A closer look at VCE’s latest innovation in converged infrastructure

Coman Hamilton
Network convergence image via Shutterstock

VCE, the biggest name in converged infrastructure, has announced a major expansion of its portfolio. CTO Nigel Moulton explains the workings of what is described as the ‘next era’ in converged infrastructure.

JAXenter: Can you tell us a bit about VCE’s new scale-out product offering? 

Nigel Moulton, VCE’s CTO of EMEA: VCE Vscale Architecture is a new architecture to simplify massive scaling and management of converged infrastructure within and across data centers.   The VCE Vscale Architecture leverages a next-generation converged fabric to interconnect multiple converged infrastructure systems and data center elements, providing optimized, on-demand resource sharing.  It is an architecture framework based on a Spine and  Leaf network fabric of Cisco’s Nexus 9000 switches. The Vscale architecture provides rules and standards for connecting classic Vblock Sytems, the new VxBlock System, dedicated compute or storage racks and in the future even hyper converged appliance stacks. VCE Vscale aggregates these systems into unified, aggregated resource pools across racks, which can be uniformly managed using VCE Vision 3.0 software.

With VCE Vscale Architecture customers can eliminate application silos; deliver optimal resource pools for workloads running on any system, in any data center; bring second-platform and third-platform applications onto the same converged infrastructure; and adapt swiftly to evolving business needs by scaling compute and storage independently or together. As a result the business will benefit from unmatched agility and flexibility to accelerate time-to-value; simplified converged management and operations at scale; and ultimate risk mitigation through standardization and lifecycle management 

Given that you were previously selling non-extensible rigs, scale-out products is quite new territory for VCE, right?

A Vblock has always been extensible, it is the degree to which it is extensible that is now greatly enhanced.  Original Vblocks had the ability to add additional storage and or compute resource. This could be achieved by simply adding more of the resource that you required. What we are announcing today is an ability to scale-out using different resource types to those that you purchased with your initial Vblock.

So, if your initial Vblock contained only block storage, you can now add file, flash, object or more block storage to support different workloads and application environments. This has a capacity limit in terms of the amount of spare capacity that you have in the Vblock, so we are adding a second more extensible choice if a customer is running an SDN (software defined network).

With an SDN in place (either ACI from Cisco or NSX from VMWare) you can now add the appropriate resource type into the SDN fabric and make them appear as a set of resources available to the application environments that you are looking to support. This provides an almost limitless ability to scale.

Q3. You’re also introducing a “VxBlock System”…

vxblockYes, VCE VxBlock Systems are a new family of converged infrastructure systems designed to enable greater flexibility in system technology choices.  The first VxBlock System will offer VMware NSX or Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) as a customer choice for software defined networking (SDN) functionality. VCE VxBlock Systems will receive the same “VCE Experience” of factory-based pre-integration, pre-testing and pre-validation with seamless component-level updates, ongoing lifecycle assurance, and unified single-call support.

VCE anticipates bringing to market converged technologies that incorporate additional technologies in 2015, and we are therefore introducing a new brand called VxBlock Systems.  The x in VxBlock Systems signals our commitment to meet the market need for flexible technology choices that make sense for customers. Vblock Systems will continue to be our main product family, but customers can expect new product announcements from VCE that will provide the choice and flexibility they need to pursue strategic objectives. The first choice being announced is choice in network virtualization, with VMware NSX or Cisco ACI.

You’ve also unveiled VCE Vision 3.0. There appears to be some similarities between this and VMWare’s EVO:Rail, while VxBlock’s are to take a VMWare’s approach to providing third-party hardware under the hood. Silicon Angle comments that this might create confusion among customers. How do you see it? 

A Vblock or VxBlock is not a hyper converged offering, it is a converged infrastructure platform that has a set of characteristics that means it does not compete in the hyper converged space.  A converged infrastructure stack ships as a pre-manufactured and pre-integrated system, with a set of known good combinations running in the system. Over the lifetime of ownership of the asset, the VCE Vblock or VxBlocks are maintained and supported as a single system, with a defined and tested upgrade procedure minimising the risk associated with change in the system.

A Vblock or VxBlock in combination with the Vscale architecture actually provides for an unparalleled amount of choice for a customer.  The idea that a customer can invest in an architecture which solves its day 1 needs, but which also allows the customer to add other resources to provide increased flexibility in the future should be seen as a very positive announcement, and we believe that this capability is unique.

How does VCE view the increasing competition from SimpliVity?

Today within the Federation of EMC companies we offer a hyper converged solution called VSPEX Blue, which is based on the EVO:RAIL architecture.

Simplivity has a niche product offering in the hyper converged space.  Hyper converged is a technology that fits a growing set of use cases. As this market segment continues to evolve  we would see increased competition from Simplivity, particularly as we expand our capability in this particular market.

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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