EMC rides EVO:RAIL with VSPEX BLUE hyper-converged infrastructure appliance

EMC finally unveils its hyper-converged offering, with a key differentiator being a Market feature that allows EMC and ecosystem partner software to be downloaded.

VSPEX-BLUE-400It has been rumored for months, and now it’s official. EMC has announced the availability of a hyperconverged infrastructure appliance based on VMware’s EVO:RAIL software engine to provide compute, storage, networking and management in one package. But while EMC is somewhat late to the hyperconverged party, and even to the use of the EVO:RAIL software from a member of the EMC family, the company says that it was worth the wait, and that VSPEX BLUE has assets that will differentiate it from the competition.

“VMware made this software available to a number of OEMs, but we wanted something that was differentiated, to put additional EMC differentiating technology in, so we waited until we had this in place,” said Chad Dunn, Senior Director of VSPEX Business Operations at EMC.

That differentiation is the VSPEX BLUE Market, which lets customers download select software titles and solutions from EMC and technology partners that are pre-validated for the appliance and then made available to download. At launch, three offerings that can be bought now: EMC RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines, EMC CloudArray Gateway, and VMware Data Protection Advanced. Ecosystem partner software is scheduled to be available in the future.

“VSPEX Blue is a ready-made platform for the additional IP we deliver,” Dunn said. “It lets you break out of the form factor of the appliance and leverage the unlimited capacity of the cloud. It will give customers a much broader set of choices.” It is overwhelmingly a channel product, and will give EMC what it considers to be a strong hyperconverged offering to meet the competition of both the industry newcomers and the other Tier One storage players who have already got hyperconverged offerings to market.

While the hyperconverged market is still relatively small, EMC acknowledges it is a rapidly growing product segment.

“We thought we needed a hyperconverged offering, which is a really hot market right now,” Dunn said. “We wanted to play in that space.

“There is a high cost to get onto the vBlock converged systems, and not much flexibility, but reference architectures complement that well, and reference architectures are more profitable for the channel than vBlock, which is a straight product sale,” Dunn said. “In a hyperconverged solution, memory, storage and software all scale at the same rate, so it’s of limited use in core data centres, but for some segments it’s right on the mark. This includes department and remote offices of larger organizations, and midmarket and smaller shops.”

Because EMC sees vBlock and VSPEX Blue as having fundamentally different strengths, weaknesses, and core markets, Dunn said they won’t compete against each other in the market.

“We are not going into the vBlock market segment with this, not because we would be infringing on it, but it comes down to economies of scale,” he said. It has a single SKU, a 2U, 4 node system, so is simple to order. It is wizard-driven, and powers on to VM provisioning in 15 minutes, so it’s simple to configure. VSPEX BLUE Manager makes it simple to manage. It’s also simple to scale, as up to four additional appliances can be added.

The modular software stack consists of EVO:RAIL and the SDDC Building Block with the vSphere hypervisor and VSAN SDS, all of which have their capabilities extended by the VSPEX BLUE Manager.

The box is commodity, off the shelf hardware supplied by FOXCONN, and sold through distributors on the same model that EMC designed to sell the hardware for the VSPEX reference architecture.

“EMC doesn’t participate in the buying and selling of hardware here so we don’t have to make money off it,” Dunn said. “The distributors do it because while it will be more profitable for them, it’s too low margin for us. So while the FOXCONN boxes are EMC SKUs, the distributors actually handle it.”

The EMC VSPEX BLUE hyper-converged infrastructure appliance will be generally available February 17.

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