On 4/12/2012, EMC in conjunction with technology partners VMware, Microsoft, Cisco, Brocade, Citrix and Intel announced EMC VSPEX. EMC VSPEX is an specification framework that allows multiple vendors to participate in providing “standard” building blocks for virtualized data centers and private clouds – targeted at accounts who need less than 250 virtualized servers and/or 2000 virtualized users (VDI) and delivered exclusively through EMC/VMware/Cicso/Microsoft/Citrix partners. The goal of this initiative is to provide the mid-market with cost effective, pre-certified, pre-integrated solution sets and leverage standard building blocks from leading vendors. In other words this is VCE/vBlock for smaller companies delivered through the distributor and VAR channels of the respective vendors.

MC VSPEX is touted as a “third way to build a private cloud”. The first two being having your VAR assemble it for you from best of breed components, or a high end converged infrastructure offering like a VCE VBLOCK or a NetApp FlexPod. There are in fact 14 different recipes that can be used to build a VSPEX compliant offering.

Three Paths to a Private Cloud EMC VSPEX vs. vBlock, or NetApp FlexPod. Can VMware VARs Refuse the Offer?

The VSPEX Technology Partners

EMC has done a great job of choosing the obvious hardware and virtualization platform partners to complement its contribution of storage to the VSPEX offerings. But take a close look at the image below. Notice that for every layer in the stack except for one, there are at least two choices. Only for the storage layer is there only one choice and that would happen to be EMC. So one is to assume that the entire VAR channel is going to standardize on EMC storage for all of their mid-market customers?

VSPEX Partners EMC VSPEX vs. vBlock, or NetApp FlexPod. Can VMware VARs Refuse the Offer?

The EMC and VMware Channel Partner Angle

EMC made a big deal of the fact that this offering will be sold only through distributors like Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Arrow and then from these distributors to the VARs that build solutions for their customers. This is probably an essential step for EMC, as many VARs are loath to partner with EMC for fear (borne out of experience) that EMC will take the largest deals direct even if the VAR has done substantial work towards making it happen.

VSPEX Channel EMC VSPEX vs. vBlock, or NetApp FlexPod. Can VMware VARs Refuse the Offer?

Exactly How Can a VSPEX be Cheaper than a Best of Breed Solution

A VSPEX is constructed out of products that are already commercially available from all of the vendors. Absolutely no new technology is a part of these offerings. For obvious reasons the vendors involved are not going to sell their components into a VSPEX deal for less than they would sell the very same components into a best of breed deal where the VAR is doing the integration for the customer. So where do the cost savings come from?

Answer – the cost savings come from the fact that in each of the 14 recipes for building a VSPEX, the vendors have done the work to implement and certify the integration between the components. So the vendors have borne the cost of figuring out how configuration #1 works together, and then the VAR does not have to do that work again for the customer. This is the exact same recipe that drives the cost savings in a VBLOCK.

This story falls down in several respects. First of all there is only one storage vendor present in VSPEX. Guess who that is. That would be EMC – a vendor not exactly known for competing on the basis of price/performance. In other words at first blush VSPEX is simply a ploy on the part of EMC to commoditize the businesses of everyone else, and to enshrine themselves as the storage vendor of choice. This might fly in the large enterprise market, but it stands no chance of flying in the mid-size and small enterprise markets where solutions that offer compelling price/performance alternatives to EMC storage are plentiful.

By Bernd Harzog in virtualizationpractice