is the “VCE Foundation for Federation Enterprise Hybrid Cloud” which will allow “factory integration of additional VMware and EMC technologies” including NSX, vRealize and EMC ViPR.

An upgrade to the VCE Vision Intelligent Operations 3.0 software is another announcement, enabling to handle the new scaled-out products and the federation into single logical entities the Vscale Architecture delivers. Other news includes the Vblock 540 and 740 announced last year are now shipping, and the introduction of the “VCE Integrated Solutions for Cloud Management” said to provide an “out-of-the-box cloud foundation”.

Layton told us that the announcements above represent VCE's blueprint for its future as an EMC Federation Member, status it's attained since Cisco reduced itself to a silent partner. He also said VCE's new application bundles mean the company isn't entirely unhappy to be compared to Oracle, but that it thinks working with multiple application vendors will be an important differentiator.

Another important nugget from today's launch is that VCE will be a launch partner for VMware's forthcoming EVO:Rack hyperscale rig recipe. The new VCE Vscale Architecture looks to be a part of that promise.

What to make of this all? When EMC acquired Data General way back in 1999, it clung on to the Clariion arrays and spat out the servers. Over the last year or so it's been imagined that EMC could get back into servers, but it now seems that's unlikely. Packaging and supporting servers, however, is now a field in which the EMC Federation has multiple offerings across private cloud, hybrid cloud, and now also hyperscale and apps-in-a-box. And not an awful lot of competitors. ®

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