EMC and VMware – Sharpening the Hyperconverged Edge

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  February 17, 2016

Developing enterprise-class computing solutions for use by small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) and similar use cases has been common for years among enterprise IT vendors. But there are bad and good ways to approach the process. In the former case, products are little more than stripped-down versions of the originals – smaller in size, of course, but utilizing software and management tools that are often missing key components and functionalities.

A far better strategy requires fundamentally rethinking solutions and reworking them to accommodate the business requirements and IT skills of smaller organizations. There are fewer of this class of solution than there should be, though the market is considerably better today than it was just a few years ago. But by nearly any measure, the new VCE VxRail appliance family announced by EMC and VMware is the sort of solution that many SMBs are looking for and that more vendors should be trying to build.

VCE VxRail – What stands out?

So what is it about the new VCE VxRail appliances that makes them exceptional for smaller businesses? A few things stand out. First, they were developed by VCE, a vendor whose DNA is built on converged solutions. That’s certainly the case for the company’s well-regarded Vblock systems, but it also extends to VCE’s VxBlock and VxRack solutions, and now the VxRail family.

As a result, the VxRail appliances encompass the best lessons and practices that VCE developed in earlier turnkey solutions and applies them to the requirements of smaller scale use cases and customers. But while customers can purchase solutions with as few as two virtual machines (VMs), VxRail family members are also designed to scale easily and to support specialized use cases, including demanding, business critical applications that can benefit from all-flash storage.

That said, VxRail isn’t a hardware-centric story. Not surprisingly, software plays a major role in the family saga in the form of VCE’s VxRail Manager for deep element management and monitoring. VMware’s hyperconverged software stack (including vSphere vCenter Server and Virtual SAN) are also included, and the new appliances can be easily incorporated within existing VMware environments.

The appliances also come loaded (at no extra charge) with integrated EMC mission-critical data services, including data replication, back-up and cloud tiering. That last point – cloud tiering – is important to consider separately. Why so? Because of the elemental, growing role that cloud services play in businesses of every kind.

EMC’s solution provides VCE VxRail customers 10TB of on-demand cloud storage per appliance, an adequate starting point for many smaller organizations. More importantly, EMC’s solution allows VxRail users to seamlessly extend to and interact with over 20 public clouds, including VMware’s vCloud Air, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and (in short order) Virtustream. In other words, VCE VxRail appliances can effectively support cloud-based strategies of any kind.

Taken together, the hardware, software and service assets available in VCE’s VxRail appliance family make attractive options for supporting a wide variety of applications and use cases among smaller organizations.

Final analysis

A larger question might be why SMBs and the like need virtualized appliances in the first place? The answer, quite simply, is how common x86 virtualization has become in data centers, applications and use cases of every kind. In fact, given the continuing evolutionary improvements in Intel’s Xeon processors, as well as in memory, storage, networking and other related server technologies, organizations would be foolish not to explore and embrace virtualization solutions wherever and whenever possible.

But the IT skill shortcomings that have been common among smaller companies for years aren’t going away anytime soon, a point that underscores the value of easy to deploy and manage converged appliances. Toss in the need among larger organizations for effective solutions for remote/branch office (ROBO) at the far edges of their corporate networks that can also be easily integrated with backend IT infrastructures and the potential of the VCE VxRail family becomes crystal clear.

As businesses come to understand the long term benefits offered by converged appliances and infrastructures, the value of EMC and VMware’s collaboration on VCE’s new VxRail appliance family will become clearer still.

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