Thankfully, I can stop being coy, and start to speak publicly about this important industry development: what it means for customers, and what it means for the industry.
There are so many interesting angles on this I'm sure I'll have no shortage of blog material for some time to come.
And -- this being my blog -- I get the luxury of telling the story from my personal perspective.
I see this announcement as a perfect storm of multiple themes that are tearing through our industry.
If we just look at technology, there's plenty to point at:
-- the advent of cheap and plentiful x64-based computing platforms, best exemplified by Intel's latest Xeon processors in Cisco's UCS
-- the widespread adoption of desktop and server virtualization, best exemplified by VMware.
-- the underlying convergence of server, network and storage architectures at a physical, logical and operational level.
Any way you describe it, I'd argue that the current technology landscape is fundamentally different than just a few years ago, and shows every sign of moving even more quickly in this direction.
If we look at IT itself, there's also a lot to point to:
-- IT's ambition to transform itself into an effective internal service provider, using cloud-like concepts
-- a new focus on speed and flexibilty in addition to traditional focuses on capex/opex reduction and availability, security, etc.
-- a new openness to consider new strategic sourcing options for infrastructure and IT services: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, etc.
And, finally, we've got a whole new class of service providers who want to now leverage an interesting strategic advantage: they have the financial bandwidth to build vast amounts of shareable infrastructure, run it reliably and charge for it effectively.
Put it all together, and it's pretty clear to see the thematic underpinnings of what we all are starting to call a "private cloud": a fully virtualized environment that allows enterprise IT to dynamically mix internal and external assets, and do so in such a way that maintains control while preserving their existing application investment.
All three companies have been rallying around this shared vision for quite a while -- and, with this announcement, we have some serious meat we can begin to put on the concepts.
What Does VCE Mean?
Well, like any acronym, we can come up with different interpretations -- all illustrative.
First, the official intepretation is the "Virtual Computing Environment" coalition. There's a new way of doing things in IT, and I think this interpretation best exemplifies the spirit of the collaboration.
But it's fair to also say "virtualization changes everything", because -- well -- it does! None of this would be possible without the widespread adoption of VMware's technology.
And, of course, it's pretty obvious that the acronym refers to the initials of the three companies: VMware, Cisco and EMC.
But, in one sense, this is in one sense a "virtual company experiment" -- we've invested heavily so that three companies can act as one in front of customers, partners and service providers. There is every sign that we'll be successful, but time will tell.
So, where's the meat in all of this? Glad you asked ...
Introducing The Vblock
Building virtualized infrastructure at scale? We've created a new option for you -- the Vblock.
We've taken the best of the best from the three respective companies, and create a pre-architected and pre-qualified environment for virtualization at scale: storage, fabric, compute, hypervisor, management and security. We've also characterized its behavior for specific use cases as well.
Whether you actually want to buy one, or just use the reference architecture as a blueprint for your own efforts -- there's an entirely new option available to accelerate the transition to a fully virtualized environments.
Most IT organizations are moving in the general direction of a Vblock-style approach, it's just that it's taking a long time for them, and the results can be a bit uncertain. There's now a new choice to evaluate in getting where you want to go: better, faster, cheaper.
All the heavy lifting around Vblock is being done out of a joint lab facility in Santa Clara, CA. If you have a chance, you should drop by and check out the magnitude of the work being done there and the associated investment. It's very impressive.
And A Seamless Support Experience
Having worked at EMC as long as I have, I fully appreciate the value of "one throat to choke" when things don't work as advertised. No one wants get lost in a maze of finger-pointing between vendors.
So, we've brought together our respective world-class support organizations around a seamless customer experience -- call any one of us, you've called all three. We've done the cross-training and integrated our customer support workflows between the three companies to a level that's never been achieved in the industry before.
And it's working very nicely, thank you.
And A New Professional Services Joint Venture: Acadia
Previously code-named "Alpine", we've collectively invested in a new professional services entity that brings together all of our respective disciplines to help accelerate the industry transition.
The key concept behind Acadia is a new approach to "BOT" -- build, operate and transfer. The goal is to integrate the new combined skill sets required for implementing virtualization at scale, and do so in such a way that accelerates the value and guarantees the outcome. Not just assembling the technology bits, but the new operational model, and implementing new forms of self-service IT and associated pricing.
These new services will be used primarly to enable system integrators and other partners, in addition to optionally being delivered directly if needed.
And A New Partner Program
If you think about it, there are all sorts of industry players who'd like to build their value proposition on highly-efficient virtualized infrastructure at scale: service providers, outsourcers, specialized ISVs, resellers -- and more!
The idea is to simplify the complexity of the infrastucture, and enable the partner to focus on what they do best -- creating the "last mile" of customer value.
The Competitive Landscape
OK, if this is what EMC and Cisco are doing together (along with VMware's help), how does this stack up against other things in the industry?
First up would be HP and IBM. One could argue that they could assemble similar stacks, and perhaps deliver them in similar ways -- including using VMware.
Theoretically, yes -- but that's not what's happening.
If we go poke at their respective portfolios, we'd find a healthy amount of legacy baggage that's holding them back in building fully-virtualized environments that operate at scale. I would argue that their technologies -- and their delivery models -- are considerably dated by comparison.
More importantly, both HP and IBM have enormous services, system integration and outsourcing businesses - EDS (now HP Enterprise Services) and IBM Global Services respectively.
I'd offer that HP and IBM are not entirely motivated to create an open ecosystem of multiple partners and players -- it's in direct conflict with a big piece of their existing business models.
So, for customer who want to get where they're going quickly, wants the best technology, and want as many choices as possible in terms of who they work with -- we think this combined approach deserves serious consideration.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It should be apparent that this particular industry combination goes far beyond the normal "alliance" stuff we see in the press from time to time. We've aligned technology, solutions, integration, services, support and our ecosystems -- there's a lot to talk about, even at the outset.
More work to be done, but many will recognize the herculean effort to achieve what we've done so far.
I'll share with you that this announcement is only a "phase 1" of a series of offerings and announcements that we'll see throughout 2010 and beyond. We've got a lot of goodies coming from the respective three companies -- both individually, and collectively.
Now, let's see what people have to say about this new development -- it should be interesting, no?
Industry And Partner Reaction
As the day goes on, I'll post various commentary that I see -- check back for updates!
Chris Mellor from The Register offers up his intelligent speculation ahead of the announcement.
Jay Kidd from NetApp had his "meh" response ready to go.
Nice extended press release from EMC here.
Video from Purdue University discussing VCE here.
Nice to see Terremark on board with vCloud express here. Wasn't NetApp bragging about them as a customer? Guess the logo fell off :-)
Nice 3D model of Vblock here -- only the physical aspects, though ...
Mark Bowker of ESG checks in with a good take.
OMG. Chad Sakac went to town on a whole series of posts -- mandatory reading!
Nick Allen asks some hard questions at Wikibon. BTW, all have good answers!
An expected competitive blast from Val over at NetApp, who are most definitely not fans of this announcement.