I had an “Ah Hah” experience last week when being briefed by VCE, a fascinatingly unique enterprise solutions provider, on some of their coming offerings. You see they have one of the fastest growth rates in their side of the market, which represents the largest of vendors.
This is actually pretty hard to explain because they are a relatively new company, in what is a very conservative segment. Not only are these companies the largest in the world, the systems VCE sells are all mission critical in scope. So, effectively, for IT these are “bet the company” decisions. And not only is VCE showing impressive growth, much of it is coming from existing customers.
Now what really makes this amazing is that VCE doesn’t really build their own products, they bundle a solution from components from VMware, EMC, and Cisco. This is a best of breed approach, which typically looks good on paper but is a nightmare to implement because vendors typically aren’t coordinated.
This leads to a level of complexity that, typically, overwhelms the value. But that is clearly not happening here and I found out why. It’s process.
VCE isn’t large or powerful enough to dictate policy to any of the major partners, so unlike an integrated vendor, they aren’t in a great position to get the firms that comprise them to cooperate. Their process approaches the problem in a very different way. In effect they become a “super customer,” with a priority contact with the various CEOs to resolve problems.
In effect, they take the best of what each of these vendors comes up with, install and test it at scale, and then comes up with configurations that work. This is not trivial and often involves going back to the vendors with problems that need correcting, or they create fixes they can assure, before they have a configuration they can certify.
Once this is set they have what amounts to a best of breed solution that has been tested at scale to function simply. This means the hardware and software is at a known and certified level before they move on.
Unlike a regular large company that might try to implement technology from EMC, VMware, or Cisco against what may be a highly varied environment – with different levels of software and hardware – VCE always takes the deployment to this known level as part of their implementation and that is how they can assure reliable implementation times in a month for systems. This is in contrast to your typical execution time, which can run to years.
The time savings is that this process, which includes testing customer loads, is quick because most of the testing that IT would typically have to do before cutting over the system is done before the system is shipped and that allows it to go in and into production in a very short period of time.
What makes this fascinating to me is I don’t know any other vendor that does this as aggressively. Most will come in and try to add to an environment before assuring the patch levels or product levels, which is why so many implementations from more tightly integrated vendors run into so many problems. Each deployment is very different and includes a massive amount of learning on the job.
For VCE, because they assure the configuration before they start, they come in with full knowledge of what they are getting into and they have largely learned off their own nickel and not yours.
Wrapping Up: How It Should be Done
Whether you buy a VCE solution or not, I really recommend you listen to their process on how they approach the massive deployments they do to ensure they go in quickly and without problems. The process is where the value is and it should form a best practice even if you choose to do it yourself or use another vendor.
If you can start with a configuration known to work your implementation and operation problems should be vastly lower than normal. And you’ll understand, as I found out, why this very unique partnership has been so incredibly successful.