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Cisco and EMC - VMware expand data centre portfolio

Smaller data centres and branch and remote offices are new targets

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VCE, the data centre coalition formed by Cisco, EMC and VMware, this week expanded its product portfolio with low-end versions of its integrated infrastructure system, certification to run SAP software and new management capabilities.

The new offerings are intended to address markets VCE has not addressed before. The coalition was formed in 2009 to sell prepackaged Cisco servers and switches, EMC storage and VMware virtualisation in an effort to accelerate the adoption of cloud computing infrastructure.

VCE's revenue in 2011 was $600 million, according to Gartner. The coalition is now on a $1 billion run rate and had a 57% share of the $388 million integrated infrastructure market in the second quarter of 2012, according to Gartner.

The future of VCE has come under speculation, however, given that the three investor companies are taking an increasingly competitive path individually. Indeed, Gartner states in a November 2012 report on the integrated infrastructure market that "the success of (VCE) is largely dependent on the interests of those individual companies remaining aligned."

VCE executives maintain that they continue to have the full commitment of the investor companies even though individually they become more competitive or divergent.

Up to now, VCE sold high-end versions of this integrated infrastructure with an average selling price (ASP) of around $2 million, according to analysts. The products unveiled this week bring that system to smaller data centres, and branch and remote offices with an ASP believed to be below $500,000.

They include the Vblock System 200 and 100. Vblock System 200 is targeted at midsize data centres and service provider managed customer premises. The Vblock System 100 is aimed at remote office/branch office deployments.

Vblock System 200 can function as the sole core IT infrastructure for a midsize data centre as well as an IT development environment, VCE says. Vblock System 200 supports the processing, sharing and storage of applications such as Exchange for Messaging, VMware Virtual Desktop Integration, Microsoft SharePoint and Cisco's Unified Communications collaboration, databases, Web/file sharing, domain services and print servers.

Vblock System 100 is designed to extend standard business applications from the enterprise data centre to the remote site. Such applications include Exchange for Messaging, VMware Virtual Desktop Integration, Microsoft SharePoint and Cisco's Unified Communications, as well as small databases and Web/file sharing and print servers.

"It will enable us to start to build a distributed data centre infrastructure with the same consistent converged infrastructure as the baseline [core headquarters data centre]," says VCE CEO Praveen Akkiraju.

Cisco is also allied with EMC storage rival NetApp in addressing the integrated systems market for data centre infrastructure. Their FlexPod reference architecture was recently broadened to address branch office requirements.

For application optimisation, VCE unveiled a specialised Vblock system for the SAP HANA computing and database platform. This is the first such Vblock system optimised for core enterprise workloads, VCE says.

Vblock Specialised System SAP HANA has received SAP HANA certification, which VCE says enables enterprises to compute, analyze and transact large amounts of data in real-time, either on-premises or via the cloud, using the Vblock converged infrastructure system. Deploying traditional SAP software projects on Vblock systems can reduce the time required to provision new SAP application servers from days or weeks to minutes, VCE claims.

VCE also says its Vblock system can produce up to 50% better SAP database and application performance.

Oracle is the leading vendor in the integrated workload segment of the data centre infrastructure market, according to Gartner, with revenue growing almost 78% in the second quarter of 2012. Up to now, VCE did not participate in this market, which also includes IBM and HP.

For management, VCE rolled out VCE Vision Intelligent Operations. This application enables converged infrastructure management for the entire Vblock portfolio, acting as a mediation layer between Vblock systems and existing data centre management tools.

Vision Intelligent Operations informs those tools about Vblock systems by performing discovery to provide a "single-objective perspective" on Vblock systems. The software has native integration with VMware's virtualisation and cloud management portfolio and also supports API-enabled integration into other industry management toolsets.

"It makes Vblock interact with management and orchestration systems, as well as applications," Akkiraju says. "It makes Vblock workload aware."

Vblock System 100 is now available through VCE and its partners. Vblock System 200 is in early customer shipment and is targeted for general availability in the second quarter.

VCE Vision Intelligent Operations and Vblock Specialised System SAP HANA are in early customer shipment and are also targeted for general availability in the second quarter.

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