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VCE debuts scaled-up converged infrastructure offerings

VCE steps out on its own with a set of amped up converged infrastructure offerings. But just how separate is it from long-time partner Cisco?

In its first product launch as an independent company, VCE expanded its converged infrastructure line with VMware NSX and added a new management tool.

Just how far VCE steps away from its long-time partners, particularly Cisco, in its efforts remains unclear.

The company this week debuted its VCE Vscale Architecture, a scale-up and scale-out system containing a "converged fabric" that connects multiple infrastructure systems across data centers and promotes on-demand resource sharing.

VCE also introduced a new family of converged infrastructure (CI) systems, called the VCE VxBlock Systems. The first of those systems offers users a choice between VMware's NSX or Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure for software-defined networking (SDN) functions.

"People wondering how VCE would offer technology choice to users without conflicting with our Cisco partnership, this is our answer," said Trey Layton, VCE's CTO. "The Vblock brand will be dedicated exclusively to our Cisco and EMC partnership, so when Cisco markets Vblock systems, users know it has Cisco technology in it. VMware NSX will also use it as a platform to introduce other technologies down the road."

Still, some analysts believe -- especially with the technology contained in new products -- that some groundwork has been laid for VCE to pursue its own separate course by supporting technologies other than Cisco's.

"The separation from Cisco put a wedge between Cisco and EMC because Cisco is heavily promoting IBM's V7000 storage array," said Richard Fichera, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research, Inc. in Cambridge, Ma. "But stepping out on their own still means solid ties to EMC and Cisco too."

While the cracks in the partnership among the three companies may widen, it could be some time before all three head in distinctly different directions.

"There may be some confusion as to where things stand since there has been a change in the leadership of VCE, with Cisco splitting off, but I don't expect wholesale changes to happen overnight," said Dana Gardner, 

It appears there will be heterogeneity among components going forward, so to have a single management piece to handle all of it over the long haul is important.
Dana Gardnerprincipal analyst with Interarbor Solutions

"There is still growing interest in CI and hyper-CI because users like ease of implementation and lower total cost of ownership. There is still money to be made by them working together."

VCE also launched version 3.0 of its VCE Vision Intelligent Operations management software, which has been improved largely to accommodate the capabilities of its new Vscale architecture. The offering can now better handle multi-system management and converged operations at scale, and can provide unified intelligence across multiple VCE systems that are either independent or part of the Vscale architecture.

One analyst believes the new management software might play as important a role as the underlying platform, given that it can manage multiple and different systems and may have to do so for the foreseeable future.

"It appears there will be heterogeneity among components going forward, so to have a single management piece to handle all of it over the long haul is important," Gardner said. "If you have an environment made up of CI, hyper CI, SDN and traditional hardware, a major stumbling block could be the management software."

Accompanying the new product offerings, VCE plans to better leverage its factory integration services over the course of 2015 so it can more easily integrate Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) stacks as well as better integration of applications into the Vblock architecture. The first stack the company will make available is EMC's Enterprise Hybrid Cloud, which incorporates the management stacks co-developed by VCE and EMC and that can be used to standup IaaS offerings.

With the VCE Foundation Services, the company will have the ability to pre-integrate cloud stacks at the factory, Layton said.

"We will use the foundation name as a category to introduce other applications and cloud orchestration stacks," Layton said. "In the span of 45 days we can deliver to any user Amazon [Web Services] on premise, on a Vblock ready to operate. And we will support the management of that stack including integration support for the life of the product."

VCE also introduced three new VxBlock systems, the 300, 500 and 700 series, which are updated versions of the same systems in the company's Vblock lineup. The newer systems are built on the same architecture as the original systems.

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