A Virtual Computing Environment love affair for Cisco, EMC, and VMware

Three industry leaders join forces to create a new Vblock for cloud computing

The big virtualization news this week was the partnership announcement from three industry-leading companies: Cisco Systems, EMC, and VMware.  The three were already intimately connected to each other through ownership -- EMC owns nearly 85 percent of VMware, and Cisco owns a small percentage stake in the virtualization company too  But now, this union appears to be even stronger with a joint venture announced around a new integrated datacenter coalition called the Virtual Computing Environment.

According to the group, the coalition was created "to accelerate customers' ability to increase business agility through greater IT infrastructure flexibility, and lower IT, energy and real estate costs through pervasive data center virtualization and a transition to private cloud infrastructures."

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Without saying it, one can only assume it was also created to help these companies better compete against the likes of IBM and HP, which both sell a much broader array of datacenter equipment than either Cisco or EMC alone. If you can't go it alone, partner up with someone to get it done.

It also helps Cisco kick things into high gear with moving the company into the computer server market. Cisco launched its first line of servers earlier this year and is looking to gain some traction. The venture may also help EMC and VMware get traction of its own by further extending its footprint into the cloud computing market -- one it has been loudly trying to establish for the last two years.

The line of products being introduced is called Vblock Infrastructure Packages, which integrate the hardware and software from all three vendors. These Vblocks are fully integrated, tested, validated, and ready-to-go packages that combine networking solutions from Cisco; storage, security, and systems management from EMC; and virtualization software from VMware.

The group is trying to offer what it considers best-of-breed technologies that get integrated as if they were coming from a single entity. This type of arrangement may work for smaller organizations looking for some level of simplicity rather than trying to go at it alone and create their own solution from an a la carte menu of choices. And by providing trusted brand-name recognition to the pre-assembled bundle, larger organizations may also find this integrated offering an attractive way to help them with their cloud computing initiatives.

However, one thing to note is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of definitive pricing around these offerings yet. During the Webcast announcement, EMC president and CEO Joe Tucci said that Vblock systems would range in price from the low hundreds of thousands to multimillions of dollars. That's quite a range, but it really depends upon the needs of the customer. As you'd expect, the group is ready to provide a solution for whatever type of need comes up.

While pricing may still seem a bit sketchy, what is known is that there are three distinctive Vblock packages ranging in size from hundreds of virtual machines to more than 6,000 virtual machines.

  • Vblock 0 will be an entry-level configuration available in 2010, supporting 300 up to 800 virtual machines. Vblock 0 is also composed of a repeatable model leveraging Cisco's UCS and Nexus 1000v, EMC's Unified Storage (secured by RSA), and the VMware vSphere platform.
  • Vblock 1 is a midsize configuration supporting 800 up to 3,000 virtual machines to deliver a broad range of IT capabilities to organizations of all sizes. Designed for consolidation and optimization initiatives, Vblock 1 is comprised of a repeatable model leveraging Cisco's UCS, Nexus 1000v and MDS, EMC's CLARiiON storage (secured by RSA), and the VMware vSphere platform.
  • Vblock 2 is a high-end configuration supporting up to 6,000 virtual machines that is completely extensible to meet the most demanding IT needs of large enterprises and service providers. Designed for large-scale virtualization, Vblock 2 takes advantage of Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), Nexus 1000v and Multilayer Directional Switches (MDS), EMC's Symmetrix V-Max storage (secured by RSA), and the VMware vSphere platform.

The coalition is also working with Intel to start up a shared-equity company called Acadia. Acadia is considered to be a tactical services organization that can be brought in to help with Vblock assessments and help customers get the technology up and running within their private or public cloud, and then seemingly transfer the Vblock deployment back to the customer or over to a service provider when the time is right.

Although Acadia will help customers get Vblocks up and operational, the group insists that its mission is to simply help accelerate a customer's path to a private cloud deployment and not to become a hosting provider itself.

Tucci said the coalition is now in the process of recruiting a chief executive and that Acadia should be open for business beginning around Jan. 1, 2010. Initially, Acadia will employ 130 people.

This story, "A Virtual Computing Environment love affair for Cisco, EMC, and VMware," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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