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EMC launches VxRail VSAN-based hyper-converged appliance

EMC replaces Vspex Blue with VxRail, integrating the new version of VMware's Virtual SAN software on four-node hyper-converged appliances.

EMC today launched VxRail, a hyper-converged appliance built on the latest version of VMware Virtual SAN software.

VxRail consists of VMware VSAN, vSphere and vCenter software running on a commodity white box server packaged by EMC. It will ship on hybrid flash appliances this quarter with VSAN 6.1 software and will be available on all-flash appliances running the new VSAN 6.2 version in the second quarter this year, according to EMC. VSAN 6.2 added inline deduplication and compression.

VxRail will replace the EMC Vspex Blue product launched a year ago, and is part of EMC's VCE converged infrastructure division. VxRail fits into the appliances category of VCE's blocks, racks and appliances strategy.

VxRail hyper-converged appliances combine storage, compute and virtualization software. Gil Shneorson, EMC's vice president and GM of VxRail, said the systems are targeted mostly for virtual desktop infrastructure, remote offices, private clouds, and distributed small and medium enterprises.

Shneorson said customers have been waiting for EMC to fully commit to hyper-convergence.

VxRail hyper-converged appliances combine storage, compute and virtualization software.

"People say, 'We want it but we want it to come from you. We don't want to introduce a new element into the environment. When are you going to do it?'" he said.

A 2U four-node VxRail appliance can hold up to 76 TB and 112 CPU cores in an all-flash configuration and 40 TB and 80 cores in a hybrid appliance. Customers can pick from a menu of options for CPU cores, memory and capacity. For all-flash appliances, the per node core options are 12, 16, 20, 24 and 28, capacity can be 7.6 TB, 11.4 TB, 15.2 TB and 19 TB with either 256 GB or 512 GB of memory. Hybrid configurations run from six to 20 cores per node, 3.6 TB to 10 GB of capacity and 64 GB to 256 GB of memory.

An initial implementation requires four nodes, but customers can add one-node increments after that. The maximum cluster is 16 appliances/64 nodes for 1,280 cores and 384 TB. Each appliance can handle approximately 200 virtual machines.

Starting list price is $60,000 for a hybrid appliance without vSphere licenses. VxRail customers can buy vSphere licenses from EMC or VMware, or apply vSphere licenses they already purchased.

EMC software such as RecoverPoint replication and CloudArray are available for VxRail. RecoverPoint enables replication between VxRail and other EMC storage platforms and CloudArray serves as a gateway to public clouds.

VMware's VSAN upgrade last week came as the vendor intensifies its competition with Nutanix and other hyper-converged vendors. VxRail launches as Dell proceeds with plans to acquire EMC and its VMware subsidiary for $67 billion.

Nutanix expanded its platform today around its homegrown Acropolis hypervisor that allows customers to adopt hyper-convergence without a separate hypervisor.

Why not Vspex Blue 2?

EMC brought out Vspex Blue last year as part of VMware's EVO:RAIL OEM program, but EVO:RAIL has not caught on with partners and customers.

"EVO:RAIL was more of a program than a product," Shneorson said. "VxRail uses the same original principles, but the packaging and pricing are different. We don't think it's the same thing."

Vspex Blue used older VSAN software that did not support data reduction. Shneorson said deduplication and compression are requirements for the all-flash appliances.

"Now we can do these [reduction] services across flash without a performance impact," he said.

While competing hyper-converged products support multiple hypervisors or non-VMware hypervisors, Shneorson said VMware will always be the foundation of VxRail.

"People ask if we will be hypervisor agnostic, but hypervisor agnostic is just a fancy way to say, 'not optimized for any hypervisor,'" he said. "Or even worse, a new proprietary hypervisor. We believe we provide the most value to our customers by optimizing, automating and extending the VMware environment they already have. We are 100 percent dedicated to VMware for a hyper-converged appliance."

Another piece of the software-defined data center

Colm Keegan, Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst, said VxRail is a key piece of EMC's and VMware's vision of a software-defined data center (SDDC). "This will provide virtualization at the storage layer, which ties into virtual compute and eventually will tie into NSX [virtual networking]," he said. "Those are the three legs to the software-defined stool. Customers kicking the tires on hyper-converged like the idea that they can use the same management tools they're used to -- vCenter, vCloud -- with the same look and feel."

VCE also sells a VxRack for cloud-scale deployments based on VMware virtualization and EMC ScaleIO software, and has pledged to support VMware's EVO SDDC hyper-converged rack with VSAN and NSX. EVO SDDC is in beta.

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