Dell EMC VxBlock System Review

Highly optimized equipment that increases efficiencies and is very stable

What is our primary use case?

VxBlock is our data center. We run all of our applications, central applications, and systems, off the VxBlock. It's in our production data center.

How has it helped my organization?

The solution simplified our operations, and made us more efficient. We consolidated from 17 cabinets with IT equipment in the data center. We were able to consolidate down to six cabinets and made a smaller infrastructure footprint, which obviously saves costs and makes the operations more simple and optimized. We also had a non-virtualized environment. What we did is we converted all of our applications to run onto virtualized infrastructure. It's basically helped us in that journey to become more agile.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable aspect of the solution is the integrated architecture, which is on a highly available, highly redundant infrastructure. It is purposefully built on a highly redundant architecture. 

It's a highly optimized piece of equipment that doesn't give us any problems.

The fact that you've got one single point of contact for your support is very appealing.

What needs improvement?

The only thing that I can say is when you procure the VxBlock, obviously you have to complete detailed questionnaires about your architecture including the configuration, et cetera. If you make a mistake on the implementation, then you need to rebuild the entire VxBlock. That is just a point of consideration rather than a flaw. You need to be absolutely sure and validate the upfront configuration information that you provide due to the fact that your VxBlock comes delivered and built according to that exact information.

For how long have I used the solution?

We originally installed the solution in 2016. It's been about four years or so.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is extremely stable. There are no bugs or glitches. It doesn't crash or freeze. It's excellent.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution scales very well. Obviously, you need to size it with your growth predictions in mind, however, so far, we've been able to comfortably scale to meet our rising demands.

Our entire company uses this solution. That's about 3000 users. Plus, we use it for all of the applications that we use in-company. That would include your Microsoft applications, databases, ERP systems, and financial systems. We run our entire company on this piece of infrastructure.

How are customer service and technical support?

We don't reach out to EMC's technical support. We use a third-party.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used the normal, non-integrated infrastructure, where you've got your server infrastructure, your network infrastructure, and your storage infrastructure, all from different providers. They were standalone systems. It wasn't provided by a single supplier, which obviously the VxBlock being an integrated architecture, is now. It's a one-stop-shop

We switched mainly due to the fact that the innovation helped us to make the adjustment from a standalone to a virtual platform. It was cheaper, cost-wise, to consolidate and run on this kit rather than support and run any standalone legacy infrastructure. We also switched in order to improve our service to the business.

Previously, we had a lot of outages due to the legacy equipment we were running on. The age of it and the poor design were weighing us down. You ran out of capacity, et cetera. The way that capacity was bolted on and the solution grew, was very poorly designed in the past. The business suffered a lot of outages as a result of it. Having switched to the VxBlock provided the business with almost no downtime. We run an extremely stable, efficient operation at this point in time.

How was the initial setup?

It's complex in that you need to be exact in your configuration as it comes to you pre-configured to your specifications, and if there is a mistake, you need to start from scratch and get a new VxBlock. 

You almost need to build your entire design, your entire configuration, upfront. There's no room for, if you make a mistake, changes to it after the fact, due to the fact that it's a pre-built solution.

Deployment is very fast. It takes only about a week or so.

For us, we had a whole data center refresh project that we ran as part of the implementation of this product.

We use a third party for maintenance purposes. The thing with the solution is that the people that are allowed to work on it, whether it's for implementation or support services, need to go through an extensive training program and certification program with Dell EMC. They're highly skilled in the solution. That adds to the value of it. These professionals are so good. We've not experienced any outages on the system, either when we upgraded it or when we scaled. When a component fails, it's immediately replaced, and the professionals that work on it are very well-trained.

What about the implementation team?

We used an integrator that assisted us with the initial setup. They were highly skilled and professional. It was a very good experience. It was a third-party EMC partner, not EMC themselves.

What was our ROI?

I can't really give a good indication of the ROI.

We were able to consolidate some of the support roles. For example, where you would have a virtualization engineer, a server engineer, a network engineer, and a storage engineer - four separate roles to normally support this environment. We consolidated that basically into one role. It is a managed service, but from a managed services perspective, they've got a single person looking after all of those components within the platform. So that obviously is a cost-saving.

There have definitely been cost efficiencies, however, I can't share exact numbers.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don't know whether it's always feasible, however, my understanding is that what one needs to do is to select their product, go for what they deem to be the best, and then negotiate for the best price from there.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated hosted cloud options from several suppliers and also some other hyper-converged solutions. That said, we decided, from a cost perspective, it made more sense to run the VxBlock. It was more cost-effective than having a hosted cloud platform. It also provided us with more flexibility because some of our platforms were not suited to run on hosted cloud environments, where you don't have access to the virtualization layer and the virtualization software. When we ran our own private cloud on the VxBlock, we had the ability to interface directly into the virtualization platform, which was a requirement for some of our applications.

We didn't choose a hyper-converged platform at that point in time as the VxBlock provided a better performing platform. We could obtain high throughput, through the VxBlock, than what the hyper-converged solutions could give us at that stage.

We deemed Dell to be the leader in the market. They were the first to enter the market with a converged platform. And I think they'd more of a market presence at that point in time than anybody else.

What other advice do I have?

We're using the VxBlock 350 deployment model.

The change in the operating model has been an eye-opener. A few years ago, it was difficult to imagine how a real virtual or cloud-like environment would run as we'd been so used to the standalone environments that we were operating. To see how that operating model really changes and the ease of use going to a virtualized or cloud-like platform has been great. It's one of the biggest takeaways I have.

When we changed infrastructures, we decided to build a complete environment. To start to build the IT infrastructure from scratch, completely new, was daunting. We refreshed absolutely everything. We even went as far as to build a new active directory environment. We basically built a completely new IT platform for our company. That was an extremely daunting task when we set out to do it. Within six months we were at a point where we cut over and we realized the goal that we set out to achieve. In the end, those daunting tasks are where one grows their own skillset. It's quite an achievement at the end to reach a goal that you almost thought was impossible at the outset of a project.

On a scale from one to ten, I'd rate the solution at a nine. Many people criticize the product due to the requirements needed to make the pre-configuration piece. However, as long as you don't make a mistake there, it works like a dream.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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