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Hyper-Convergence & SDN: The Game Changer

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I could tell from the moment I got off the plane that this year’s EMC World was going to be quite different from the rest. Everywhere around the airport were EMC World banners emblazoned with the word "Modernize.” All EMC World Conferences have a slogan that sets the tone of the show, but "Modernize" would prove to be a game changer. In years past, the show always offered many views of new products and revisions, but this year it had a completely different feel and in the end, it delivered something different. With all the buzz in the industry surrounding the Dell buyout of EMC, a lot of conversations centered on the question of: “What will happen to the product line going forward?” Day 1, during the keynote speeches, EMC/Dell leadership clarified the answers.  

The direction of the company and its products and
services is well defined around four pillars:

  1. Cloud Enabled
  2. Scale Out
  3. Flash
  4. Software Defined

My first session was, Understanding the Basics of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure. Being one of the hottest topics in the data center today, I wanted to hear what market leader VCE had to say. The topic was spot on with the four pillars. In a nutshell, hyper-converged platforms combine the infrastructure (compute, networking and storage) into a single offering. These come in the form of VxRails.  VxRails are small, 2U form factor appliances that combine physical storage, compute and networking into a single compact architecture that is completely software defined by VMware. They are sold as 4 node units that can be up and running in 30 minutes or less. In addition to the ease of deployment, they are very scalable. If your infrastructure grows and you need more horsepower, simply add another appliance or appliances up to 32 and—BAM—instant capacity in all categories! Please keep in mind VxRail is targeted for the remote office or back office (ROBO) so it isn’t a silver bullet for all situations. Still, it can solve a lot of issues for the right environment.

Another session that caught my attention was EMC IT: The Potential of Software Defined. I was drawn toward this because EMC was giving insight into the actual operations and architecture of their own infrastructure. What better advertising for a vendor than to prove the term “eating our own dogfood?” The level of software-defined data center technology was impressive. EMC internal IT is 98% percent virtualized across 4 main data centers globally. The reason for the 2% exception is simple; legacy applications. Rather than go thru the headache of P2V for apps that will be phased out, it was found to be easier and more cost effective to let them expire in place and retire the hardware afterward. Another interesting stat was the entire software-defined infrastructure is running on VCE vBlocks. Talking about eating your own dogfood...

Throughout the show, I was amazed at the coordinated efforts of the EMC staff to come together and reflect the established pillars in every product offering. In my opinion, EMC World Conferences from years past emphasized hardware—more ports, greater amounts of memory, faster processors. The platforms on which the offerings were built were way ahead of the software. Not anymore! While hardware will always be important the emphasis this year was on the software. EMC World 2016 will be remembered as a milestone in IT. I believe this year saw the tipping point from traditional infrastructure offerings (siloed, complex and rigid) to ones that are either hybrid or all-flash, software defined, scale-out capable and cloud enabled. Only time will tell.

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