VCE: Is It Deju Vu All Over Again?

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is

progress; working together is success.

Henry Ford

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most

assuredly, we shall all hang separately.
Benjamin Franklin

LONDON: EMC is off on another epic European adventure with a set of major announcements due later today, but in the meantime, despite growing friction on the networking/-defined front, it is still a member in good standing of the VCE alliance, along with its sidekick and “public enemy No. 1. The escalating war of words between VCE members is real, but the joint venture is also continuing to grow its leadership share of the market (some combination of compute, , network, software and ), said VCE CEO Praveen Akkiraju in a recent conversation with IT Trends & Analysis.

“Joint ventures in general are created to go after a market disruption. If you look at what VCE has done for EMC and Cisco, VCE has played that part perfectly.”

Barely 5 years old, the partnership has maximum marketshare in this space, he said. “We are going up against the largest IT vendors of the last 50-60 years and we are still winning.”

Gartner is also optimistic about the partnership. ‘We do not believe that the alliance of VMware, EMC and Cisco is at imminent risk; however, as in any alliance, fragmentation can always occur.’

Currently dominated by Cisco/VCE, and , the converged infrastructure market is expected to be worth $17.8 billion by 2016, according to IDC. “The market is primed and ready for an infrastructure management platform that is more intuitive and built for the needs of IT today—not the days gone by,” said IDC’s Matt Eastwood, Group VP and GM.

VCE recently announced that it had exceeded its goal of $1 billion in sales for 2013, and that in the first quarter of 2014, demand for Vblock Systems once again grew at well over 50% year over year, representing the fourth consecutive quarter of accelerated year-over-year growth.

Although there is some controversy about their criteria, Gartner just launched its “Magic Quadrant for Systems” that estimates the market for integrated systems, which includes single and multi-vendor converged infrastructures and hyper-converged infrastructures, will reach $6 billion this year. It stated that this market is growing 50% annually.

In addition to the big three, other CI contenders include , Dell and . Last month Tom Joyce, SVP & GM, Converged Systems, HP, called the company’s focus on integrating compute, storage, network and software in plug-and-play bundles (called Sharks) a “game changer.”

While Akkiraju said VCE is 100% committed to the Cisco approach, it essentially comes down to giving customers choice. “I believe there will not be a single defined way customers will build infrastructure.”

Customers can choose between the Cisco and VMware approaches, he said. “We do not preclude them from deploying an architecture of their choice. By taking a customer-centric view, we’ve been able to navigate a lot of these differences in strategies.”

VCE will evolve, said Akkiraju, changing as the market changes. There are challenges when you deal with Cisco, EMC and VMware, but also advantages, he said. “We’re able to innovate much more faster than competitors… (we have deeper pockets).”

HP’s Joyce can call Shark a game changer, but Akkiraju said EMC’s ViPR is too. VCE is looking to incorporate that technology, as well as VMware’s technology “We’re first to market with all of their technology” [excluding NSX, but who’s perfect?].

The future looks very bright, he said. It’s all about eliminating complexity, providing a great customer experience and innovation. We want to build the foundational building blocks for the next-generation data center, and enable customers to choose their approach, said Akkiraju. VCE is also working on an OpenStack model.

“We manage as a very paranoid company… to stay ahead of the curve… and compete against some very large companies. I think we’re just at the beginning…”

However it does beg the question of beginning of what? Not so long ago IBM and HP were two of Cisco’s best partners in the data center, but times changed and now Cisco — through VCE and UCS — has consigned them to the ashes of the past, both literally and figuratively. With the EMC/VMware dynamic duo pushing their own networking and software-defined data center agendas, I can’t help wondering if history is about to repeat itself.

Author: Steve Wexler

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