Technology has always enabled the “factorification” of processes and skills for both users and suppliers of IT. The success of early computing solutions rested in replacing hundreds and thousands of Bob Cratchett-like professionals with systems that required few, if any, sick days and no vacations.
Then businesses discovered they needed to hire hundreds or thousands of technical gurus to care for and feed their ever-more complicated data center “factories” by continually deploying, optimizing, managing and maintaining new and existing systems.
Enterprise vendors have certainly innovated, but they also left much of the installation and daily care and feeding of complex products to customers. To get out from under that burden, organizations are looking at public clouds and Software as a Service both for the agility these new players appear to provide and to keep their IT requirements fulfilled.
While the concept is compelling on its face, it seems unlikely to us that many enterprises will allow their core, critical business data and processes to reside in such amorphous climes. This appears especially true as matters of security, privacy and cost come to the fore. At the same time, though, it’s worth asking whether any vendors are offering commercial IT solutions that provide enterprises the key innovative benefits of this latest wave of IT factorification.
Time to Value
The answer is, yes, with respect to VCE’s Vblock converged system solutions. The company has refined an approach that leverages the deep skills and broad expertise of VCE architects who fully understand customers’ use cases, applications, infrastructures and related needs, and deliver systems based on standardized, best-of-breed components for those environments.
The key to understanding VCE’s vision of the new digital factory lies in the company’s holistic system integration development/delivery process and how it differs from traditional methodologies. In essence, VCE leverages the best-of-breed qualities and innovations of its partners/owners Cisco, EMC, VMware and Intel, focusing its considerable expertise prior to customers placing their orders.
That done, VCE completes a thorough analysis of the client’s physical and logical requirements so that once delivered to the customer, a Vblock is fully up and running within two to three days. VCE’s approach is a stark contrast to traditional enterprise IT practices. Typically, IT organizations determine and purchase whatever new servers, storage and networking hardware they need, as well as supporting software, middleware and applications.
Then, after delivery, company architects or third-party system integration professionals conduct lengthy, rigorous, highly technical discovery, evaluation and implementation processes, leading to those new systems being deployed weeks — or more often, months — after delivery.
If that sounds expensive and exhausting, it’s because it is. How does VCE differ? Since the company leverages standardized components, fitting together the necessary server, storage and networking piece parts — the system plumbing — represents a modest part of the overall effort. While modest, these standardized building blocks give VCE tremendous flexibility in creating infrastructures fit for specific purposes. Far more important are the VCE architects who bring deep technical expertise and experience to their work.
In essence, they take on and complete the highly technical validation and optimization processes at the front end — VCE’s digital factory — and then deliver fully integrated and configured Vblocks ready for easy deployment. That obviously removes a huge amount of complexity and expense from the customer’s shoulders.
However, the average VCE system is also up and running within 72 hours of delivery, meaning that the “time to value” clock begins ticking just days — not long months — after the owner receives a new Vblock. There’s no need to incur the added expense of highly paid consultants or waste the time of in-house system architects and other IT staff on rote implementation efforts.
The payback from VCE’s digital factory methodology extends far beyond deployment and continues long after the customer takes delivery of its new Vblocks. Clients enjoy a better overall experience in the form of fewer headaches, lower ongoing expenses and reduced concerns.
That’s because VCE tests all the recommended updates and patches to insure interoperability and provides customers with clear recommendations on what, when and how to update. This saves clients enormous time and resources, substantially reduces data center risk, and ensures that systems are optimized for application and workload performance.
Finally, VCE’s Vision Intelligent Operations software provides customers a straightforward way to discover and manage Vblocks as a single entity or object, and to view all its components in context. VCE Vision Intelligent Operations then feeds that information into existing management frameworks, helping customers to avoid buying essentially redundant solutions.
While most vendors develop converged systems based on x86-based server technologies, many attempt use those solutions to promote and protect other proprietary technologies that lock customers into long-term commitments. VCE solutions are free of such baggage and help guarantee quality by leveraging the latest Intel Xeon CPUs and best-of-breed technologies from company partners Cisco (networking and servers), EMC (storage) and VMware (virtualization and cloud management solutions).
VCE has also steadily expanded its solution portfolio to support a growing range of applications and use cases. Vblock Systems come in 100, 200, 300 and 700 versions (according to the scope of the virtualized infrastructures they support).
Plus, along with systems specially designed for SAP HANA, customers use Vblocks as the foundation for Infrastructure as a Service applications, Microsoft business applications, Oracle and SAP, and in education, financial, healthcare, manufacturing, public sector and service provider industry environments.
Perhaps the strongest evidence in favor of VCE’s digital factory vision and strategy comes from Vblock customers themselves. In EMC’s recent Q2 2013 earnings call, the company said VCE revenues had exhibited strong year-over-year growth, a notable point given the disappointing performance of many other systems vendors during the same period.
More important was a nugget shared by EMC CEO Joe Tucci, who noted that more than half of the Vblocks sold during the quarter went to repeat customers.
That is a major vote of confidence for any company but one that’s especially important for a vendor just over 3 years old. That VCE is making so strong an impact in so short a time is a testimony to the uncommon quality of both its Vblock solutions and its market approach. Over time, we expect VCE to further cement it position as an innovative leader in enterprise computing.