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Cisco-EMC Arcadia experiences integrator-friendly re-birth

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It's official. The Acadia partnership formed by server wannabe and networking giant Cisco Systems and storage array maker EMC and its virtualization minion, VMware, is now known as the Virtual Computing Environment Company - VCE for short. And it is getting out of the services business and sticking to certification and support of integrated Vblock stacks.

Under the original partnership deal set up by the two-and-a-half companies in November 2009, the three IT players put resources into an independent company, then called the VCE Coalition, to sell a prix fixe menu of preconfigured systems stacks intended to support virtualized x64 workloads.

The mix includes Cisco's California blade and rack servers and Nexus and MDS switches, EMC's Symmetrix or Clariion arrays and management tools, and VMware's hypervisor and management tools, all preconfigured and available as reference architectures for companies to deploy in one fell swoop.

A separate organization, bearing the codename of the partnership project, was called Acadia. This organization was designed to build, operate, and then transfer control of these stacks, called Vblocks, to corporate customers, service providers, or whoever else wanted to buy one.

So Acadia built a Vblock for you and the VCE Coalition provided the one throat to choke for that Vblock once you had it running in your shop, giving you the illusion that it all came from one vendor.

Under that agreement, Acadia started out with 130 people from EMC, Cisco, and VMware as well as funds from these three companies and server chip partner Intel and it was basically acting as a systems integrator.

Sales and support was done jointly by Cisco and EMC through something called the Solution Support Team, which was supposed to consist of hundreds of employees from the three companies to support the three different versions of the Vblocks that the partners cooked up. You can go here for details on the Vblock configurations.

On Thursday, though, the Acadia organization was killed by the companies. Sources tell El Reg that is because the systems integrators downstream were making a fuss about Cisco and EMC muscling in on their system integration turf.

The official statement from VCE says the Acadia and VCE Coalition organizations were merged together to provide product integration and development, pre-sales, and support under one roof, but the managed service delivery that the Acadia part was responsible for in now null and void.

The word on the street is that VCE has moved away from providing reference architectures that Acadia then put together like any other system integrator - those original Vblock0, Vblock1, and Vblock2 configurations were not a single SKU you could buy, apparently - to actually making the configurations and giving them a single SKU.

VCE is manufacturing the Vblocks in factories in Franklin, Massachusetts, and Cork, Ireland. In addition to making the Vblocks, VCE is now providing a two-year roadmap for products - not just a current reference architecture and a hope for a future product - and is offering a service called Evergreen. This will allow customers to upgrade server, networking, or storage components of the Vblock independently as each vendor makes enhancements to its wares and they get certified in the Vblock configurations.

Oddly enough, VCE does not have a sales force of its own, but rather uses the sales forces of Cisco, EMC, and VMware to do its deals as well as that of its downstream distie partner, Avnet. VCE said it has more than 120 partners peddling Vblocks in 29 countries, and that presumably includes Avnet and all of its downstream partners.

VCE is still funded by the four companies in the partnership and does not add any markup or take any margin to support its operations. So in a sense, it is really just an outsource marketing and support team for an integrated product that does, in fact, compete with system integrators.

But that, of course, is the whole point of integrated systems: to drive system integrators out of business. Now, partners will get Vblock stacks pre-fabbed and install them for customers and they will be able to charge for the services that will be needed to move applications over to them and to learn how to use the vSphere, Ionix, and UCS Manager tools that control a Vblock.

VCE also said it has more than 100 customers, up from 65 in early December. Michael Capellas, the chief executive officer at VCE who used to run Compaq, said a month ago that the average Vblock deal was $2.5m. Capellas added that the coalition was seeing a month-to-month growth rate of 40 per cent and had a pipeline of prospective clients and proof-of-concept buyers who could upgrade that stood at $1.2bn as of then.

El Reg estimated back then that the those 65 customers generated around $162.5m in sales, and that was probably around 3,000 blade servers and maybe 280,000 virtual machines. Add another $100m, 1,850 servers, and 173,000 virtual machines to the VCE base as of today. ®

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