EMC, Cisco and VMware Unveil ‘Vblock’

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EMC (NYSE: EMC), Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and VMware (NYSE: VMW) officially unveiled their long-awaited data center partnership today, a coalition first reported by Enterprise Storage Forum in August.

The three companies have come together as the Virtual Computing Environment coalition — which also works out nicely to be an acronym of the three IT giants — to sell and support new Vblock systems that combine Cisco’s Unified Computing Systems (UCS) and switches, EMC storage and security and VMware virtualization technology.

The new systems are aimed at virtual data centers and “private clouds,” and the companies will back them up with services and support and a new joint venture called Acadia that will build, sell and support the systems. Cisco and EMC are the lead investors in the new venture, and VMware and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) also contributed.

At a media event today that was so cozy it will likely reignite takeover speculation between Cisco, EMC and VMware, EMC CEO Joe Tucci said Acadia will employ 130 people and launch around Jan. 1. Tucci was joined at the event by Cisco CEO John Chambers, who more than once stressed the long-term relationship between the companies, and VMware CEO Paul Maritz.

Tucci also stressed customer choice, and claimed the systems can work with any vendor’s products.

Vblock Infrastructure Packages are scalable and come in three configurations.

Vblock 2 is a high-end configuration supporting up to 3,000-6,000 virtual machines and is aimed at large enterprises and service providers. Vblock 2 combines Cisco’s UCS and Nexus 1000v and Multilayer Directional Switches (MDS), EMC’s Symmetrix V-Max storage secured by RSA, and the VMware vSphere platform.

Vblock 1 is a mid-sized configuration supporting from 800 to 3,000 virtual machines. It uses Cisco’s UCS, Nexus 1000v and MDS, EMC’s Clariion storage and RSA security, and VMware vSphere.

Vblock 0 is an entry-level configuration that will be available next year. It supports 300 to 800 virtual machines, and combines Cisco’s UCS and Nexus 1000v, EMC’s Unified Storage arrays with RSA, and VMware vSphere.

EMC’s new Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager will be the unified element manager for Vblock.

Vblock 1 and 2 will be available this quarter from the companies, systems integrators and channel partners. Other packages will be developed for shared services, applications and vertical industry solutions, including virtual desktops.

Analysts, Competitors Weigh In

Evaluator Group analyst John Webster said virtualization is forcing partnerships like the Cisco-EMC-VMware combination.

“VMware and virtualization in general forces vendors from different market segments to integrate,” said Webster. “The upside is that virtualization users don’t have to do the integration. The downside is the potential for silos of a different nature to come into existence. VCE may be one built around the vBlock — compute, network and storage integration. Others of different stripes may follow.”

Pund-IT analyst Charles King wrote in a research note that “the coalition should allow Cisco, EMC and VMware to explore and enable the future of enterprise computing while remaining firmly rooted in the here and now. That qualifies as a win/win for VCE’s partners and cloud-bound enterprise customers.”

Jay Kidd, NetApp’s (NASDAQ: NTAP) chief marketing officer, called the partnership “a clever attempt by Cisco to sell UCS servers into EMC’s install base. We also feel that this announcement further validates the trend that we’re seeing as more and more enterprises move to a virtualized dynamic data center infrastructure. NetApp has been at the forefront in helping enterprises realize this shift through our close partnerships with Cisco and VMware. … Open partnerships, not closed coalitions, are what customers need and want to make the transformation to a virtualized data center.”

Praveen Asthana, vice president of Enterprise Storage and Networking at Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) — a longtime EMC storage partner — said the coalition “assumes that customers are looking for closed technology architectures that lock them into a restricted vendor stack. This proprietary implementation of industry standard architectures is a throwback to the 1990s and creates complete vendor lock-in. As the leading provider of cloud infrastructure, Dell knows from its customers’ insights that cloud compute workloads are best served by open, standards-based solutions — not by repackaging high-cost infrastructure as a cloud solution.”

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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