The Virtualization Room

Nov 9 2010   8:26PM GMT

The preconfigured stack craze – if IT vendors build it, will users come?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

While vendors and vendor coalitions are putting together preconfigured bundles of storage, networking, virtualization and applications, industry analysts say interest among IT pros in turnkey stacks seems high. But actual sales figures for such products are difficult to pin down, and anecdotal opinions vary widely about their actual popularity.

For example, yesterday, the coalition between VMware, Cisco and EMC (VCE) launched new Vblocks targeting VDI and SAP deployments, but VCE’s senior vice president of solutions Todd Pavone declined to comment on how many customers Vblocks have garnered since they officially began shipping last November.

“There is definitely momentum for standard architectures,” said Gartner Inc. analyst Chris Wolf. Some cloud service providers have found that enterprise customers are willing to pay a premium for a trusted architecture from vendors they know, he said. Stacks are also garnering interest among financial institutions that want to deploy trusted infrastructure quickly.

Still, while the turnkey concept may fly, there’s no guarantee these particular offerings from big vendors will burn up the market. Among the potential use cases for Vblocks for companies that can afford them is a quick-setup test / dev environment. But there are also startups like Kubisys, launched earlier this year, looking to offer turnkey test / dev appliances for about $80,000 MSRP – far lower than the million-dollar price tags on some Vblock bundles. The same is true in the VDI space, though Vblocks may have greater allure for MySAP users struggling with that resource-intensive application.

Since the early days of the VCE alliance, however, there has also been concern among some enterprises that preconfigured bundles will lock them in and constrain their choice of technologies and vendors. And reports from the sales field are lukewarm, indicating growing but moderate interest.

“We are seeing significant interest in VCE and Vblocks, but most of the time it ends up getting broken up in to individual parts (i.e.  an EMC array or a Cisco UCS), unless it is a greenfield opportunity, like a new data center,” wrote one systems integrator in New England. “We do expect to sell two real Vblocks this quarter, though.”

It’s not just VMware’s stack offerings having mixed success in the market, either (at least, from what information we can gather about them) — many of Oracle‘s users, for example, have flatly rejected the company’s attempts to get them to run Oracle apps only on Oracle VM and stacks of the company’s server and storage hardware acquired with Sun.

Yet big vendors, like HP, continue to rack up acquisitions in an effort to build these turnkey stacks, and continue to insist that customers are asking — nay, demanding — that they deliver them. If this is really true, and there’s a huge groundswell of IT managers begging for proprietary turnkey stacks, I haven’t caught sight of it myself yet — nor have I been given any specific revenue or market share numbers that reflect it.

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