Wednesday, September 8, 2010

VMworld - Vblock Overview Session

I was able to attend the VCE Coalition's super-session at VMworld and I was very impressed by the content!  The title of the session was (SS1011) How Cisco, EMC, and VMware are Changing the IT Landscape with Vblock Converged Infrastructure (whew! that's a mouthful!).  The presentation was given by Phil Harris, VP of Engineering at Acadia and Chad Sakac from EMC ran the demonstrations.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of stack infrastructures.  I firmly believe that by helping customers remove some of the installation and configuration (nerd knobs) and creating a solution that is certified and proven to run your customers' applications, you create a new way to serve your customers in today's evolving industry.

Phil went over some bullet points that address why Vblock was brought to market:

  • It is estimated that 28% of all IT projects are non-recurring projects
    • Of this 28%, a large percentage (he said, I didn't catch the number) are actually never completed
    • This means that money is simply lost to IT infrastructure costs
  • We need a way to accelerate the way products and solutions are brought to market to minimize the costs and complexity associated with delivering applications to our customers
  • The VCE Coalition's goal of Vblock is to provide pre-integrated and validated solutions with a guaranteed service level
  • If an application is already certified on a Vblock, the configuration burden is removed from the customer and they can now more rapidly deploy their applications
  • Vblock allows for standardization - It is predictable, this allows for many environmental factors (power, space, cooling, fault isolation, etc) to be predicted ahead of time to assist in growth planning
Next Phil addressed the security and management model.  To best describe Vblock's model, Phil used the term "built-in vs. bolt-on".  Many "stacks" today are bolt-on.  Other vendors have taken existing off the shelf products and "bolted" them onto their hardware stacks.  Phil contends that the Vblock management and security is "built-in".  He used a couple of examples including Cisco's UCS RBAC was designed from the start with secure multi-tenancy in mind and the UIM software that is used to provision and carve up a Vblock.

Vblock is designed to integrate seamlessly into an existing environment.  In the industry we use the terms "green field" and "brown field" a lot.  A green field is an installation of new hardware into a clean, new environment.  A brown field is installing and integrating hardware into an existing environment and integrating the new components into the existing.  Vblock is a hybrid model; it is "green field in a brown field".  I've never thought about that before but it is very fitting.  It is a self contained solution (green field) that is designed to plug right into a customer's existing data center (brown field).  Good Stuff.

From this section we moved into Chad's demonstrations and customer references.  Chad did a great job as always and Phil went over a Service Provider (CSC Australia) as well as an Enterprise (Alcon) customer and how they have integrated Vblocks into their environments.

Next up were the future roadmaps.  I'm not sure what I can and can't say here so I'm just going to say it appears that all three companies will be working in lock step to revise the Vblock architecture going forward.  There was certainly a lot more happening on the roadmap than I thought and this appears to be a long term commitment from all three organizations.

The next section was the section I have been waiting for.  Phil introduced how VMware's vCloud Director will be integrated into the Vblock.  By optionally adding vCloud Director, a Vblock now provides two major abstraction points.  The first abstraction point is the hardware with the UIM software; the second abstraction point is now the virtual machines with vCloud Director.  I have been waiting for this to happen and I'm very happy to see them embrace this.  By abstracting both the hardware and virtual machine layers we achieve a simplification goal by removing some configuration complexity from the end user.

The last section was about the scaling of applications within, and by adding, multiple Vblocks.  A UC on UCS architecture was presented that displayed 15,000 IP phones and an Exchange infrastructure on a single Vblock One.  Lastly, application performance testing was demonstrated utilizing first 8, then 16, then 32 servers to process a workload to demonstrate elasticity in the data center.

All in all, a very impressive session!

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