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February 18, 2011

VCE: Virtual Computing Environment

Are you familiar with VCE? If not, add it to your IT acronym dictionary, but it’ll be something you hear more about in the future if virtualization, shared storage, converged networks, and/or server infrastructure are in your purview. VCE stands for “Virtual Computing Environment” and is a consortium of Cisco, EMC, VMware, and Intel (funny…if you take three of those initials, you get V-C-E). The goal and objective, which they seem to be realizing, is to deliver a “datacenter in a box” (or multiple boxes, if your environment is large), and in a lot of ways, I think they have something going…

The highlights for quick consumption:

  • a VCE Vblock is an encapsulated, manufactured product (SAN, servers, network fully assembled at the VCE factory)
  • a Vblock solution is designed to be sized to your environment based on profiling of 200,000+ virtual environments
  • one of the top VCE marketed advantages is a single support contact and services center for all components (no more finger pointing)
  • because a Vblock follows “recipes” for performance needs and profiles, upgrades also come/require fixed increments
  • Cisco UCS blade increments are in “packs” of four (4) blades; EMC disks come in five (5) RAID group “packs”
  • Vblock-0 is good for 300-800 VMs; Vblock-1 is for 800-3000 VMs; Vblock-2 supports 3000-6000 VMs
  • when crossing the VM threshold for a Vblock size, Vblocks can be aggregated

Those are the general facts. So what does all that mean for interested organizations? Is it a good fit for you? Here are some takeaways I drew from the points above as well as the rest of the briefing by our VCE, EMC, and Cisco reps…

Consider those upgrade increments. Is your environment large enough that you tend to purchase expansion resources in those increments (or larger)? Small businesses may find fixed upgrade packs of four blades or 20+ disks hard to swallow. Medium to large businesses, though, may see these “prescribed” increments to be perfect for predictable performance additions.

Wrap your arms around the concept of collective, centralized support. If your organization exalts caution and stability (i.e. you wait roll out Windows OS versions until service pack 1 releases), VCE is your dream come true. Testing, certification, and product mastery are the jewels in VCE’s crown. If you live for the bleeding edge, jump on betas, and deploy patches hours (or minutes) from release, you may find the support matrix and slower certification cycle restrictive. VCE will still support your off-grid configuration, but understand that you’re being a free-radical in an otherwise predictable platform.

EMC. Cisco. VMware. (oh, and Intel). Those are the pieces in the VCE puzzle…the only pieces. Are you good with that? They are solid companies and have come a long way in recent years (especially since EMC’s acquisition of VMware). If you like those names, great. If you’re a NetApp diehard or an EqualLogic loyalist (or AMD), or you just love to get your hands around your Dell, HP, or IBM servers, though, you’ll need to let go. Circle up some friends and prepare for the postpartum depression, because they aren’t part of VCE. Sure, they can live in the house next door, but this roof is only big enough for V-C-E.

Well, that’s all for now. Virtualization is here. How are you implementing it?

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