Over the course of a busy February 2016, we introduced both Virtual SAN 6.2, with a slew of new data efficiency and enhanced management features, and the next generation of options for consuming the VMware Hyper-Converged Software stack (HCS): The extended Virtual SAN Ready Node program and the EMC VCE VxRail appliance. The extended Virtual SAN Ready Node program will now allow our OEM partners to pre-install VMware HCS on their Ready Nodes and optionally offer software licensing and unified support for the combined products. Enabling a broad and deep range of consumption options for VMware HCS is a fundamental part of our strategy, but the choices run the risk of being confusing. As we move into a new month, this post takes a step back to provide more background on our strategy and additional insight into the various consumption options.


Why Provide Various Consumption Options?

Our strategy is shaped by our market experience. The 3,000 customers we announced in our February earnings release vary considerably in size and vertical industry, and their vendor and product preferences also vary: some value the tight integration and unified procurement and support provided by an appliance vendor, while others prefer to separate acquisition and support of hardware and software from their respective preferred vendors. Their deployments also vary considerably. VMware HCS runs everything from test and development environments to VDI and tier 1 mission-critical applications, not to mention, a variety of industries including, North Sea oil rigs to distributed production sites in manufacturing, retail, and Healthcare. For these reasons, hardware configurations are accordingly widely divergent.

We have every expectation that this combination of customer preferences and technical requirements will only continue to diversify as the HCI market continues its rapid expansion. To be a leading provider – and we have every intention of remaining THE leading provider – demands a correspondingly diverse range of deployment options.

To that end, we enable two categories of consumption options, as shown below:


The first of these, positioned squarely on the “Speed” end of the customer preference spectrum, is VCE VxRail, the federation-exclusive HCI appliance (HCIA). Jointly engineered by VMware and EMC, the VxRail appliance family takes full advantage of VMware HCS capabilities and provides additional hardware and lifecycle management features and rich EMC data services, delivered in a turnkey appliance with integrated support. The VCE VxRail Manager automates many configuration and management tasks and leverages VMware Log Insight to deliver up-to-the-minute monitoring of applications, VMs, and appliances. EMC mission-critical data services providing backup, replication, and cloud tiering capabilities are also included.

VxRail is available in multiple hardware configurations from EMC and EMC channel partners. For those many HCI buyers who prefer the streamlined procurement, deployment, and support model of an appliance, VxRail – especially with EMC’s technology value add, and sold and supported by the world’s largest storage company – is a compelling proposition. More information on VxRail can be found on the EMC Website.


The second category of consumption options is positioned on the “Flexibility” end of the preference spectrum, where choice of both hardware vendor and configuration are key selection criteria. To address these needs, we initially created the Virtual SAN Ready Node program under which we partner with many of the leading server manufacturers – 13 as of this writing – to certify their hardware platforms for VMware HCS.

Across this large ecosystem, the Virtual SAN Ready Node program delivers a very broad set of platform choices, as documented in the VMware Compatibility Guide. There are 7 Virtual SAN Ready Node default profiles, called Series, specifying increasing levels of compute and storage capacity in both hybrid and all-flash storage configurations. Across those profiles, our partners currently have 129 certified Virtual SAN Ready Node models. The easiest way to wade through all this detail is the new Virtual SAN Ready Node Configurator. And note that these configurations can be further customized as project needs dictate, and as customers choose to ‘engineer their own’ configurations, leveraging the Certified Components listed on the VMware Compatibility Guide.


We will continue to invest heavily with our OEM partners to increase the number and range of certified VSAN Ready Node platforms.


As shown above, Fujitsu, Hitachi Data System, and Super Micro have publicly announced support for this program, and we expect other OEM partners to offer these extended Virtual SAN Ready Nodes in future. These extensions further streamline procurement, deployment, and support for customers deploying VMware HCS atop VSAN Ready Nodes, making it an even more attractive model for customers whose preferences fall at the “Flexibility” end of the spectrum.


All this talk of next generation consumption options naturally raises questions about EVO:RAIL, which, together with the continuing VSAN Ready Node program, comprised the prior generation of VMware HCS consumption options. EVO:RAIL is a HCIA offering, combining software, hardware, and support, and offered exclusively by Qualified EVO Partners (QEPs), who include many of the Ready Node OEMs. The latest release of EVO:RAIL, 2.0, was announced in December 2015 and supports Virtual SAN 6.1. EVO:RAIL continues to be sold and supported by a number of the QEPs, but the newly-extended Virtual SAN Ready Node program allows our partners much more flexibility in creating differentiated VMware HCS-based offerings, and many of the QEPs are in the process of transitioning to these extended Ready Node offerings.

More information on the current state of VSAN Ready Node offerings can be obtained from your VMware sales resource, channel partner, or OEM/QEP.


With this broad set of consumption options, we believe we have the right combination of delivery model, vendor, and configuration to suit any VMware HCS deployment. We are very excited to see how customer needs and preferences will continue to evolve.