Maybe They Should Have Called Them iBlocks?
November 16, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
I told you there would be a recurring theme as I watch different server makers and their partners try to usurp the Integration banner that the AS/400 has been waving for more than two decades–and that the theme would be that I get annoyed that no one remembers a movie we all saw a long time ago.
My latest annoyance on the integration front is not the sweet nothings that Oracle and Sun Microsystems have been whispering mostly into the ears of Sun’s server customers but also to government regulators and investors that a Sun-Oracle combination would allow Oracle to create an integrated platform from hardware up through systems software and middleware and higher on to application software. This time around, I am being annoyed by server upstart Cisco Systems and its Acadia partnership with storage and server virtualization partner EMC.
Yeah, I didn’t mention VMware as a separate company in the Acadia partnership, and that is absolutely intentional because EMC owns 85 percent of VMware and, in my mind, should never have been allowed to sell shares in the company. EMC’s shareholders already owned VMware when EMC sold a piece of its stake off to Cisco, Intel, and Wall Street a few years back.
Under the Acadia partnership, Cisco and EMC are taking their respective hard and soft wares and mixing them up into preconfigured, integrated systems that are ready to run virtualized Windows and Linux workloads. These preintegrated server, storage, networking, and systems software stacks (minus the operating systems, databases, and applications, but including systems management and hypervisor tools) are called Vblocks, and there are three initial configurations that Cisco and EMC are selling.
The entry configuration known as Vblock 0 is comprised of Cisco’s C-Series X64-based rack servers, which have been equipped with VMware’s vSphere 4.0 server virtualization stack and the Nexus 1000V virtual switch (which itself runs inside of an ESX Server virtual machine on one of the servers). EMC is tossing in its Celerra storage and Ionix system management tools as well as the VMware stuff. The precise configuration for the Vblock 0 integrated setup has not been nailed down, and it will begin shipping early next year; it is aimed at branch offices and development/test environments where rack servers are still preferred to blades.
The Vblock 1 and Vblock 2 setups are available for order now and make use of Cisco’s B-Series blade servers and the integrated switching that comes with the “California” Unified Computing System. These setups range from 16 to 64 blade two-socket servers and feature Cisco’s converged UCS 6100 switches and fabric extenders, which consolidate server and storage traffic over a single 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch. These setups offer from 45 TB to 400 TB of disk capacity (using Clariion CX4-480 disks in the Vblock 1 and Symmetrix V-Max disks in the Vblock 2) and from 800 to 6,000 virtual machines. Prices range from a low of $1 million on the entry Vblock 1 with 16 blades and 45 TB of disk to $6 million on a 64 blade setup with 400 TB of disk. Basically, it works out to $1,000 per virtual machine.
It goes without saying that IBM needs to do the same thing with its Power Systems, right? Preconfigured, ready to rock, all the system tools bundled in with a single product number. IBM has done with its Smart Analytics System, but that is a fairly nichey product. IBM needs to do this Express configuration on steroids for the entire Power Systems, BladeSystem, and System x product line.