By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. October 22, 2014
It’s no surprise that channel partners, like system integrators (SIs), have for decades offered critical assistance, when needed, for business IT. The intricacies of sophisticated system hardware, middleware and software have contributed to that. In fact, increasing complexity has made it more difficult and expensive for organizations to manage complex system integration and deployment tasks on their own. That, in turn, means steady business for SIs and others in the channel. But how and where those processes take place is changing fundamentally.
In large part, that’s due to significant shifts in business IT, especially related to the adoption of cloud technologies and best practices. But it is also being impacted by the rise of converged infrastructure solutions, like VCE’s Vblock, Oracle’s Exadata, IBM’s PureSystem, HP’s ConvergedSystem and NetApp’s FlexPod offerings. These solutions are typically purchased directly from the vendor, then pre-configured, -integrated, -tested and -validated at the factory and shipped to customers’ data centers ready and waiting for deployment.
That’s all goodness for large enterprises, as the vast majority of these solutions deliver faster returns on these IT investments compared with traditional system integration methodologies. In fact, that’s a prime reason converged solution adoption and sales are growing more robustly than traditional business computing platforms.
But how does this trend impact the thousands of SIs and other channel partners typically involved in and remunerated for developing and deploying solutions for business customers? Moreover, what happens to the well being of tens of thousands of small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that could enjoy significant competitive advantages from adopting cloud and related converged infrastructures solutions but lack the financial resources and, frankly, the computing needs for “big iron” offerings?
Delivering converged infrastructure choice
This is not to say that converged infrastructure offerings are unavailable in smaller form factors but most of these are really designed for enterprise-specific issues, like supporting remote/branch offices (ROBO). Others also carry significant limitations. For example, while NetApp’s FlexPod solutions are available via its channel partners and is even available as an “Express” model designed for smaller organizations, the company’s exclusive support of Cisco’s server and networking components curbs its attractiveness for many clients.
At this point, just one major vendor offers a solution that effectively addresses converged infrastructure scenarios and pain points for both SMEs and the channel vendors they prefer: EMC’s VSPEX. A reference architecture the company introduced in 2012, VSPEX supports a variety of validated server and network solutions, runs applications and workloads critical among smaller and midmarket organizations and is configured, packaged and sold exclusively through over 1700 certified members of EMC’s global channel community.
Let’s consider this more closely.
On the hardware side, VSPEX’s Reference Architectures are tested by EMC against server and network components with the necessary standard features described in the reference architecture. As a result, any server or any network device possessing these features can be used in a VSPEX solution, which runs on approved Intel-based servers from Bull, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM and Lenovo (though IBM will drop from the list after Lenovo finishes the acquisition of its System x portfolio and organization). For networking, VSPEX supports both Brocade and Cisco switches and components.
However, many vendors bring their equipment to the VSPEX Labs to demonstrate its unique value and capabilities. These “proven” solutions attain special status and also earn a VSPEX Proven Partner logo. For example, Brocade and Cisco are proven network partners. Cisco, IBM, Lenovo and Bull are proven server partners, and HP and Dell servers have been proven by partners repeatedly. Finally, Eaton and Panduit have achieved proven solution status for power management, cabling and racking components for VSPEX.
The operating system, virtualization and workload sides of EMC’s solution is even more expansive. So far as OSs go, VSPEX supports Windows Server 2012 and RedHat RHEL 6.3. VSPEX configurations can support from 50 to 500 VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines. For virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI), a key use case for converged infrastructures, VSPEX can power from 250 to 2,000 virtual desktops using either VMware’s Horizon View or Citrix’s XenDesktop.
The VSPEX architecture can also be used to create robust tailored environments for business critical Oracle databases and Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server environments. In addition, these solutions can all be pre-configured for use in private clouds or as part of hybrid cloud environments.
Finally, VSPEX supports numerous EMC storage hardware and software solutions that can complement and extend specific workloads and applications. For example, VSPEX customers with modest needs can start small with EMC ScaleIO, an all software storage array that transforms regular servers into scale-out, private cloud infrastructures. Smaller organizations that need traditional storage can leverage VSPEX solutions configured with EMC’s VNXe, which is designed for easy, headache-free management by IT generalists.
For customers with more stringent storage requirements, EMC VNX delivers robust media and throughput options that are ideal for virtualized applications and end user computing (EUC) environments. VSPEX can also be used for the most demanding applications, such as high performance end user computing solutions by integrating EMC’s XtremIO all flash storage arrays in a scale out architecture. Finally, VSPEX supports numerous other EMC solutions, including its well-regarded backup and recovery options and RSA SecurID technologies
What does this mean practically? First and foremost that midmarket businesses that invest in EMC VSPEX have access to many or most of the innovations available to enterprises investing in converged infrastructures. But just as importantly, they can flexibly capture and enjoy those benefits on their own terms – using the technologies and platforms they prefer and the vendors and channel partners they trust. That alone makes VSPEX worthy of consideration, and also highlights EMC’s uniquely heterogeneous outlook in a business IT landscape increasingly defined by myopic homogeneity. Moreover, with VSPEX, EMC is consciously providing SIs and other channel players the means to play in and prosper from a market that many other vendors treat as a private club.
That doesn’t mean that VSPEX is a panacea—cloud computing and other issues are sparking significant changes in IT markets that all players, including the channel must adapt and transform to address. But EMC is offering SIs and other channel community members opportunities to leverage their hard earned skills and relationships during what is clearly a tumultuous transition.
In essence, rather than limiting the options available to its channel partners or forcing customers to adopt unfamiliar hardware, EMC’s VSPEX is designed to provide optimal choice for both customers and the channel. That makes EMC VSPEX worthy of investigation and consideration.
© 2014 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.