It is interesting to watch large companies. Some seem to make the same mistakes over and over again, while others, typically younger firms, tend to learn from their mistakes and those made by others. VCE is a young firm and a case in point. Their new VxRack line addition is the packaging of commodity white box servers – which VCE calls “bright box” nodes – into a solution that scales from 4-1000+ nodes and brings VCE’s factory integration and incredible customer support makes them price competitive in one of the most popular growing enterprise and service provider segments – the Hyper-converged infrastructure..
EMC’s Big Mistake
One of the most painful mistakes that EMC made was with Dell which wanted and needed lower cost storage that EMC didn’t want to build. Instead, EMC wanted to preserve margins and felt that their value was worth the cost they were charging even though Dell’s customers didn’t need much of what these high end systems provided and were often too small to make use of them. EMC kept saying no until Dell had no choice but to go into the storage business and is now a competitor, not a partner. EMC CEO Joe Tucci has been outspoken in saying that this was one of the biggest mistakes that the company ever made.
Now even so, most IT vendors would still stick to their guns and keep on making this mistake over and over again. But that isn’t the case here; EMC learned its lesson and VCE is leading the way.
HyperScale at scale, price and support
Right now, the branded server market is being punished by companies like Google and Facebook who are deploying White Box solutions because they don’t believe branded solutions are worth the extra cost, and realistically, for the ad-funded services they provide, they mostly aren’t. Other large firms looking at deploying similar web-centric capabilities are looking at going down a similar path. But they have learned over time that it is more cost effective to use a service provider of some type so they don’t have to carry the whole cost of what are often one-off deployments.
Now, the idea of a fast deployment, which VCE provides as a clear differentiator, and high reliability are still very important but customers just want something that is priced for their mobile, big data and other webscale type apps far more aggressively. Typically an enterprise-focused firm like VCE would tell these customers to pound sand but since being pulled into EMC they have gotten far more flexible and have learned from EMC’s mistakes. They understand that if they lose one of these customers they probably won’t get them back.
As a result after what I’m sure was a lot of internal political battles they have brought out the VxRack line which is basically a set of bright box servers that have the VCE Experience and support and time to market advantages of VCE’s Vblocks and VxBlocks but are highly scalable and able to support the web-centric applications customers want at a highly competitive price. While the tier one apps will stay with Vblock and VxBlocks, the emerging apps and many tier two apps are prime candidates for VxRacks.
In short, the new VxRack solutions suggest that if the customer wants it, VCE is willing to figure out a way to get it to them. This is likely just the beginning of more choices among the VCE platforms that will be made to ensure every customer gets what they need from the effort even if it doesn’t use components by VMware, EMC, or even Cisco at some point.
Wrapping: The Customer Is King
VCE, now they are under EMC’s umbrella, is clearly getting more creative and are applying that creativity to their customers’ needs. They are breaking old rules with regard to how these systems are put together but still promise hyper-fast deployments, a near appliance-like level of integration and superior support and maintenance. These are key elements that give them the highest loyalty scores in their segment and make customers their most vocal advocates.
Rather than being limited, becoming part of the EMC Federation has made VCE more agile and far more capable. I think we are far from the end of changes like this and any firm that is willing to go this far to make customers happy in this segment is certainly worth watching and encouraging. I watch large firms for a living and VCE’s kind of move is exceedingly rare.