Finding Uniformity Near Infinity

Infinite VariablesAs I travel around the world and meet customers, their most common question about our technology strategy is regarding our commitment to the standards that define Vblock™ Systems. I describe this as a framework of standards that VCE uses to enable modular assembly, certify production operability and a predictable performance outcome for the life of the system’s deployment. The following post is a brief description of our journey in creating this framework while maintaining highly adaptable characteristics and enabling a broad spectrum of customer use cases.

Today’s information technology products are developed with numerous features and innovations designed to enable those products to adapt to a variety of operational needs. VCE investor companies Cisco, EMC and VMware build the products VCE uses to manufacture Vblock™ Systems. VCE engineering assembles these products in various prototype standards, evaluating which configuration outcomes will sustain performance, scale and availability over the life of a customer’s investment, ultimately contributing to the framework of our system standards.

At VCE we initially documented an architecture based on the premise that customers would find significant value in our engineering teams defining a prescription for how to choose these technology options and the many variations of their combinations with other investor technologies to meet their application requirements. The document was produced by VCE with partner and investor services teams interpreting the document and customer requirements for the purpose of bringing the architecture to a production state. The customer adoption of the architecture we prescribed accelerated and we immediately saw a new challenge emerge. The infinite number of variables produced by product options and variations on how each services organization could interpret and then combine the products to support the customer requirements produced configuration variations that we concluded were infinitely complex to manage and support. More importantly, this was information technology the old way, we weren’t transforming technology consumption and it’s operational experience.  A new approach afforded us the opportunity to materially change the total cost of ownership of data center investments with our investor technologies.

The approach of providing a prescription or reference in how to assemble an architecture is common throughout the IT industry, it’s the way it has always been done. The challenge with the old approach is that it requires the person interpreting the prescription to understand the relationships and associated dependencies of a technology or feature decision within the architectures implementation. Failure to understand these dependencies produces configuration outcomes that the prescription cannot accommodate and future updates to technologies or features may require complex changes to realize their benefit.

As organizations look to combine technologies in support of their application needs, the infinite possibilities of combination produce outcomes that can directly affect an architecture’s performance, scale and availability. Building our product, the Vblock™ System, forced engineers to analyze the relationship between investor product options and the potential combinations of those options. This process was similar to how a scientist might have begun to map elements in the first versions of the periodic table. Our engineering found that a relatively fixed set of variables in product options could produce a highly robust series of configuration outcomes. More interesting was that understanding these variables allowed us to predictively understand how the combined infrastructure would perform. Performance is often associated with how fast something can operate with a fixed capacity but our performance data also accounted for the relationship between performance and capacity.

This engineering effort drew us to a very interesting conclusion about the characteristics of infinity. Infinity is often associated with a large number but in truth, infinity refers to something without any limit.
When designing an infrastructure with no standardization of technology or features one outcome can be an infrastructure that cannot scale or perform while another infrastructure built with the same lack of standardization can be highly complex and operationally impossible to support.

Studying all feasible combinations of technologies identified patterns of uniformity amid what once was considered infinite complexity. The outcome for VCE was producing a series of Vblock™ Systems based on a framework of adaptable standards. Many customers hear of these standards and initially assume that this framework of standards could not possibly adapt to the unique needs of their application environment. Those same customers are uniquely surprised at how powerfully flexible the framework of standards is and how well that framework supports the customizations necessary for those different environments. A piece of interesting trivia that I often share with customers technically curious about the Vblock™ System configuration options is that today we presently support over 25 Million different configuration outcomes in the Vblock™ Systems Portfolio. This quantity of configuration outcomes for Vblock™ Systems often surprises customers. What surprises customers even more is that amid all of those options of configuration with VCE they now have an ability to define their configuration standard and repeat that implementation in every facility around the world. While they have used this framework of standards to implement their Vblock™ System, every other VCE customer in the world is based on the same framework of standards providing volumes of operational data for VCE to continually improve the Vblock™ System standards and transform operational experiences for all customers . VCE has changed the landscape of modern information technology, enabling a customer experience that is unmatched by anyone in the industry.

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