From Vblocks to VxRack, the Cisco, EMC, and VMware joint venture — VCE — was one of the first companies with the goal of selling converged cloud infrastructure to enterprises. In 2009, the announcement was called an “unprecedented” deal to make IT infrastructure more flexible, cost-efficient, and virtualized.
Since then, VCE has been through multiple leaders, multiple products, and a shift in ownership. Last week, Dell, which acquired EMC and now owns most of VCE, confirmed that the VCE brand name is gone, absorbed into the company’s Dell EMC arm.
“VCE was a historic accomplishment in 2009 and continued to be a success story in the converged space and was pioneering in its time,” says Jean Bozman, VP and principal analyst with Hurwitz & Associates. “It recognized that enterprises had a very different need than smaller companies because there was so much virtualization starting to happen, and this was a way to get it all in one place.”
Here’s an overview of VCE’s history.
2009: VCE Is Born
Cisco, EMC, and VMware teamed up to launch what started as a coalition called Virtual Computing Environment (VCE). At the time, VCE existed as a virtual organization. Cisco and EMC, with investment from Intel and VMware, introduced a company called Acadia to help speed up customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures in efforts to support VCE.
This gave Cisco an opportunity to sell its Unified Computing System (UCS) server and networking platform to EMC’s customer base. VCE called its private cloud offering Vblock Infrastructure Packages, which integrated server, networking, storage, security, and virtualization.
2010: A Leader From Acadia
Just a couple of months after the VCE coalition was formed, it announced that Cisco board member and Acadia CEO Michael D. Capellas had joined the team to lead all aspects of the coalition.
Capellas was focused on finding more customers and partners for the Vblock virtualized data center packages. Vblock had taken off quickly, and VCE already had 45 partners selling Vblocks at this point. By 2011, Acadia’s business picked up so much that it was combined with VCE to form one company where Capaellas was CEO until 2012.
2012: A CEO From Cisco
VCE’s next CEO would be 19-year Cisco veteran Praveen Akkiraju. At Cisco, he served as senior VP and general manager of Cisco’s Services Routing Technology Group, where he helped with cloud infrastructure.
At VCE, he continued to help with serve growing customer demand for Vblocks.
2014: Cisco Steps Away
By 2014, EMC and Cisco were increasingly becoming competitors. The two companies started to overlap in software-defined networking (SDN), where Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and VMware’s NSX seemed to clash. As data center hardware continued to converge, the overlap only increased.
So it was no surprise when VCE officially became an EMC owned company, with Cisco still holding a 10 percent stake but no longer a joint-venture partner. The stated reason for the change was that VCE needed clear direction and not mixed instructions from both Cisco and EMC.
2015: VCE Adopts NSX
Following Cisco’s pullback, VCE announced that VMware’s NSX would be available in a new offering called VxBlock. With VxBlock, customers were given the option of purchasing VCE converged infrastructure with Cisco’s ACI or VMware’s NSX.
This was important because when Cisco’s ACI was introduced in 2013, it was the default SDN option for Vblocks, and although customers could use NSX with Vblocks, it had to be on top of an ACI-based fabric.
January 2016: President Chad
To kick off the new year, EMC executive Chad Sakac was named the new president of VCE as it formally morphed into a fully-owned EMC company and part of EMC’s Converged Platforms Division. Akkiraju continued to work on the EMC side of the business.
Cisco would eventually fill its converged infrastructure void with its UCS M-series, which allowed users to vary the proportion of storage and computing in a system.
December 2016: VCE No More
VxRack was originally a brand name used by VCE. The vce.com URL is now occupied by a Dell EMC page, and Dell confirmed that VCE brand name has been retired; the business is now called the Dell EMC Converged Platforms and Solutions Division.