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VCE tweaks Vblock line with low cost converged infrastructure systems

VCE's new lower-cost Vblocks are a step in the right direction, but the converged infrastructure systems may not make a splash in today's data center.

Two new lower-priced VCE Vblocks and new Vision One software are steps in the right direction, customers say, but they also hope to see more innovation from VCE.

The VCE Company, a joint venture between VMware Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and EMC Corp., rolled out the Vblock 100 and 200 converged infrastructure systems this week, as well as a Vblock tuned for SAP’s HANA, to which it added management software dubbed VCE Vision Intelligent Operations. The new software snaps in to VMware vCenter and manages a Vblock as a single object, rather than as multiple layers of storage, networking and compute.

It’s a milestone for VCE, since the prospect of unified management of the Vblock was part of the original concept for the product, but some in the industry say there’s more VCE could do at the software layer.

Specifically, some Vblock users would like to see vCloud Director replaced with something more user friendly.

The ultimate goal is a level of richness and intelligence that at this point is still aspirational.
Jonathan Euniceanalyst, Illuminata Inc.

One of the chief appeals of an Infrastructure as a Service offering from CoSentry is that it adds a management layer on top of vCloud Director which can manage virtual machines on the Vblock, according to John Grange, managing director for Layered Innovations, Inc., an Omaha, Neb.-based firm that makes marketing automation software, and runs its infrastructure on a Vblock hosted by CoSentry.

"It’s just not user-friendly, it’s not something you can have a low-level employee just go figure out," Grange said of vCloud Director. "[VCE] need tools and user experience layers that are going to make this stuff usable."

There should also be a connective layer between Vblock-based clouds, he said. VCE will continue to rely on VMware to supply such intelligence, but at least one analyst sees that as a missed opportunity.

"This is all very incremental, and as an industry we’ve seen these managed systems and descriptions of management layers for three to five years," said Jonathan Eunice, principal IT advisor at Illuminata Inc.

Beyond a native connective layer between Vblocks, Eunice said VCE should also deliver on the original promise of converged infrastructure -- intelligent coordination, so that, for example, storage would be automatically allocated when virtual machines were provisioned, or that when the position of a server was changed, networking would automatically follow.

"The ultimate goal is a level of richness and intelligence that at this point is still aspirational," Eunice said.

Vblock 100, Vblock 200

The Vblock 100 is made up of EMC’s VNXe, Cisco’s Catalyst Ethernet switches and UCS c-Series blade servers and is priced starting at $180,000. The Vblock 200 is made up of EMC’s VNX and Nexus 5500 series multiprotocol switches in addition to UCS c-Series blades, and starts at $350,000. The two products join the 300 and 700, which start at $650,000 and $950,000 respectively.

The new lower-end models are welcome at CoSentry, where customers might look for more cost-effective configurations, said Dustin Schnabel, senior engineer at CoSentry.

Cost-effective is a relative term, but Schnabel said he thought the low-end prices were in line with what customers are willing to pay.

The Vblock 100 is available now; the Vblock 200 is targeted for general availability early in the second quarter.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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