VCE and the Standardization of IT Services

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  April 9, 2014

VCE, the converged systems vendor, hosted its first IT industry analyst conference last week in San Diego. In many ways, the event was about what you’d expect from a rapidly up and coming vendor, with presentations by and Q&A sessions with C-level executives (impressive and thoughtful), updates on current business (spectacular, with the company achieving a $1B+ annual run rate since launching in 2010), technology developments around its Vblock Systems (NDA, but watch this space), and a customer panel (candid and fascinating and, to insure a very open discussion, their identities are also NDA).

But what really grabbed my attention was a session led by EVP Brian Miller on how VCE is fundamentally evolving the concepts and practices associated with business IT services. According to Miller, the company is achieving this by “applying the philosophy of standardization” to services by working closely with its engineering and manufacturing divisions. In fact, just to demonstrate how serious VCE is in this matter, manufacturing reports to Miller. As a result, most or all required system configuration and integration work (i.e. Cloud Accelerator Services, backup and replication) are completed at VCE’s factories, thus minimizing onsite customization and the time required to get new Vblocks up and working.

Old School IT Services

This may not sound particularly innovative, but consider how radically VCE’s converged infrastructure coupled with its standardized services approach diverges from traditional IT services. For decades now, vendors have offered extensive, time consuming and expensive onsite services to knit together servers, storage, networking, virtualization, middleware, applications, and implementation.

As a result, new solutions are typically deployed long after they are ordered, often lessening their value to the organization. Plus, whenever systems are updated or added, the same processes begin all over again. If this sounds expensive, exhaustive and wasteful, it’s because it is. But perhaps more important is the frustration it instills in lines of business chafing at the bit for access to new VMs, resources and applications. In fact, we expect there are direct linkages between inefficient traditional systems and services and the apparent popularity of public cloud-based “shadow IT” processes taking root and undermining security and compliance policies in many companies.

VCE’s Standardized Service Philosophy

VCE’s services standardization literally aims to reverse the impact of “shadow IT” by making IT deployment radically faster, easier and cheaper than it has ever been. The company achieves that with a tri-part services approach that leverages:

  1. VCE’s manufacturing organization and related supply chain, inventory and quality assurance processes
  2. VCE’s professional services group, including partner-led efforts in areas such as logical configuration, managed service offerings and residencies, and
  3. Support services, such as product support, customer care and critical account programs.

VCE works closely with its engineering organization to create what it calls Solution Accelerator Frameworks related to a variety of specific applications, workloads and business processes. As a result, Framework-supported solutions can be quickly and easily deployed with methodologies that are both affordable and repeatable.

It’s not surprising that this approach helped to drive VCE’s initial success with Vblock Systems aimed at general purpose computing scenarios and workloads. But the company has steadily expanded the number of Framework solutions it offers to include vertical industry/market applications, security detection solutions, NVIDIA GPU acceleration for VDI and Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) for EMC’s Isilon scale-out NAS storage environments.

In September 2013, VCE launched a new Cloud Accelerator Service designed to deploy ready-to-run Vblock-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) private cloud environments within 60 days of being ordered. That lets organizations quickly garner the benefits of public cloud computing while also securely managing and maintaining those assets.

By addressing the critical computing needs of individual employees and work groups faster and more effectively than traditional IT services, VCE can help customers effectively drive “shadow” IT into the sunlight and out of their organizations.

Final Analysis

It would be a mistake to think that VCE is alone in focusing on developing solutions designed to ease and speed customers’ adoption of new applications and processes. In fact, virtually every maker of converged systems claims it is following a similar path, especially as regards factory-based integration and simplified deployment processes. But few if any of those vendors can match VCE’s organizational and operational structure and laser focus on standardized modular hardware and workload centricity, married with a deep understanding of enterprise computing.

Just as importantly, while other vendors may offer specialized or accelerated services for converged solutions and appliances, they vigorously promote and depend on the revenues driven by far more conventional, traditional, “old school” service offerings. In contrast, VCE’s “philosophy of standardization” extends across its entire services organization and is designed to support all of the company’s solutions and clients.

In fact, VCE’s insistence on providing customers exactly what they need, whether it is adapting to innovative new applications and processes, adopting IaaS infrastructures to support private cloud services or purchasing and deploying new IT solutions more quickly and affordably than ever before lies at the heart of its market strategy and success. If the company can retain that clear focus on the standardization of service and customer care, VCE’s potential and trajectory seem virtually limitless.

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