Vblock Review

It now utilizes SDx to allow scale out architecture (SDDC/SDN/SDS) and to bypass limitations within production, but improvements come from customers' remarks for evolutions or needs.


Valuable Features

  • Release Certification Matrix (RCM) is the core of a vBlock device. The RCM ensures that all the components inside a vBlock are fully compatible and settled together
  • VCE Vision is also a key into a vBlock and monitors the health of the device
  • VCE have done a lot of improvement on VCE Vision regarding customer feedback. It’s like working hand in hand with VCE

Improvements to My Organization

Legacy delivery times are usually known for being slow. Buying computing, storage and network components usually take times as much as you multiply providers. vBlock products are fully engineered and delivered operational, and the VCE promise is that a vBlock is delivered less than 45 days after SOW (State of Work), which means that you have a fully working solution into your datacenter quickly. That’s not only a promise, that’s the reality.

The first step is the Logical Configuration Survey (LCS) which is done by customers, helped by architects and engineers from VCE for networking, computing, and storage needs. This phase is done after less than 21 days, and assumes it to be the initial configuration build of your vBlock. The LCS is used by VCE to factory build your vBlock, and by the pro-support team to directly key into the device to finalize the delivery and realize the final test before giving you the keys.

Room for Improvement

Improvement comes from customers who have sent many remarks for evolutions or needs to VCE. Most of them have been taken into account, and VCE introduced a lot of new features last year in their roadmap like vxBlock (with Vmware NSX), vxRack, EVO-Rail and so on.

Use of Solution

Over the years, VCE has acquired good experience, and now the product lifecycle is completely under control. It’s now my 3rd year using vBlock products for customers like the European Space Agency, La Banque Postale, BNP Paribas, or GDF for their dedicated cloud. VCE used to cover almost all needs in education, industry, banks, and is used by many Fortune 500 companies!

Deployment Issues

No issues encountered.

Stability Issues

As the product is fully bundled, everything is under control. Based on a well known & improved technologies vBlock components are very powerful (even listed into TPC website as the top three regarding computing!) and stable. VCE also takes care of the whole security of the solution and advertise about security issues and how to solve them.

Scalability Issues

One of the biggest challenges for VCE was the scalability because of limitations from each vendor. Actually, they introduced new vBlock technologies using xDN to allow scale out architecture (SDDC/SDN/SDS), and bypass limitation within production.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Customer Service:

VCE have made a priority out of customer satisfaction. You got dedicated people regarding your project! It’s very efficient and valuable. The lifecycle of your product is own by defined vArchitect, vAccount Manager and so on. Definitely 9/10.

Technical Support:

Unique entry point for supporting vBlock is very efficient! It definitely worth 9/10. Entry support Core is quite good, 8/10, and Premier support, 9/10, is really impressive!

With Core and Premier support you have one dedicated Customer Advocate for your day to day communication with VCE.

Previous Solutions

I was working a long time ago with IBM BladeCenter-H and HP-C7000 Solutions, when I discovered the Cisco UCS technology. It was fast to provision, easy to deploy, & easy to manage! I was completely seduced by UCS and began to industrialize the implementation!

So I’ve try to find the best solution working with UCS. At first it was FlexPOD with Netapp. But there wasn’t a unique support entry point and I had to go all providers to find a solution on my issue that was a waste of time & money. Finding a fully bundled solution with engineering and unique support was really attractive!

Initial Setup

The Initial setup is done in the VCE factory following the LCS document. VCE assume the D&I (Deployment & Installation) of the vBlock and also the lifecycle of their product. It’s very simple, you fill in the LCS, get it validate by the VCE build team and that’s it! 45 days later (and possibly before), you get your vBlock fully operational installed into you datacenter.

Implementation Team

Deployments are done by VCE directly.

ROI

I don’t have a clear view on financial stuff but I can bring some clues. In traditional companies, you have a silo organization of each team. That means that the technical designers, engineering, and implementation teams in each domain that's SAN/LAN/SYSTEM/COMPUTE. So for each of them you have an expert on their domain. Meaning you have at least nine full time guy’s working on designing and building the solution, and in time there' an understanding of each others constraints.

Legacy built architecture disappeared with VCE converged infrastructure. Only one guy with transversal knowledge can achieve the LCS. That results in a strong and powerful infrastructure with nearly no downtime, and this is well known by the VCE technical support.

That doesn’t means that the technical guys are going to lose their job, they just need to acquire an in-depth knowledge of vBlock technologies because they have to run the platform, and adjust it regarding the company needs.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

vBlock can appear as something very costly as first, but settle everything together - man/day, end customer satisfaction, delivery time - and you can figure out it’s a real win-win solution.

Other Solutions Considered

I was using mainly HP and IBM technologies (over 1000 physical blades), and I’ve also tested Dell blades as well. None of them were simple to use without prior implementation of tools to administrate the solution (OpenManage/HP Insight).

Some of them like Nutanix do not fit our needs and can still be a blackbox. I can’t go into detail, but hyperconverged infrastructure was not a good choice for our deployment specific needs. You can’t scale out computing regarding storage (a Nutanix node is bundled) or simply build bare metal blade for specific use (Oracle RAC for example).

I’ve looked for a long time at white papers and success stories on Nutanix regarding large scale VDI deployment (+40K) and did not find something relevant. With VCE I was able to have everything on a simple vBlock. IaaS as standard, VDI with XtremIO, Linux Oracle on Bare Metal, and the whole solution is fully supported by VCE.

Other Advice

VCE was created through a coalition between VMware, Cisco and EMC in 2009. The idea is to deliver a built-in converged solution based on various IT standards:

  • VMware for virtualization
  • Cisco for SAN/LAN (network layout)
  • EMC for storage

vBlock is fully engineered & tested by the company. One of the most valuable is the support which is centralized and done by VCE directly with these partners. The products cover small offices, branch offices, medium and large companies.

VCE have a specialized learning path for partners, Partner Mentorship, within the EMC education portal, and since 2014, VCE has also had a dedicated certification path which is quite similar but more accurate and technical.

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