EMC's all-in-one compute appliance comes with an app store

Users will be able to download third-party tools to the converged appliance for midsized enterprises

EMC's VSPEX Blue all-in-one appliance for medium-sized enterprises

EMC's VSPEX Blue all-in-one appliance for medium-sized enterprises

Converged infrastructure equipment is designed for ease of use, and EMC's latest product emulates the easiest tech toys around by including an app store.

You won't be able to download games or photo apps for the VSPEX Blue, but a range of applications will be offered for the integrated compute-storage-networking system, including data backup and recovery.

The VSPEX Blue is based on VMware's EVO:Rail platform, a software-only appliance that VMware leaves to partner companies to implement in hardware systems. Dell, Super Micro and other vendors already sell EVO:Rail systems. Like the high-end Vblock platforms that VMware builds in its VCE partnership with EMC and Cisco, these systems include all the components of enterprise IT infrastructure in one box, but they are designed for smaller deployments and not customized at the factory.

Converged systems are designed to make it easier to deploy more IT capacity as needs rapidly change. They can save IT shops the time and effort of planning, configuring and testing a variety of new hardware and software every time demand for capacity grows.

A major selling point of VSPEX Blue is that you can switch it on and start provisioning virtual machines in less than 15 minutes, according to EMC. There are just two choices to make when buying a box: 128GB or 192GB of memory, and copper or fiber network interfaces. Each 2U appliance comes with four server blades and 14.4TB of storage and is designed to run about 100 virtual machines or 250 virtual desktops. The platform can scale out to a maximum of four systems.

But ease of purchase and setup is the calling card of all EVO:Rail systems. The key thing that will set EMC's appliance apart from others is the VSPEX Blue Market, said Chad Dunn, senior director of VSPEX operations. It lets IT departments customize the appliance while not having to make a series of choices ahead of time, the typical process for Vblocks and larger EMC VSPEX systems.

"This is much more of a consumer-like mode," Dunn said. VSPEX Blue Market is no iTunes Apple Store with 1 million-plus apps, though. "It'll take us a while to get there. Maybe never," he said.

The VSPEX Blue Market will offer just three applications when the systems start shipping on Feb. 17. EMC CloudArray Gateway lets enterprises turn public cloud storage into an extra tier of capacity, EMC RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines is designed to protect against application outages, and VMware vSphere Data Protection Advanced provides disk-based backup and recovery.

Future offerings could include applications such as virus-scanning tools or software for purchasing capacity from public Cloud services, Dunn said. They may come from third parties, but all will be validated by EMC.

All applications in the store will be available free, either for trial periods or for a maximum of 15 VMs, with paid versions available for broader use.

In addition to the VSPEX Blue Market, EMC will beef up the systems with its own management software and EMC Secure Remote Support, which can include remote system monitoring by EMC to detect and address possible failures before they happen, Dunn said.

The VSPEX Blue will be sold only through certain channel partners, who will determine prices, he said. However, the systems will be comparable in price to other EVO:Rail products, Dunn said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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