EMC/Cisco/VMware vBlock – OpEx Savings Courtesy of Ionix

In EMC/Cisco/VMware vBlock – an Economist’s Perspective, we made the following fundamental points:

  1. EMC, Cisco and VMware are not going to sell their hardware and software for less when their components are part of a vBlock bundle then when they are sold ala carte to VAR’s and customers.
  2. However, EMC and Cisco are saying that vBlocks will be less expensive to purchase than competing alternatives
  3. This will be true because Acadia will pre-integrate the EMC, Cisco and VMware components for less cost to the customer (due to having a leveraged, scalable and repeatable process for doing so) than the typical VMware VAR will be able to deliver.
  4. Therefore the “cheaper price” comes from driving down some of the services costs associated with implementing vBlocks at the expense of the VMware VAR channel.

In July of this year, EMC announced a new software division called Ionix. Upon announcement, Ionix announced the following capabilities:

  • EMC Ionix for Service Discovery and Mapping: Provides the visibility into complex applications and their physical and virtual dependencies – supporting and enabling Configuration Management Database (CMDB)/Configuration Management System (CMS) population, change management, and application troubleshooting, and helping customers meet the challenges of business continuity and site recovery across the physical and virtual infrastructure.  The solution also enables customers to accurately map servers and applications prior to data center moves, consolidations, and virtualization migrations.
  • EMC Ionix for IT Operations Intelligence: Provides automated root-cause and impact analysis and monitors services across both physical and virtual environments. The solution also enables customers to visualize the relationships between Virtual Machines (VMs), the VMware ESX Servers they reside on and the network. Customers can integrate automated root cause analytics into their service desk to open trouble tickets based on pinpointed problems found through the EMC Ionix patented codebook correlation technology for enhanced incident and problem management.
  • EMC Ionix for Data Center Automation and Compliance: Enables customers to scale their virtualized data center without increasing staff.  Through strong compliance management solutions across the IT infrastructure – including servers, storage, application dependencies and networks – customers can assess configuration compliance against regulatory, best-practices, and internal governance policies including VMware vSphere(tm) 4 deployment guidelines. Customers can then remediate compliance violations across physical and virtual infrastructures.  Through additional integrations with EMC Ionix for IT Operations Intelligence, customers can view change events from the operations topology map and enable incident and problem processes to leverage change and configuration processes.
  • EMC Ionix for Service Management: Enables customers to rapidly deploy scalable and cost-effective IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) service management.  This solution highlights two key integrations across the portfolio – integration with CMDBs and workflow automation.  Customers can build a federated CMDB that is auto-populated with physical and virtual CIs and dependencies.

Prior to the announcement and subsequent to the announcement of Ionix, EMC has been on an absolute tear acquiring companies that have components that will be combined into the new Ionix management stack. These announcements have included the following acquisitions:

  • Back in 2007 EMC announced the acquisition of Voyence, a provider of network configuration and change management solutions.
  • In May 2009 the acquisition of ConfigureSoft. At the time of the acquisition it was not clear what EMC’s intent was for this capability. Once Ionix got announced it became clear that Coniguresoft was to become the configuration management technology within the Ionix management stack.
  • In August 2009 EMC announced the acquisition of Fastscale Technology. Now Fastscale was not exactly well known at the time, but the company has some really valuable technology. Fastscale is able to determine exactly what parts of the OS are needed by each application, and to then provision only those parts (a Just Enough OS strategy). This saves on memory and since memory tends to be the constraint in VM guest density on a host, promises to significantly increase guest density, drive down costs, and increase the ROI from virtualization.
  • At the same time, EMC announced that it would resell VMware AppSpeed, providing Ionix a critical applications performance management capability which feeds into its service management story.

Claimed OpEx Savings from vBlocks

On his blog, Chad Sakac claims that vBlocks will deliver the following OPEX savings to customers:

  • 30% increase in server utilization (through pushing vSphere 4 further, and denser memory configurations)
  • 80% faster dynamic provisioning of storage and server infrastructure (through EMC Ionix UIM, coupled with template-oriented provisioning models with Cisco, VMware, and EMC)
  • 40% cost reduction in cabling (fibre / patch cords etc.) and associated labor (through extensive use of 10GbE)
  • 50% increase in server density
  • 200% increase in VM density
  • Day to day task automation
  • 30% less power consumption
  • Minimum of 72 VMs per KW

vBlock and Ionix UIM

When EMC and Cisco announced the vBlocks on November 3rd of this year, EMC in response to a question about management replied that “customers will be given the opportunity to purchase the management software for vBlocks from EMC”. It is now clear that it is Ionix that will provide customers with this opportunity, with the first product being Ionix UIM which is directly derived from the VoyenceControl technology. As a matter of fact if you look at the screen shot below you will see that the product name has not even been changed yet from VoyenceControl to Ionix UIM.


Irrespective of product naming legacy, it is clear that Ionix UIM brings some important new capabilities to the table for vBlocks. What is important here is the degree to which management of CPU, memory, network and storage for the vBlocks have been integrated into one management product. UIM provides the following capablities:

  • Unified vBlock element management
  • Management of multiple vBlocks from one management console
  • Policy-based configuration and change management
  • Service profile catalog that allows combinations of network, compute and storage to be delivered as offerings to customers
  • Automated infrastructure deployment with bare metal provisioining
  • Deep visibility with revision history
  • Integration with third-party enterprise management tools

The first release of UIM (rumored to ship in December) focuses upon unified provisioning, configuration, and change control for Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus, and MDS devices, all of which are obviously part of vBlocks. It is reasonable to speculate the future versions of UIM will provide these capabilities for the storage components that EMC is contributing to vBlocks. According to Chak Sakac on his Virtual Geek blog, “the next version, targeted for early 2010, will extend the capabilities (into the actual storage devices themselves) and use cases (push button site configuration against mass template for things like reconfig for disaster recovery).   That early 2010 UIM release manages compute + network + storage as an integrated package.”

Ionix Data Center Insight

In September 2009 EMC announced Ionix Data Center Insight. Data Center Insight provides the following capabilities:

  • Automatically populate both EMC and third-party CMDBs with best-practices configuration items (CIs) and allows customization to define customer-specific CIs
  • Build a single, reconciled view of the truth about the IT environment
  • Visualize application and service dependencies across the data center — including applications, servers, networks, storage — both physical and virtual
  • Leverage the solution as a critical component of a federated and modular CMS to achieve a single, accurate and current view of the IT environment, so those responsible for configuration management can understand — across multiple domains — the resources underpinning business services

When DCI was first announced it did not have specific features for Cisco UCS, nor for the vBlocks announced last week. But Chad Sakac has said on his blog that a UCS module will be added to DCI in December. You can see a very nice high resolution demonstration online.


Summary Analysis

It is clear the EMC’s new Ionix group is using the vBlocks as a wedge to deliver value and create a position for Ionix the business of managing virtualized systems. The early offerings are impressive for their ability to manage across the hardware types which comprise vBlocks. It is also clear that Ionix does not intend to be a “VMware only” management software player. The Ionix strategy is clearly designed to turn EMC into the 5th major management software vendor (along with CA, IBM/Tivoli, HP and BMC) with the transition from physical systems to virtual systems as the lever that opens the door for a new vendor to come into the space. Ionix will also have a huge advantage over other management software vendors due to the Fastscale technology. The Fastscale technology alone could let many enterprises double guest density which is the kind of ROI that management software is typically unable to deliver. However, on a forward going basis, enterprises need to carefully weigh the following factors when making these choices:

  • There are certain to be overlaps in functionality between EMC/Ionix management solutions and VMware management solutions over time. Ionix is clearly going to focus on adding value to EMC hardware and to vBlocks in a way that VMware will not. VMware on the other hand will clearly focus upon management solutions built on top of its hypervisor that are hardware vendor agnostic. Some difficult choices for enterprises lie ahead as these two management stacks start to complete with each other.
  • The question of a management stack from a hardware vendor (EMC) or a management stack unique to a hypervisor (VMware) vs. one from an independent company that has no hardware or hypervisor ties (like Embotics, Hyper9, Surgient,  newScale, Dynamic Ops, or Fortisphere) will need to continue to be evaluated. Clearly the independent vendors are not going to be first to market with the kind of vBlock integration that Ionix is offering. However since the independent vendors are not owned by a hardware or software platform company, they will also be much more even handed with their hardware and software platform support.
  • It will be interesting to see how Ionix is able to take its product assets and create management offerings that ensure service levels for virtualized workloads. The existing SMARTs technology plus the licensed AppSpeed technology put Ionix in a position to make some headway on this front. VMware is also determined to solve this problem as it stands in the way of allowing enterprises to virtualize Tier 1 applications that require this level of service level management. Fortisphere has also just announced a focus upon this problem with it Virtual Service Management positioning. Finally, Platform Computing a market leader for this type of functionality in the high performance computing space has announced Platform ISF targeted at addressing this problem in private clouds.
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