With its recent announcement, VCE is showing the world that it is more than a solution of parts from the parent companies (Cisco, EMC, VMware and Intel). VCE’s revenue is now tracking over $1B per year thanks to Q4 2012 being over $250M and according to industry trackers, is the top selling converged infrastructure solution. The most notable piece of VCE’s recent announcement is that for the first time, the company is bringing a software product to market that was developed in-house – VCE Vision Intelligent Operations which will start shipping with all Vblocks in April 2013. First of all, the creation of a new software line is a proof point that the company is not a short-term project; despite the coopetition between parent companies, the bottom line is that VCE provides revenue and strategic value in how EMC and Cisco bring data center solutions to the market. At its core, VCE Vision software helps deliver on the mission of the company, which is to help simplify infrastructure for virtualized environments by moving from siloed components to management at the rack level. Managing by the rack rather than the component is how hyperscale companies manage their environments at much lower operational costs (see Rack Level Architectures and Hyperscale Operations). Virtualization administrators will now manage a “Vblock” item directly in vCenter, so the internal components become invisible, allowing for much less day-to-day touching of the solution.
VCE also broadened its portfolio with an update to the Vblock 300 and 700, addition of smaller 100 and 200 models and creation of specialized systems, beginning with one for SAP HANA. While not part of the announcement, another revelation that came from VCE recently is that the company is being more flexible about the use of non-VMware hypervisors. According to a blog from CTO Trey Layton, customers looking to use Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen or KVM will get a “best effort” support. EMC and Cisco already have converged reference architecture solutions for other hypervisors including EMC VSPEX and Cisco/NetApp FlexPod. As VMware faces increased competition, convergence solutions using KVM have emerged from Scale Computing and Nutanix. At VMware’s Partner Exchange (PEX) conference this week, the company put out a battle cry against Amazon public cloud rather than any of the competitors that are trying to disrupt its core hypervisor business. [Watch the SiliconANGLE Breaking Analysis video below for more on VMware vs. Amazon]
One of VMware’s best assets is the VARs and Systems Integrators that sell VMware and its ecosystem products. As Jay Cuthrell of VCE points out, the biggest challenge facing this group is the disruption of service providers. “Biggest take away from #VMwarePEX: If you’re a VAR you must begin partnering with Service Providers or _become_ a Service Provider.” Amazon AWS is also targeting the channel, enabling them to support customers and offer cloud simply. VARs and SIs have to find solutions where they can add value and make money on, between converged infrastructure solutions and cloud offerings, there will is concern on staying relevant and profitable.
In closing, converged infrastructure holds promise for finally moving the needle of IT expenses that have put over 70% into “keeping the lights on” for the last decade. Simplification, built-in systems intelligence and automation need to free workers from the mundane tasks of constantly optimizing an imperfect architecture. While VCE has led this trend to-date, it will face strong competition from followers, startups and disruptions from cloud-based alternatives.