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Vblock architecture gains new configuration; VCE integrates EMC data protection apps

Rich Castagna, Editorial Director

VCE, the Virtual Computing Environment company created by VMware, Cisco and EMC, yesterday announced a new Vblock infrastructure package along with new software support for its converged storage/compute/network product line. The Vblock architecture product announcements were made by VCE chairman Michael Capellas at the EMC World conference in Las Vegas.

The new Vblock Series 700 Model LX integrated package extends the current VCE product line at its higher end, fitting in between the current Series 300 just below the 700MX series. It includes an EMC VMAX 10K storage array and Cisco UCS M2 blade servers, which are built around Intel Xeon E7 processors. Networking is also provided by Cisco, with its Nexus and MDS switching integrated in the rack. The 700LX supports VMware vSphere 5.

VCE also announced that Vblock infrastructure packages will now work with EMC VPLEX technology, which makes it possible to move applications and workloads among the Vblock member systems in geographically dispersed pools. EMC says this technology provides for easy application sharing and load balancing. At this time, the process requires manual intervention, but Todd Pavone, head of product development for VCE, said that eventually the process will be policy-based and automated. “Initially, it will be used on a campus,” said Pavone, “and then you’ll see that be able to extend over larger distances.”

The other key VCE announcements are all related to data protection. Vblocks now support and can integrate EMC Avamar and EMC Data Domain backup technology. Added support for EMC’s RecoverPoint replication provides continuous data protection. The backup products are tested and certified for Vblocks and are available as options. A Vblock with the Avamar or Data Domain software can act as backup target for other Vblocks in a VPLEX pool. “It’s a big deal to say it’s now sold, tested, shipped, and pre-built and supported -- and that’s not easy to do.”

A new Unified Infrastructure Manager allows central management of multiple Vblocks in an environment and provides additional storage and VMware administrative features.

Capellas said the Vblock business has been more successful than anticipated. “In the fourth quarter, we were just north of an $800 million run rate,” he said. “We are basically doubling every quarter,” he said, adding that with that kind of growth and plans to continue to expand the VCE product line, $3 billion in sales is within reach. VCE has about 125 partners and is actively expanding that network with particular growth coming in Europe.

He called VCE “an innovation engine” and attributed some of the product line’s success to fulfilling a previously untapped market. It was “a model that nobody had tried before,” he said, while noting that virtually every major storage vendor today offers similar converged technology packages.

Showing a picture of a row of Vblock racks, Capellas noted how well integrated the components are and that “there are no cables” but hastened to add, “But we do a lot more than cable management.”

When VCE rolled out the initial Vblock architecture products in 2010, there was some concerned related to support given that three separate companies were involved in building the product. Capellas said VCE is continuing to improve and streamline support and is building out its dedicated support team so that it can handle a Vblock service call “end to end.” He said that this is the case with high-end customers now, but that type of service will eventually be made available to all customers.

Capellas cautioned that VCE would not get into the application market with application-specific Vblock configurations. Citing potential channel conflict, Capellas said that while they won’t become application integrators, they will continue to work with the application providers. “We will optimize for an application to make sure that it runs great” on Vblock gear, he said. VCE will also leverage its configuration tools and some of the capabilities of the Panduit enclosures used for Vblocks to optimize the units to conform better to customers’ power requirements.

All of the new VCE products are available now; pricing for the Vblock Series 700 Model LX starts at $1.2 million.

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