So this Vblock thing is kind of interesting

Welcome to my first blog as an EMC vSpecialist !! 

One of the things that fascinated me the most prior to moving over to EMC was Vblock.  In my prior life, I never really ran into it too much but I kept up with it from some of the other bloggers.  Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about it (I’m on day 5 at EMC) but I’ll tell you one of the things I find really interesting about the vision and execution of the Architecture.  

So just a quick Vblock 101 for those that are not familiar with it.  The Vblock is made up of best of breed technology as part of the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition currently made up of VMware, Cisco and EMC.  It pulls together the following technologies: Cisco Nexus and UCS fabric interconnects, EMC Storage, Cisco UCS B Series Blades, VMware vSphere including EMC Power Path/VE, Cisco Nexus 1000v and EMC Ionix UIM and coupled with various security solutions from RSA.  This essentially is a datacenter in a rack !!  Fully tested, baked, secure and predictable!!  

Back to one of the things I find interesting 🙂

I’ve been in IT for 16+ years and the last 11 or so in pure storage.  The one thing that always seemed to be a huge pain to my customers was firmware upgrade due-diligence.  In other words, all the work that had to go in before you could schedule the necessary time to do the work.  Not just on Storage (which is huge), but on all the HBA’s, Servers, OS, Storage Controllers, MPIO etc.  The larger the shop, the harder this was to do. 

Follow me on this.  You have StorageVendorA, SwitchVendorB, HBAVendorC and OSVendorD.  Each one of these vendors has their very own hardware/firmware compatibility matrix, and in your current world, you probably have various different model numbers and versions of these solutions.  Guess what, the new firmware for each of these products isn’t always in sync with each other’s current firmware levels.  So, that leaves the admins to try and peace together what firmware works with what, and heaven forbid you have an issue and call into tech-support for that given component and they want you to move their product to a firmware version that isn’t compatible with something else in your environment.  In my past life, when a severity issue came through, the first thing I would look for is the firmware version of the system.  7 out of 10 times they were 3+ revisions behind and the issue that caused them the problem was solved 2 firmware revisions ago.  When you ask “why were you so far behind” it would boil down to either “time/effort” or they have a component that has not been tested with that particular firmware version (read: it’s not listed on the matrix).  Imagine all the time and effort that it takes to make that happen.  Imagine if you are large enough that you have a Networking Team, Server Team, Storage Team etc.  Talk about herding cats!!

So here comes the Vblock.  There are a ton of reasons you would want to look at a Vblock, and I’m just focusing on one that is a little more near and dear to my heart at the moment.  Imagine not having to worry about the “Is that brand new firmware compatible with the other components in the stack”?  Or even having to spend any amount of time doing all the work you’ve had to do in the past to make sure hardware versions have been tested and vetted for a firmware update.  It just makes a lot of sense.  NOW, I’m not saying you don’t have to do firmware upgrades anymore, I’m simply saying that when you have a Vblock, all that due-diligence and testing has been done already.   In other words, when new software/firmware revisions roll out, the VCE team does all the upgrade testing and pre-qualification prior to you upgrading your Vblock. 


Now, Vblock’s are not for everyone.  Just like a lot of solutions in the market, you need to weigh the pros and cons and make the correct business and technical decision.  I think there are a lot of companies in the mid-enterprise and higher where this solution set would be perfect.  I’m also not suggesting that a Vblock can replace everything in your datacenter.  I just think that for different applications or business units this solution just makes perfect sense.  

I’ll know a lot more next week when I head up to “Vblock Week” with vSpecialist TEAM04.  I’m sure i’ll find all sorts of things to blog about !!!

@vTexan <– Follow me on twitter !!!

5 thoughts on “So this Vblock thing is kind of interesting

  1. Glad to hear you are enjoying your new role. My question regarding the Vblock is regarding integrated management. For me, the value of an architecture such as the Vblock is the ability to manage the entire stack from a single pane of glass and without having to provision and to manage the discrete components. It’s the reason why universal remotes are popular and what my expectations are for an integrated architecture.

    I am not familiar enough with the Vblock to know if this integrated management exists, but look forward to reading what you find.

    I worked for EMC a decade ago and enjoyed the experience and the comradery I found. Best of luck in your new role.

    1. @Ken, the answer for your question about integrated management is yes! Unified Infrastructure Manager will take care of all provisioning and that can be done in 1-click. Of course, you have to define the service profile template. But once those are defined, you can apply to a new service in a matter of minutes, not even hours or days. Now however, from the VM level down, you still have to use vSphere. But that part will change as UIM will get more integrated with vSphere. The value is now IT don’t need to go thru loops of people to get something done!

      1. Phil,

        Thanks for the reply. Makes sense technology wise. Politically, it must be a challenge since not needing ” to go thru loops of people to get something done” can also mean igniting IT turf wars. 🙂

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