EMC Federation to reveal new hyper-hyper converged appliances

VMware's already hyping things up and EMC's filed trademark papers for 'InfraSIM'

EMC, VMware and VCE will soon announce a new range of hyper-converged appliances that EMC II CEO David Goulden says are game-changers.

“For the last several months EMC and VMware partnered very closely to develop a new next-generation hyper-converged appliance family that uniquely leverages technology from EMC, VMware and VCE,” Goulden said in yesterday's EMC earnings call, going on to say the new product “ will change the game in this part of the converged infrastructure space.”

“Stay tuned for an exciting joint EMC, VMware announcement in a few weeks time.”

We're tuned in David. And we also tuned in yesterday when VMware asserted it's the number one vendor of hyper-converged products on the back of “well over $100 million annual run rate per total bookings” for its VSAN virtual array. Here's how company president and chief operating officer Carl Eschenbach phrased the assertion:

“Taking into account, the hardware associated with running the Virtual SAN software and our current booking to run rate, we believe we are the industry leader in the hyper-converged offerings measured both by software and as an appliance.”

VMware only sells software. So what it's basically doing here is saying that when you add up all the code it has sold, plus the cost of all the kit customers have bought on which to run VSAN, it's probably the number one vendor.

Why might VMware want to combine the cost of software it sells and hardware it didn't? Two words: Nutanix and SimpliVity, the two most visible vendors of hyperconverged appliances.

We know, thanks to Nutanix's IPO filings, that the company hauled in US$241.4 million for fiscal 2015, of which just over $200m was product. We also know that in the three months ended October 31st, 2015, it brought $87.75m through the door, $70.4m of which was for product.

SimpliVity hasn't publicly put a number on its revenues since early last year when it claimed $100m a year, but has since said that as of the end of Q3 “the company grew sales bookings by 50 percent quarter over quarter.”

Both sets of numbers include hardware and software.

VMware's point here is therefore that while its two rivals can point to more sales of hyper-converged kit, VMware accounts for more overall spending on hyper-converged appliances. Which makes it number one.

Does that logic work? El Reg's virtualisation desk keeps hearing two rumours that put the claim in a different light. One is that VSAN is being bundled into any and every deal into which VMware can shoehorn it, whether or not the user is enthusiastic about it. If correct, that rumour means there's a lot of VSAN shelfware out there, which VMware can count when it wants a nice number but which might not reflect actual enthusiasm for the product.

On the plus side for VMware, the “more than $100m” claim looks credible based on its own sample VSAN pricing comparison with Nutanix. That link offers up a decent VSAN rig with costs of US$19,960 for licences plus $14,970 for support, for a total of $34,930. Multiply that by VMware's claimed 3,000 VSAN customers and you get just a tick over $104m. Sure, some of those customers bought last year, but a few bigger rigs would easily tip 2015 sales past $100m. And it's not as if VMware can make this kind of revenue claim in a conference call without some basis in fact, unless it really, really wants to spend money on shareholder lawsuits.

That pricing guide also mentions server and disk costs of $27,229, which at about three quarters of the software and support price is where things get tricky because to top Nutanix's $200m VSAN customers need to be spending about 90 per cent of the software price on hardware. It's conceivable that some VSAN users spend more, which would take VMware past Nutanix's numbers and into leadership territory.

The second rumour surrounds a new release of VSAN, due this quarter, that we know will add data deduplication and erasure codes. The rumour suggests VSAN has been cut out of the vSphere kernel, making it less converged rather than more! VSAN freed of dependence on vSphere certainly sounds interesting in terms of Goulden's promise of game-changing hyper-converged rigs.

The new range may also go some way towards explaining why Virtzilla wants it known that VMware-inspired hyper-covergence spending has fallen a few million bucks beyond Nutanix's revenue, a feat hardly worthy of self-congratulation given VMware's advantages of incumbency and scale.

But as a water-muddier before Nutanix's IPO, the “we're number hyper-one!” claim takes on new significance.

El Reg's virtualisation desk expects news of the new kit in about a fortnight: VMware's already issuing invitations for interviews, so don't touch that hyper-converged dial unless it is to check recent Trademark filings, like this one from mid-December 2015 by EMC for something called "InfraSIM". Infrastructure made simple, perhaps? ®

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