Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pros and Cons of Bundling Hardware and Software(Virtual Computing Environment)

Buying hardware and software together for virtualization will save organizations time and money, according to Cisco Systems, EMC and VMware. The three vendors have formed the Virtual Computing Environment(VCE) coalition, through which they will sell prepackaged bundles of servers, networking equipment and software for virtualization, storage, security and management. Key components of the bundles include the Cisco Unified Computing System and VMware vSphere.
In this post I am trying to answer the question
What are the pros and cons of bundling hardware and software together for virtualization, and will this approach have success in the market?
1. VCE will enhance partners' ability to recommend and implement preconfigured, tested and validated solutions with one support organization. This should accelerate the adoption of virtualized solutions and move toward the goal of 100% virtualized environments. Partners of these companies will have advanced training and expertise in implementing the solutions.
2. Prepackaged server virtualization bundles might succeed -- at least until the external cloud offerings mature -- in the small and medium-sized business category, where disparate hardware is not as much a factor, and support staff may have lower skill levels. By offering preconfigured bundles, administration becomes the focus -- not architecting the virtual environment. There would be money to be made in support contracts in this area as well.
3. Some experts have definite positive approach towards VCE. Consider the possible situations as below -
  • Environments with no experience and no virtual infrastructure can easily purchase a single SKU and immediately get started. What arrives is a hardware/software combo that guarantees them a certain level of pre-tested service. For this group, much of the risk of implementation failure is transferred to the manufacturer in exchange for a slightly increased "integration" cost.
  • Mature environments with greater experience and existing infrastructure also benefit. For these groups, smart prepackaging enables modularization. Need more horsepower for virtual machines? Buy another single SKU and scale your environment by a known and predefined unit of additional resources.
  • This future is an obvious evolution of how we already buy server hardware today. No one builds their own servers anymore. Instead we select from slightly more expensive, pre-engineered server specs that have been designed for a specific use. As virtualization becomes more mainstream, we'll see just these kinds of hardware plus virtual software combos from our existing and trusted manufacturers.
1. VCE is creating a lot of confusion in the marketplace at this time. There are some worthy competitors to this coalition, and they will not go down without a fight. As consultants, we need to recognize our customers' needs and substitute another technology if it is appropriate for our customer. The venture may be classified as successful in future, but not without challenges as the competitors offer their own solutions.
2. Large-scale, prepackaged bundles like the Virtual Computing Environment will have a tough time gaining influence in large, established datacenters. Bundled hardware and software may not be in line with consultant's established vendor standards or administrative skill sets, and that could reduce operational efficiency.
3. VCE can be a good fit if the requirements for each environment match the VCE offering. VCE is one prepackaged virtualization solution. Another type of prepackaged virtualization offering is from Avaya with the Aura System Platform. In this situation, the virtualization technology delivered is a customized hypervisor that will not fit within a mainstream virtualized infrastructure. While these scenarios are different, they have these same attributes. These prepackaged offerings may introduce dependencies.

So will VCE hamper the competition in virtualization/datacenter market? Will it be appreciated for being a one-stop shopping experience for sales, integration and support? Isn't the concept of a hypervisor supposed to be that it is hardware agnostic? By creating these type of targeted alliances with hardware or software vendors, will there be polarization of supported configurations? You can better discuss these questions and hopefully time will provide their answers.

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