VMware Evo Rail Offers Hyper-Converged Infrastructure On The Go

VMware's hyper-converged appliance, EVO Rail, got off to a slow start but now comes without the added vSphere pricing.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

September 3, 2015

3 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: VMware)</p>

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VMware is in the hardware appliance business with its EVO Rail product, offering customers who don't want to assemble the parts themselves an integrated vSphere virtualization, storage, and networking package.

An EVO Rail, a rack-mount unit with four servers, comes preloaded with VMware's vSphere virtualization life cycle management, VMware's Virtual SAN, and VMware NSX networking. It's what's known as hyper-converged infrastructure, a dense form of computing that comes preassembled and preconfigured, ready to plug in and start running virtual machines.

However, not everybody wants to buy their hardware from VMware.

Actually VMware doesn't sell EVO Rail, its larger successors, EVO Rack, or the latest iteration EVO Software-Defined Data Center (EVO SDDC or as many racks as you want). There's no listing of an EVO Rail on the VMware price list. Rather, Dell, Qanta, EMC, or VCE build the 2u hardware units, load them with preconfigured VMware software, and sell directly to customers.

On the eve of VMworld The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story claiming VMware was having trouble keeping hardware partners to build the appliance.

"In July, VMware suffered a setback when Hewlett-Packard dropped out of an October agreement to bundle VMware's Evo Rail technology with an HP system," according to the Chronicle.

"We thought it was very interesting and well-intentioned, but when we look back a year later, there was just no real market traction," Joe Skorupa, a data center convergence analyst with Gartner told the paper.

However, Raghu Raghuram, executive vice president for the Software Defined Data Center unit, said in an interview that that report is incorrect.

"HP was never a partner for this. We are working with them on a number of projects and at some future date, we expect this will be one of their products as well. Right now, neither of us has done the work to get this done," Raghuram said in an interview at VMworld.

"We don't build or ship any hardware, but we work with customers to get a pre-integrated appliance that's shipped to them by the manufacturer."

Customers, he said, "want to get out of assembling infrastructure themselves" and the idea of a VMware specified rack unit has traction at some customer sites.

Still, VMware conceived of EVO Rail going into small branches, business units, or remote offices, "places where vSphere wasn't." VSphere is typically creating and deploying virtual machines in a large virtualized section of the enterprise data center. For that reason, VMware included the price of vSphere in the EVO Rail price, raising it by $3,495 per CPU or $27,960 per unit, he said.

[Want to learn more about hyper-converged infrastructure? See Private Clouds Come Down To Earth.]

But customers buying EVO Rail used it as a substitute for other server purchases in the data center, and frequently they already had vSphere in place. That made the built-in vSphere pricing an inflationary factor and most likely drove prospects away, he concedes.

"So were correcting our strategy based on the learnings were having." Once the vSphere pricing is removed for eight CPUs, "there's a high level of interest."

EVO Rail was followed by a full-rack version and EVO SDDC, which offer as many racks of EVO Rack as you want. In addition, at this year's VMworld, a management software component, EVO SDDC Manager, was added to link and coordinate EVO Racks in an SDDC layout. Manager coordinated the traffic of the top-of-rack leaf and spine switches to tie the units together into a whole.

"Customers have to get comfortable with VSAN and NSX," two new technologies from VMware that are key to EVO appliances. Most customers are still in the experimental stage with them, Raghuram said. Once they are standard parts of the virtualized data center, EVO Rail and its successor will be a way to add infrastructure without much of the burden of do-it-yourself integration.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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