2016 is the year EMC and VMware are going “all in” when it comes to the HCIA marketplace. We took all the hard learnt lessons from the EVO:RAIL experience, and went back to the drawing board in late 2015.
Let’s be clear – EMC is the undisputed leader in the Converged Infrastructure market as a whole. The way we think of the CI market is that while converged/hyper-converged are different system-level designs, with radically different CAPEX/OPEX envelopes. That said – converged and hyper-converged infrastructure are both variations on the same theme: “buy/consume vs. building things that are boring and everyone does similarly, so you can: go faster; invest smarter; simplify how you operate; get better overall availability”.
- We have the leading Converged platform in Vblock and VxBlock Systems – 2nd place is distant, the gap continues to widen. This is not hyperbole, it’s a fact (see here in the customer voice, see here in IDC data).
- There is no peer to VxRack Systems in the Hyper-Converged Rack-Scale platform category. When you are thinking: multiple rack/hundreds of node scales; broad heterogeneity – inclusive of physical, different kernel mode hypervisors, the container/cluster manager ecosystem, the data fabric ecosystem; design/support/sustaining engineering that incorporates the network domain – you’re thinking about a Hyper-Converged Rack-Scale system, not an Hyper-Converged Appliance.
To put it in perspective, there are “only” thousands of hyper-converged Rack-scale customers in the world. On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands of hyper-converged infrastructure appliance customers.
But – I try to keep Virtual Geek a delusion-free zone :-) It’s not all sunshine and roses. In 2015 it was clear, we needed to go faster in the hyper-converged appliance as we were getting out-run by the startup ecosystem. When you think “Hyper-Converged” most people think start small, start simple, scale easily, leverage your standard – VMware – all of which is so important for SMB, SME, and the Enterprise edge. When you think “hyper-converged”, most people think of Hyper-Converged infrastructure appliances (not the software that powers them, where VMware is doing great with vSphere and VSAN) and not rack-scale systems where heterogeneity, network/SDN are all so critical.
On Feb 16th 2016, we launched VxRail, EMC and VMware’s exclusive HCIA - with a laser focus on the “4 P’s”: Product, Price, Place/Package, Promotion.
- VxRail is unique in a couple of ways:
- …it is the ONLY HCIA that uses vSphere which isn’t developed/engineered and sustained/supported in some “arms length” partnership way. Literally with VxRail is a SINGLE product team, a SINGLE engineering team for the management software stack. That team has one mission: build the best product in that market. Where there is something we need to do better – that team has no place to hide – direct short closed feedback loop :-)
- … it is also the ONLY HCIA who doesn’t have a “first call + handoff” support model. Like all things VCE – we do L1/L2/L3 – there is no “hand off” and we never let go of the case. It’s worth reinforcing that the management/orchestration software that binds hyper-converged systems (appliances and rack-scale systems) is the majority of what defines the behavior of the offer – with the bulk of the rest being defined by the SDS behavior. The hardware itself in HCIA is almost inconsequential - important only insofar as it defines the economic and configuration envelopes (interestingly, in Rack-Scale systems – there is room for hardware differentiation around industry standards – think DSSD, think composable infrastructure – more on this topic soon!). The VxRail management and orchestration software in turn leverages and exposes vSphere and VSAN (whose product management and engineering is in VMware – as of course they are also used outside the OEM VxRail model for those parts).
- … it is the also the ONLY HCIA that has a fully integrated SDS stack that is embedded into the kernel – specifically VSAN because VxRail uses vSphere. No crazy 8vCPU, 16+ GB of RAM for the storage stack (per “storage controller” or even per node in some cases with other HCIA choices!) needed. No need to worry about performance and contention as the hyper-converged nodes are used for what they are planned – running workloads. This is the same reason in VxRack System 1000 with VxRack Flex nodes we use ScaleIO (it is kernel-integrated with multiple hypervisors and physical host OSes).
- VxRail is a different product than what we’ve done in the past (80% different code than during the EVO:RAIL program, and completely different hardware). It is designed and prioritizes all flash configs and IO paths. It is designed for rich data services. It has the highest efficiency and best performance (bar none) of the Hyper-Converged Appliance market.
- VxRail has a totally different price (starting at a $60K ASP vs. almost $200K for our prior efforts!).
- VxRail has different packaging (flexible ability to bring your own licenses, bundled software, completely different distribution and channel).
- VxRail has totally different promotion – with all of EMC and VMware and our partners driving the go-to-market hard.
In Q1, VxRail has been in the market for only 44 days.
It’s been a huge hit.
I can’t say too much – it’s still early days (which means early data points shouldn’t be extrapolated too much). There is a lot for us to continue to prove. Also, we’re in the quiet period before earnings, but I’ll talk about it a bit – while VxRail is off to a GREAT start – reality is that it is still such a small business in the whole that it doesn’t affect EMC’s earnings.
I will say this – in just 44 days, as of March 31st, there are 138 VxRail systems out there, sold in 37 different countries around the world, and the demand/quotes outstanding for Q2 is ENORMOUS. If we are win in even a fraction of those cases, we have the opportunity to move WAY up and to the right stack ranked against other HCIA offers.
Q2 also has a huge update in the software stack (continuing divergence from the EVO:RAIL history), where compression/dedupe/erasure coding get turned on, and the all-flash configurations (which are the sweet spot – and where we are doubling down, with 3.8TB SSDs in Q2, and 15TB SSDs coming later in the year). At that point, I think hybrid-optimized HCIA SDS stacks will increasingly look old-fashioned.
My personal goal is that by 2017, EMC is #1 in the HCIA category by revenue (and IDC will be a good source to validate where we land) – the offers are THAT good.
Today has another big piece of news that will accelerate EMC and VMware as the leaders in hyper-converged infrastructure and hyper-converged software.
Effective immediately, Dell is reselling VxRack Systems and VxRail appliances.
What’s the scoop?
Answer: It’s SIMPLE and it gives customers more CHOICE.
- Structurally, it is a resell agreement between two separate companies, Dell and EMC, similar to other Dell/EMC resell arrangements.
- Strategically it is something good for Dell customers and for Dell. How?
- For Dell customers, it gives them more choice. Dell is the leading channel for other hyper-converged infrastructure appliances. Now, Dell customers have the additional choice of VxRail, the best HCIA for customers who have picked VMware as their standard, and VxRack the best open and flexible rack-scale system on the market. Of course, they have other HC choices in their portfolio – and ultimately the customer chooses!
- It is also good for Dell as a business as it strengthens their position with the broadest hyper-converged portfolio. They can (and will) position the solution in that portfolio that is the most effective for the customer, and wins.
- Strategically it is something is good for EMC customers and EMC. How?
- For EMC customers it gives them more choice. They can choose to acquire through EMC and EMC partners, or through Dell and the Dell partner ecosystems – whatever works best for them.
- For EMC as a business it broadens the reach and accelerates both VxRail and VxRack Systems.
- Strategically, it is something that is good for VMware customers and VMware. How? Again – choice and reach (broadens the routes to market for their hyper-converged software – vSphere and VSAN – which are OEM/embedded in VxRail, but also as standalone software, and as VSAN-ready nodes).
Now, I won’t be surprised if a fair amount of digital ink gets spilled over this news – and I also won’t be surprised if there is some hyperbole (when isn’t there?!)
I suspect some will jump to 2nd and 3rd order conclusions. Advice? DON’T.
This news is pretty simple at it’s core… It is about giving customers more choice via Dell’s entire industry leading hyper-converged portfolio, and broadening the reach of VxRail and VxRack.
Of course I have my bias – and think if you’re a VMware customer looking at hyper-converged – choosing VxRail is a no-brainer. If you are a customer looking at large scale, datacenter, heterogeneous hyper-converged – choosing VxRack is a no-brainer.
Looking forward to getting more customer feedback – and the roadmap (and outlook!) is STRONG!