Integrated Blade Servers Redefine Data Center Solutions

For solution providers, this latest VCE initiative takes the practice of bundling technologies together to a whole other level.

Michael Vizard

October 10, 2014

3 Min Read
Integrated Blade Servers Redefine Data Center Solutions

Most IT organizations still think in terms of buying servers, storage and networking technologies in isolation. But with the rise of integrated systems built around blade servers many IT organizations now are essentially buying blocks of data center computing horsepower where all the server, storage and networking elements come bundled in the system.

Case in point are the vBlock systems based on the Cisco Unified Computing Systems (UCS) platform that VCE, a joint venture involving Cisco Systems (CSCO), EMC, VMware (VMW) and Intel (INTC), unveiled this week. The vBlock System 540 now includes a Flash storage option that comes integrated in a vBlock system, while the vBlock System 740 system comes bundled with EMC VMAX 3 storage. There’s also a third, vBlock System 240, based on EMC VNX5200 series storage systems.

The rise of these types of systems have gone a long way toward changing the way solutions are crafted across the channel. When a customer opts for an integrated blade server, the storage and networking components are already built in. What makes the latest vBlock systems noteworthy from a channel perspective is that now VCE is also giving customer the option to either install Cisco UCS Director cloud management software or the VMware vRealize suite of management software at the time when the systems are configured at the factory.

For solution providers in the channel, this latest VCE initiative is worth noting because it takes the practice of bundling technologies together to a whole other level. In fact, Todd Pavone, executive vice president for Product Development and Strategy, said this is just the beginning. In 2015, VCE will be introducing extensions to those management frameworks that will make it simpler to manage vBlock deployments at scale, he said.

The vBlock platforms are, of course, only one instance of an integrated server. Cisco also partners with NetApp to create a FlexPod system and Cisco, of course, sells UCS in a way that can be configured with any storage system a customer wants. In fact, when you add up VCE, FlexPod and the systems that Cisco sells on its own, it’s little wonder why Cisco dominates the blade server category, given all the feet it has on the street selling them.

Of course, there is a reason blade servers have become so popular, and that's the embracing of virtual machines—the idea is to run as many virtual machines as possible on blade servers that share the same physical chassis. But while that approach increases the density of an individual server, it also creates some challenges in managing the IT environment at scale. For that reason, a lot of IT organizations still prefer rack servers that allow them to separately scale out server, storage and networking resources as needed in a more modular fashion.

Nevertheless, many solution providers have made a lot of money selling blade servers and there’s no doubt integrated blade servers have redefined what it means to sell a solution in the channel. In fact, it’s logical to assume we’ll see a lot more of these integrated systems coming in the form of both blade and rack server configurations. As that continues to evolve, so, too, will the definition of a solution in the data center.

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About the Author(s)

Michael Vizard

Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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