VCE's VxRack systems want to be Vblocks for the next generation

The hyperconverged systems for cloud, social and mobile will scale out to thousands of racks

EMC's VCE division wants to take the engineered systems approach it's honed with its Vblocks into next-generation mobile and cloud applications.

On Monday, it introduced the VCE VxRack System, a hyperconverged platform designed to scale out to thousands of racks of computing and storage capacity. Where Vblocks are designed to run traditional business applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning), VxRack is built for a new era.

The Vblock coverged architecture has been a success among customers looking to run traditional mission-critical enterprise applications. It was the founding product of VCE, which was formed in 2009 as a joint venture among VMware, Cisco Systems and EMC, and it remains VCE's flagship, the company;s CEO Praveen Akkiraju said on Monday at EMC World, where the VxRack System was announced.

But the new style of storage and computing that's emerging around mobile, social and cloud applications and databases like Hadoop demands a different architecture, VCE says. VCE's first foray into the so-called hyperconverged realm, VSpex Blue, is a turnkey appliance that's best suited to departmental rather than primary data centers. VxRack takes the hyperconverged approach to a greater scale. The systems use software-defined technology EMC acquired with startup ScaleIO in 2013.

The idea is to make it easier for enterprises and service providers to deploy new mobile and cloud applications. VCE will build and support VxRacks the same way it does Vblocks, with pre-engineered factory-made systems and a single source for support, what the company calls the "VCE experience."

"This is not something that you're going to have to go and engineer yourself," Akkiraju said.

In addition, VxRacks will work with the VCE Vscale Architecture and VCE Vision software so they can be included along with Vblocks in unified data centers that span multiple locations.

VxRacks will come in two flavors. The first, orderable starting in July, will give customers a choice of hypervisors, including VMware vSphere, KVM, or a bare-metal approach, and use Cisco Nexus top-of-rack switches for networking. A later version will use an integrated VMware software stack based on EVO:Rack technology, a larger scale version of VMware's EVO:Rail, and VMware Virtual SAN. More details on that product will come out at the VMworld conference in late August, EMC says.

The systems will be built from commodity hardware modules, two rack units in height, that can be combined into configurations as small as one-quarter rack and as large as thousands of racks. Users will be able to scale out storage and computing independently as their needs change, VCE says.

The underlying ScaleIO technology is best suited to big cloud service providers with a few applications rather than enterprises doing general virtualization, said Stuart Miniman, a senior analyst at Wikibon. VCE has the traditional enterprise side covered but wants to be able to handle newer applications at large scale. Few customers are using VBlocks for new types of workloads like Hadoop or NoSQL, he said, because they're looking for cheap, scalable distributed storage, Miniman said.

Up against smaller hyperconverged rivals such as Nutanix and Simplivity, VCE can set itself apart with its size and one-stop-shop approach, he said. "They give you a warm hug with their services."

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is

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