If the rumours are to be believed, EMC and VMware are teaming up to develop their own converged infrastructure solution.  With the imminent release of VMware’s Virtual SAN platform, it appears even the storage “giants” of the industry are accepting that converged infrastructure is a force to be reckoned with.

The CRN article above is thin on details but let’s look at how easily EMC/VMware could achieve delivering a converged infrastructure solution.  Both EMC and VMware have software solutions that could be used to deliver converged products.  EMC has ScaleIO and VMware has VSAN.  The key question for both of these products is their maturity compared to solutions from other vendors such as Nutanix, SimpliVity and Scale Computing.  VSAN is a 1.0 product release (which will GA this week as release 5.5) and so is light on features that have been available in other platforms for many releases.  I don’t have any real details on ScaleIO as the company have ignored my requests for review, however putting that aside, we can say that ScaleIO is a new product, software only-based and not directly integrated with the hypervisor in the way VSAN is.  We can therefore assume it doesn’t have enough market maturity.

Hardware

What about hardware?  Obviously EMC didn’t buy IBM’s server business, so they will need to look to other hardware vendors to meet their requirements.  That shouldn’t be hard as EMC already sell server/storage hardware in the form of VNX and their other offerings.  They also have XtremSF to add performance and experience in using flash too, through various different platforms.

So from a technology perspective, EMC/VMware can easily deliver a converged solution.  The issues of moving in this direction are more based on other factors, including their relationship in the VCE partnership and of course their own storage brands.  How will EMC pitch a converged infrastructure story to their customers?  I’m sure for the last 3 years they have been telling customers that hyper-converged was the wrong way and only “packaged/converged” was the right thing to do (especially through VCE).  Now they could have another story to tell, one that involves competing with their own partnership.

We should also think about how these solutions will look.  I doubt EMC will sell solutions that also support Hyper-V, Xen or KVM.  The hypervisor choice will be wholly based on VMware and so their solutions will look weak compared to other market offerings.  Existing vendors will be able to offer more choice and flexibility and don’t have an existing business that would suffer if hyper-converged solutions proved popular.

The Architect’s View

EMC & VMware can easily bring hyper-converged solutions to the market.  However if they do, they bring with them limited hypervisor support and the legacy of a declining hardware business that was built on huge margins.  The transformation would mean huge upheaval for EMC’s business.  I wonder if they are ready and able to cope with that change.

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Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.