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In October 2015, VMware and EMC (this was pre Dell/EMC merger) sat down and said “we have got to build the absolute best HCI Appliance for VMware – bar none”. It was the moment where the VxRail program was born.
In February 2016, the first release of VxRail happened. Here was that milestone: VxRail – An incredible product at an incredible time.
February 2017 showed that a year later, we were on an incredible trajectory – the formula was working: Happy Birthday VxRail – What a a “year one”!
The plan worked. The Dell EMC merger has been a huge accelerant as we can leverage the technology and strength of PowerEdge as an HCI platform, along with global reach.
Everyone talks a good game, but numbers (and customers) speak. VxRail is the fastest growing product in the fastest growing segment of on-premises infrastructure. VxRail grew in Q2 at 243% and did it on BIG numbers. We exited 2016 at $400M run rate. This is going to be a billion-dollar business before we blink.
I also every week get an update on availability stats, customer happiness, ship times – and at this point, VxRail is amongst the best in the Dell EMC portfolio – a high watermark. We can always get better – but the stats are great.
A huge “thank you” to the VMware/Dell EMC team behind VxRail – thank you, you folks are awesome!
And… an even bigger “thank you” to our customers and partners who have put their faith in us. We know we can always get better, but work with passion every day to not let you down!
The root of VxRail success is simple. VxRail is designed to be unabashedly 100% VMware aligned.
Along with VxRack SDDC – VxRail is the THE best HCI for customers who have standardized on VMware.
Part of this has been total roadmap alignment. The vSAN roadmap is part of the vSphere roadmap. Both are an integral part of the VxRail roadmap.
Part of this has been “one team, one purpose”. We merged the VMware and Dell EMC teams together with a maniacal focus. Put simply – “be the easiest easy button for customers standardized on VMware”.
Part of this has been the incredible strength of vSAN for VMware customers. vSAN 6.2 crossed a critical capability threshold (more on this later).
Part of this has been an intense focus on the full system from a design, engineering, and support standpoint. Midway through 2017 we were firing on all cylinders re: config/quoting/supply chain. Time for “order to complete and running” got down to weeks. Together with VMware we instituted dedicated joint support personnel. We went through a full Field Change Order (FCO). This is a industrial process to ensure all customers get a critical fix (upgrading to 188.8.131.52 or later).
The team is laser focused. Be the “easy button” for customers who have standardized on VMware.
Yes, there are some customers who are ready for network transformation with NSX. For them, VMware Cloud Foundation and VxRack SDDC are the answer.
There are about 1000x more customers that are not quite there yet – but are ready to make their next server refresh their last SAN refresh. They are among the 500,000+ VMware customers ready to transform their storage by embracing SDS and move to hyper-converged infrastructure appliances.
For them, VxRail has nailed the formula.
So – what’s the detail on the news today?
Answer: The best HCI Appliance for VMware gets even better. VxRail is bigger, and more awesome than ever.
Now that we’ve gotten to a volume cadence of VxRail, VMware and Dell EMC have aligned VxRail releases on u1 milestones going forward.
This means that yes, there will always be a little time-lag between a vSphere/vSAN release.
If you want the latest software, and take the burden of testing/validation yourself – go for it.
Conversely, if you want the easy button – go VxRail. We have hundreds of people that do this all day, every day.
Frankly, I’ve found that customers actually don’t lose time, they gain it. Customers tend to deploy on u1 milestones anyway – but spend months testing, validating, integrating with their systems management, backup, data protection.
When they go the HCI Appliance/System route – they save time/money – they don’t need to have test clusters, and waste their brighest brains on low-level tasks that frankly they shouldn’t do.
People are figuring out where they sit – starting to really internalize – do they REALLY want to DIY HCI (vSphere/vSAN + HCL Server hardware – and own all the glue and maintenance and many other things needed for real use) or do they want a turnkey HCI system. There are very, VERY real differences. There’s a post here that provides the stark contrast between DIY and a system approach – and I note that the observations are applicable at a couple levels – infrastructure, the IaaS, and also at the PaaS/CaaS layers.
Think of the following: we now have 2 major software release trains in flight – and customers will be on both the 4.0 and 4.5 release trains – for a multi-year period.
… With 5 different core variations of platform variations. There is a critical “minimal configuration variability” for an offer to fly, and we’re there on VxRail (and we will get VxRack SDDC to the same point in the coming months).
… And of course, unlike software-only DIY approaches, we have to work through global availiability, supply chain, sparing/depots, heck local-language support with the combined VxRail support team from VMware/Dell EMC.
Think about that. The difference between the DIY world and the Appliance/System world is pretty stark.
If you DIY – you know whose responsibility it is to make sure that all works together, is supported together – all around the world? Yours.
If you go the HCI appliance/system approach – you know who’s responsibility that is? Ours.
If you think DIY somehow helps your business – go for it. vSAN 6.6 helps DIY customers in many ways with VUM integration with firmware, the ability to blink lights on hardware. That’s the tip of the iceberg.
Look deep in your heart. Does DIY really help you? REALLY? If you’re wising up to the fact that you have more important things to do – go the appliance/system route. I’ve been spending a lot of time on this – and we’ve quantified the advantage. It’s north of 30% TCO for the customer. If you want to reflect on DIY or Consumption as right for you, ready this.
There’s a lot more in VxRail 4.5 beyond synchronization with vSphere 6.5u1 – most of which are not an option in the DIY universe because they have to do with system-level manageability. Let’s take a look:
Manageability at scale (critical as the customers base gets bigger and customer deployments gets bigger):
RESTful API for lifecycle management
Dell OpenManage Essentials Support
Batch mode cluster expansion
Migrate from internal to Enterprise ESRS gateway
VxRail Manager support for web proxy
File Services – and you can see us doing some interesting things here….
Unity Virtual Storage Appliance
Isilon SD Edge
Start even smaller: SATA SSD capacity drives for lower all-flash entry-point
Simpler open networking ordering: New Connectrix D-Series (Dell S4048-ON) Switch
More Networking Connectivity Option: Intel X710 (2 port 10GbE and 4 port 10GbE)
And… since an appliance always looks at the hardware and software as one… LCM: BIOS and HBA330 F/W and driver updates
For EVERY HCI – the SDS layer is one of the defining elements. It defines not only VxRail, but VxRail competitors. Now, I want to be very, very clear – the SDS is not the only element (management plane, paths to IaaS, PaaS/CaaS stacks are both also super important). This is an important fact that sometimes the SDS teams themselves forget. But let there be no confusion – when it comes to HCI the SDS is central to:
resilience – if something isn’t resilient, it’s flat out dangerous.
performance – if something is resilient and therefore safe… but doesn’t perform well, it’s still useless.
data services – if something is resilient and performant, it’s safe, and useful – but if it doesn’t support core data services, it’s not competitive and compelling in important use cases.
So – the fact that VxRail is powered by vSAN is a super-power, particularly as vSAN gets stronger and stronger. With vSAN 6.2 and vSphere 6.0u3 we crossed a critical threshold of resilience, performance and data services, and both vSAN and VxRail deployments accelerated enourmously. At that point (mid year 2017) the use cases that could not be supported with vSAN shrunk to a rounding error.
With vSAN 6.6 (and specifically vSphere 6.5u1, and vSAN 6.6.1) – that rounding error of use cases that aren’t a fit are shrinking to near zero.
There is a ton packed in there. Yes, all the usual stuff about perfomance, resilience, and data services – but native data at rest encryption is fundamental, and things like stretched clusters with simultaneous local protection are really cool.
I’d highly recommend reading up on on vSAN 6.6 here:
Small things matter. Speaking as the “where the buck stops” role at Dell EMC for all converged platforms (the “buck stops” on VxRail and VxRack SDDC at a great team led by Gil Shneorson who reports to me), there is a small change that is in effect a huge change. It’s not a feature per se, but will help a lot of customers. Prior to vSAN 6.6 vSAN required multicast networking to be configured. Now, unicast is just fine. Why is this important? The largest root cause of deployment issues with VxRail was network configuration. We built in checks, network prep tools – but in the end, the customer needed to configure their network switches for multicast. No more – a huge simplification!
The response to VxRail as a product has been great – and the response to our utility economic model has been a big accelerant. It’s simple. Pay by appliance, by month. Price drops every year – up to 30% per year. Return any/all appliances as your needs change after 1 year, with no penalty. How awesome is that.
So, what’s next for VxRail? A lot. Here’s what we’re working on next as a joint VMware/Dell EMC team:
New high-speed networking options.
Continued improvements on managebility.
Taking fileservices we support TODAY (Isilon, Unity) and making them more integrated.
HCI isn’t really about HCI – it’s about building blocks for simpler clouds – VxRail plays a critical role in our Cloud offerings from VMware, Pivotal and Dell EMC – and we are way out ahead of our competition here today, but we know we have a long, LONG way to go to be everything we can be. On. The. Case.
Next-generation Data Protection for VMware – there’s a post with amazing new capabilities available now, and also hinting at the direction here.
… and something I think that is going to be VERY important. A simple, easy path for customers to start with VxRail, and move into VxRack SDDC as they get ready to transform their network and adopt NSX.
Most importantly, I want to end this post the way I started. A huge “thank you” to the VMware/Dell EMC team behind VxRail – thank you, you folks are awesome! And… an even bigger “thank you” to our customers and partners who have put their faith in us. We know we can always get better, but work with passion every day to not let you down!
Are you a VxRail customer? How is it going? What can we do better?