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Dell-EMC expands its CI platform, simplifies data center operations

News Analysis
Feb 14, 20185 mins
Data CenterDellNetworking

With the VxBlock 1000, Dell-EMC’s next-generation CI platform, customers can mix and match storage, networking and compute technology for greater data center agility.

data center - network server room - cloud computing
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Standing up a private cloud using technology from multiple vendors is a time-consuming, complex process that involves months of post-deployment tweaking and tuning.

In 2009, VMware, Cisco and EMC formed a joint venture called VCE that aimed to solve that problem. (Note: Cisco and VMWare are clients of ZK Research.) They created a converged infrastructure (CI) product called “Vblock” that brought together VMware software, Cisco servers and networking with EMC storage in a preconfigured, turnkey, validated solution so customers could essentially turn the product on and start using it.

Vblock had 90 percent of the heavy lifting done, with the other 10 percent being unique the organization. Customers loved it, with many saying Vblock was the only way to get a private cloud up and running inside a week. 

Since then, the company has been subsumed into the Dell-EMC mothership and now makes up the Converged Platforms and Solutions Division (CPSD), which includes its Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) solutions, VxRack and VxRail. Also, Vblock has been retired in favor of VxBlock, a name initially given to the version of the product that ran VMware’s NSX SDN solution.

However, the mission of the group has never wavered, which is to make a CI platform that is as easy to deploy as possible so customers can run their business instead of being a systems integrator. 

Dell-EMC’s VxBlock 1000 simplifies converged infrastructure 

This week Dell-EMC announced the VxBlock 1000, which aims to make private cloud deployment even simpler. The VxBlock product line consists of the 240, 350, 540 and 740; the primary difference between them is the storage in them. For example, the 350 uses Dell-EMC Unity Storage, and the 740 uses VMAX. Customers choose the type of storage based on the workload. For example, businesses using VxBlock for general-purpose applications such as Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint would choose a version with Unity. Alternatively, Isilon would be the preferred storage for an analytics platform like Cassandra or Mongo. 

dell emc vxblock 1000 Dell-EMC

Up until now, customers would often have to buy multiple flavors of VxBlock and maintain them independently. With the VxBlock 1000, Dell-EMC’s next-generation CI platform, customers can mix and match the following storage arrays: Dell-EMC Unity, VMAX, XtremIO and Isilon.

Customers also now have the option to deploy Cisco UCS C-Series Rack servers in addition to the UCS B-Series Blade Servers current offered. The scalability of the new VxBlock 1000 has been increased from 512 servers to a whopping 800 and up to 10 storage arrays.

The product continues to be made available with a wide range of Cisco networking technology, including a mix of MDS and Nexus switches and the UCS Fabric Extender.  Customers can configure the product with 10, 40 or 100 Gig-E Ethernet ports and 8, 16 and 32 Gig-E FibreChannel SAN ports.

Cisco remains core to VxBlock 

One important point worth noting is that when Dell-EMC acquired the VCE joint venture, it stirred up many rumors that it would dump Cisco as the server and/or networking provider and replace it with Dell. The CPSD leadership team has stated repeatedly that would not be the case. The VxBlock has been and shall continue to be built on Cisco gear because it’s what customers want. 

If Dell-EMC were going to get rid of Cisco, the VxBlock 1000 would have been the appropriate platform, as it could have offered a choice of networking or servers and then eventually phased it out. 

Benefits of VxBlock 1000

The first and most obvious benefit of the VxBlock 1000 is how easy it is to operate. The ability to mix and match technology makes the lifecycle management considerably simpler. For example, with prior generations, the customer would have to do several firmware upgrades, one for each system. Now, there is just one. Also, because there is only a single platform, management of hardware components, power supplies and spares, as well as software, can also be simplified.

Another benefit is greater data center efficiency. With the previous family of multiple CI systems, assets would be stranded. One platform may be underutilized, but there was no way to pull something like storage from one and allocate it to another. Because the resources are now shared pools, they can be reassigned for different use cases as necessary. So, as business requirements change, the resources can be reallocated instead of having to manage multiple systems. Dell-EMC claims rack space can be reduced by up to 60 percent. Although I have no way to verify that, it seems reasonable given the resource agility created in the new platform.

The business benefits because the new platform raises the bar on data center agility.  The VxBlock 1000 greatly simplifies the deployment of the product, plus it lets customers make the necessary changes on the fly without having to purchase an entirely new system.

The VxBlock 1000 is available starting today. From a pricing perspective, Dell-EMC has created consistency with the previous models. For example, a VxBlock 1000 with XtremeIO would be comparable to a VxBlock 540 (which has XtremeIO embedded in it).


Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, and provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.

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