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If you want cloud-in-a-can, VCE is not the answer

The Vblock system from VCE is touted as the easiest path to private cloud, but more than a few users report roadblocks along the way.

Weekly cloud computing update

This week, I talked with a few companies that were willing to share their experiences with Vblock.

The Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Company touts the Vblock system as the fastest, smoothest way to get up-and-running on a private cloud. But IT shops report that while the integration work VMware, Cisco and EMC have done with Vblock is commendable, it barely scratches the surface of the legwork needed to stand up a private cloud in your organization.

If VCE doesn't step up, then there's not a lot of value in enterprise IT shops buying something pre-canned.

Jo Maitland

There is a reference architecture for Vblock, but many users found that this blueprint works well in someone’s lab but didn’t meet most of their real-world needs. They ended up having to mesh what someone had done in the lab with their internal systems.

Vblock comes with various product-orientated modes or services, but one company’s product people would have preferred a more flexible model. For example, “Mode A” has a firewall but they wanted a firewall with every service. Then you wonder if any of the integration is actually useful when you have to go back and recast it with internal product teams.

A big issue for a particular user at this company was that they had their own billing system for IT services that needed to work with VCE. A company without chargeback or any other kind of billing system could probably live with whatever comes out of the box with VCE.

Examining your IaaS options before going with Vblock
In other words, potential VCE users need to ask what comes preconfigured to enable certain "service modes" within Vblock. It's important to know whether these configurations meet your criteria and what work is necessary to get them to coexist with your existing internal systems.

The aforementioned IT shop is exploring other options to enable Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). It may pull the pieces together itself and evaluate other pre-canned systems, including Oracle Exalogic, IBM CloudBurst, HP Matrix and NetApp Flexpod.

Other users said that the three VCE parents -- VMware, Cisco and EMC -- pulled the biggest pieces together in Vblock, but it takes longer to get all the "run" elements working than it does to get the box online.

When storage, server, network and hypervisor sell as a unit, there are many interdependencies that also need to be treated as a unit: hypervisor versions, server firmware versions, switch IOS versions, storage firmware versions, NIC/HBA driver versions, etc. Many enterprises spend a lot of time on this scut work -- ironing out internal cross-vendor certification -- to keep the lights on instead of doing anything innovative. If VCE doesn't step up and provide that entire piece, then there's not a lot of value in enterprise IT shops buying something pre-canned; they still have to do all that engineering in order for it to be supported internally.

Systems integrators have stepped in to do the legwork on deploying Vblocks. CSC just announced a private cloud service where it wheels Vblocks into your building and integrates them with all your messy, legacy IT systems. CSC claims it can get any company up and running with IaaS, using Vblocks and some of its own IP, in less than 10 weeks.

I'm dying to hear about the first implementation of this and how it went. Drop me a line at

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of

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