Why Isn’t VCE Using VMware NSX?

VCE (Virtual Computing Environment) is a joint venture formed by Cisco, EMC and VMware back in 2009.

Over the last four years, the joint venture has added new products and solutions that bring together the best of each partner’s products in integrated solutions. This week, VCE announced its latest round of updates with the new Vblock 340 system, as well as new specialized systems for databases.

The Vblock is the VCE unit that merges compute, storage and networking into a converged solution. According to VCE, the new Vblock System 340 incorporates the latest compute, network, storage, data protection and virtualization technologies from VCE investor companies.

That statement, however, misses the fact that the VCE solution does not include VMware’s latest NSX network virtualization technology. VMware launched its NSX technology during its VMworld event at the end of August. There was some concern at the time of the launch that the NSX launch was a challenge to Cisco in the data center. Cisco’s CTO, Padmasree Warrior, noted in a blog post after the NSX launch that Cisco remains a strong VMware partner, but she cautioned that there are limitations to the software approach to network virtualization.

Trey Layton, CTO of VCE, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that VCE’s solutions are derived from its investor companies, based on core areas.

“VCE is a Cisco, networking and server company,” Layton said. “We are an EMC storage and data project company and we are a VMware server virtualization and virtualization management company.”

Layton added that any and all network virtualization technologies in VCE solutions will be Cisco-based technologies.

“We wouldn’t preclude or prevent a customer from deploying VMware NSX, but as far as us building it and having VCE staff supporting it, that is a skill set that will stay at VMware,” Layton said. “So a customer can choose to deploy NSX. It’s just that it’s not part of VCE Vblock engineering.”

The same sort of situation is now emerging on the storage side with Cisco’s acquisition of flash storage vendor Whiptail. Cisco announced earlier this month its intention to acquire Whiptail for $415 million. In some respects, Whiptail is competitive with offerings from EMC, but that’s not quite how VCE sees it.

“With Whiptail, that technology will be used as a memory footprint expander for the UCS server architecture,” Layton said. “So as it relates to Whiptail being used for server memory expansion, VCE will absolutely use it in our architecture.”

VCE, however, will not include Whiptail-related technologies for any form of data storage component within a Vblock. Layton noted that all Vblock data storage is done on EMC-based hardware.

Layton added that the VCE strategy so far has worked out well for the investor companies.

“Each of our investor companies are looking to go to market jointly, and they use VCE as the benchmark for the way to do that,” Layton said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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