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Inside Acadia: the Cisco, EMC, VMware love child explained

A chip of the old vBlocks

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Presumably, it costs more to put a meal together a la carte than to buy off the prix fix menu, but it is more profitable for EMC and Cisco if customers go prix fix.

Time will tell if this pans out, but the idea of integrated systems is certainly one is catching on. Oracle claims to be buying Sun Microsystems for this reason, and IBM and Hewlett Packard have been selling integrated stacks with most of the parts for decades. That said, HP is still missing a database of its own while the time to buy Oracle has long-since passed.

When the rumors were going around that Cisco and EMC were cooking up some kind of partnership relating to data center infrastructure, the word on the street was that a joint venture would be set up with its own chief executive officer. This indeed turns out to be true, but that joint venture, which is called Acadia, is not going to be the "one throat to choke" for the Vblocks, as many of us suspected.

"Acadia is a medium to build, operate, and transfer," explains Cisco vice president of business development Manjula Talreja.

So Acadia can be thought of as a tactical services organization that can be engaged by Vblock buyers to assess how to get the virtual infrastructure up and running and supporting work on private or public clouds, with a company or its service provider taking it from there. "An Acadia engagement will always end in a transfer," says Talreja.

Acadia, which is staffed with 130 people from EMC, Cisco, and VMware and that has money kicked in from those three companies as well as chip maker Intel, is fairly limited in its functions.

It is not for sales and support - those jobs will be done by Cisco and EMC while they are still working out the details of their combined Solution Support Team, or SST. This will consist of hundreds of employees at the three companies, to make the engagement to buy and support Vblocks as seamless as possible for three separate companies. A search is also on for a CEO for the Acadia joint venture, which will be operational in early January 2010.

On the announcement call, Tucci was pretty vague about the pricing for the Vblock infrastructure, saying it will cost anywhere from the low hundreds of thousands to multiple millions of dollars for the configurations.

Todd Pavone, EMC's vice president of global solutions, was able to provide a little more detail about the Vblock configurations, what customers they are aimed at, and more specific prices.

The entry Vblock 0 configuration, which is not shipping until the end of 2009 or early 2010, is intended for small and medium businesses with modest server and storage needs, branch offices of larger businesses, and development and test environments.

This Vblock 0 setup will be based on Cisco's C-Series rack servers and is intended to support from 300 to 800 virtual machines. The exact hardware configuration is yet to be determined, says Pavone.

This Vblock includes the vSphere 4.0 software - with the ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor - from VMware, the Nexus 1000V virtual switch from Cisco that runs inside an ESX Server VM, and EMC's Celerra storage arrays. This configuration is expected to cost in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a complete setup.

The midrange Vblock 1 setup is intended to support from 800 to 3,000 virtual machines. It is based on the B-Series blade servers that are part of the California Unified Computing System.

The Vblock 1 configuration can have from two to four UCS chassis and from 16 to 32 blades, plus the requisite fabric extenders and converged switches. EMC is tossing in Clariion CX4-480 disk arrays, with capacities ranging from 45Tb to 90Tb. Pricing will range from $1m to $2.8m.

The high end Vblock 2 configuration basically doubles up the California configuration to between four and eight chassis - that's 32 to 64 blades - and adds in EMC's top-end Symmetrix V-Max arrays in capacities ranging from 300Tb to 400Tb. This setup is intended to support 3,000 to 6,00 virtual machines and will carry a price that starts at around $6m.

EMC and Cisco will take orders for the Vblock 1 and Vblock 2 configurations now. ®

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