4 Facts: Chad Sakac sets the Record Straight on VCE and Vblock

by David Davis on November 24, 2010

On November 24, 2010 I observed Chad Sakac (@sakacc), VP of VMware’s Technology Alliance at EMC have a very interesting Twitter conversation with “the competition” about the difference between the VCE Vblock and a “reference architecture”. I’ll summarize my take on this below but first, you should read what Chad had to say (in a more read-able format than a Twitter time line):

A series of FACT, which stand on their own, and I make no 3rd party comparisons.

Fact 1) VCE doesn’t compete with the channel. Channel can procure Vblocks from VCE as a single order, simplifying things.

Fact 2) Some customers require integrated infrastructure to have end-to-end single support. One reason for the VCE JV was that this was impossible in a multi-party model, even with good “first call handling + joint escalation”. Those customers indicated that for VCE to compete with HP and IBM, they demanded it.

Fact 3) Vblocks have a simple single tool for configuration and quoting. This BOM tool is available to VCE channel partners – very simple.

Fact 4) A reference architecture = a receipe on assembling component ingredients, and has great flexibility. A product has a narrower set of choices, but comes off a manufacturing line, from a vendor. You can have a V + C + E reference architecture. There are many reference architectures – all valid and good. Some customers demand that integrated infrastructure is a product to me, a product has a single product manager, has a defined single product roadmap, has a manufacturer, & has a lifecycle. Vblock is not a reference architecture, it is a product. There is an important distinction. Some customers want a reference architectures and some want products. Both are valid choices, but they are different choices.

OK – so, there you have it. 4 fact based points. Simple, and accurate. And given without a SINGLE negative comparison.

My Take…

My take on this, as an independent blogger, is that VCE and Vblocks are sometimes misunderstood by customers and “the competition” alike (or perhaps “the competition” really does understand it but just likes to spread misinformation in order to confuse us). Many people think that a Vblock is some big expensive marketing ploy to stick a bunch of hardware together and sell it under a fancy name. There is a lot more to it than that.

I’ll be honest, I like the VCE and Vblock concept. It’s very innovative. I’ve been an end user before and have dealt with vendor finger pointing. With VCE’s Vblock, you should be able to eliminate most of that. You’ll have one point for support for server hardware, network, storage, and server OS (vSphere, this case). Better yet, that one organization ensures that that “block” will perform as advertised. Sounds good.

Also, you can purchase this “datacenter in a box” (Vblock) from one company with one PO.

Finally, there is a team of some 300+ well-training infrastructure experts (vSpecialists) to support this “datacenter in a box”. The amazing things about these guys is that they understand the whole solution – not just SAN, not just servers, or not just software – the WHOLE THING. The vSpecialists are experts, at your ready, to support the Vblock. You can’t get that by buying a “reference architecture”.

A lot of end user problems are solved with this solution. There is a lot of innovation here. So, why the haters? If your company doesn’t do this and your customers aren’t demanding it, then why put it down? Who knows, maybe there is room for both solutions in the marketplace (other companies are still selling cellphone, even though Apple’s iPhone is seen as innovative). Let’s praise innovation that is helping makes the life of IT-people easier.

Chad made some great points in his “4 FACTS” Twitter rant. I learned something from it and I hope that you did too.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Radek 11.25.10 at 12:23 am

David, it’s obvious you’re a big fan of Chad – and that’s OK. But the bias of this post is downright nausiating! So assuming you tuned in late, let me add the full context.

This latest #TwitPiss started when one of Chad’s own hired guns (@jellers) questioned NetApp’s FlexPod sales model – specifically regarding channel partners. After @valb00 responded, he asked his own question about how many VMware channel partners VCE has poached vSpecialists from?

Chad’s VERY first response to valb00 was a personal putdown “Val, when you talk about the other guy, you’re so wrong, it’s painful to watch”. Several other minions in Chad’s army piled on (unsolicited) with more personal attacks on @valb00 before Chad woud finally stop the putdowns and address the original question.

In the meantime, when challenged by @valb00 to stop the insults and stick to facts, Chad felt the need to spew this 4 point VCE commercial. While informative, it had NOTHING to do with the debate at hand!

Moreover, I never ONCE saw @valb00 or any other NetApp FlexPod partner question VCE’s technology during this exachange.

Hope this helps set the record straight!

David Davis 11.25.10 at 12:41 am

Hi Radek,

Thanks for reading and thanks for taking time to post your take on this.

My point in this post was not to be biased but to take this opportunity to recognize innovation where I saw it and try to educate people on what makes a Vblock unique.

I don’t really what to get into the “who said what about who” thing as it doesn’t interest me too much and it isn’t productive. I am, however, interested in what solution is best for customers and why.

Thanks again and all the best to you,

Radek 11.25.10 at 12:45 am

That’s great to see. I too am a tech truth seeker and find myself continually dissapointed by the vendor tone in the storage industry. I will be getting some FlexPod training soon, so perhaps we can share notes once I’m done?

David Davis 11.25.10 at 12:51 am

Everything I know about FlexPod I learned in this article from CRN (really just an overview)-

I look forward to your take on it after training.

Jeramiah Dooley 11.25.10 at 2:07 pm


Two points of clarification. First, @jellers doesn’t work for Chad or EMC. He works with me on the Solutions vArchitect team with VCE/Acadia.

Second, there was a very decent, productive discussion going on, where @jellers was asking, politely, about the NetApp sales model, mostly to understand how things were different between the two. Since there’s been a ton of BS, especially on Twitter, around “VCE is taking business from partners” and “EMC partners compete with VCE for deals”. @valboo answered, which was great, but then immediately got away from THE ORIGNAL DISCUSSION and started in with the “watch your employees if you are an EMC partner, because EMC is…” What started as a rational discussion about sales models immediately degenerated into more twit piss. Even when an EMC partner chimed in, he was shouted down.

Once again I’m disappointed by the attitude in general. Rational, valuable discourse was drowned out by taking the discussion from a positive topic to a negative one. If you want to take a quick trip through the Twitter trail you’ll see that the person who derailed the conversation WAS NOT Chad. Let’s keep things positive and focus on being the best solution we can be for our customers.

And Chad’s points weren’t an “infomercial”, they were a pretty straight forward comparison of a “product” and a ” reference design”. If we want to have a positive discussion, let’s talk through those two options and how they matter to the market. I’d be interested in hearing your take.

Chad Sakac 11.25.10 at 2:12 pm

Radek, for what it’s worth – I’m also sad with how that dialog turned out (including my part in it). It seems that it happens so often, and is so completely useless. I tried OVER and OVER again to keep out of the fray.

Note that my comment was that what Val (or anyone for a given vendor) says about the OTHER GUY is wrong, and always wrong. The tweet right after that pointed that out explicitly:

“@valb00 Val, my point is a simple one. you are an authority on things NetApp. Anything beyond that, and anti other guy rants tend to be off”

BUT – I want to point out a couple things (and the history is there in the public record) – that perhaps shine a different light than the one you might have seen.

This was the first tweet from Val:

“Cloud channel tip for success – enable your partners with simple #FlexibleIT pre-sized & certified solutions #NetApp #FlexPod” (this is clearly fine, there’s nothing bad about saying “hey – we think what we have is great!”).

The response from @jellers was this:

“@valb00 your channel reference is not clear. Does NetApp only sell through the channel? No direct sales? ” (not negative at all – a legit question)

“@valb00 Our channel is a big resource as well, VCE coalition is working through >90 channel partners & systems integrators and growing fast. ”

“RT @VMTyler @jonisick @valb00 _All_ of my Vblocks in the mid-atlantic have been going through partners so far. speaks for itself. #VCE ”

Val’s response was this:

“Cloud channel tip for failure – continuously poach their talent and expect to engender trust or sustainable joint business #VCE #FAIL ” (So – once again, imagine the roles are reversed, and I, as a senior exec at one company, accuse another of continuous poaching, and then put #FAIL with regards to a competitor…)

And that, sir, was where things went off the rails. The accusation (which subsequently was made repeatedly by Val, but never substantiated) of active recruitment from channel partners is a very dangerous one. The channel is very important to NetApp, to EMC, to VCE (to everyone). It’s an area where I’ve also personally furiously fought to protect partners over and over again, even in some cases persauding (not blocking) candidates to stay at the partner. EMC, VCE, and I’m sure NetApp have policies that tightly clamp down on recruitment from partners. Each of those cases where I interceeded to persuade were cases where individuals – through their own investigation – were looking to move.

Through the dialog I brought in several EMC and VCE partners to confirm our partnering model. But, throughout, continuous innuendoes on that front were thrown out by Val.

The list of facts I posted were not disconnected to the original question. They were in response to this accusation from Val:

“@sakacc yes the tweet stream (your very first response actually) pretty much says it all! I appreciate the consistency #FactFreeEMCResponses ”

So , I gave him the facts. the first was the answer to the question: VCE is not bad for the channel, regardless of how competitors position it. It has a 100% channel go to market focus (with Cisco and EMC being seperate entities that are also VCE channels).

While I was at it, I added 3 other facts (on which there has been a great deal of uncertainty thrown in by many)

Regarding personal attacks – read these tweets from Val, then imagine you’re me:

“Desperation of a point of view directly proportional to amount of people needing to pile onto a 1:1 debate #ExecsShouldBeAbleToDefendPoint ” (and is that a personal ad-hominem attack? How could anyone take it otherwise?)

How about this one if you’re looking for an attack on technology (one of your mentions)?

“@VMTyler simple sizing tools. No need for an Army when you make solutions simple 🙂 #FlexibleIT #FlexPod ” (I would humbly suggest that you DO need an army of experts to understand the full Vblock stack, and if you wanted to stand up a FAS array, use multistore, install and configure UCS, N5Ks, and then install and configure vSphere with all it’s ins and outs – you would need just as many). They need to be there to assist the partner, assist the customer.

Vblocks actually ship from manufacturing in Cork, Ireland and Franklin, MA, and are racked, configured across storage/server/network, heck can have vSphere completely pre-installed. (that’s what I mean when I say “a product”) – but even then, the VCE partners need expertise (certification, training and support) and VCE needs to have the expertise to support the partners and the customers. That’s not bad for the channel, regardless of how it gets painted.

There’s a couple morals to the story:

1) Twitter is a BAD conversation medium. As a stream of consciousness in short chunks, there no “authoritative view” (as what you see depends on who you’re following), there’s no context to what’s said, and no “string” to the thread – so timelines are hard to read. It’s also a place where a lot of FUD is thrown around (by all).

I’m also a seeker of technical truth – but we ain’t gonna find it on twitter.

2) My personal suggestion/christmas wish:

– put the most faith in what you KNOW about a vendor/solution from your own experience.
– put a lot of faith in what you hear about a vendor/solution from a customer directly.
– put moderate faith in what you hear about a vendor/solution from independent 3rd parties. The challenge of course is that independence is rare, and often hard to identify (often 3rd parties/benchmarks/studies are commissioned directly or indirectly)
– put SOME faith in what a vendor says about their OWN products/solutions.
– put ZERO faith in what a vendor says about the competitor’s product/solution

Radek 11.28.10 at 2:10 pm

@Jeremiah / @Chad,

Thanks for responding to my comments. I can see from other similar blogs that EMC employees feel they must always have the last word, so you can expect this to be my final thoughts on the matter, which you will undoubtedly feel the need to respond to…

1. Character assassination eliminates all credibility
It’s perfectly fair to ask provocative questions online so long as they are not personal attacks. It’s not cool to respond immediately via character assassination. WikiLeaks anyone? Of all the IBM, HDS & NetApp-initiated debates online, only EMC bloggers and tweeters consistently respond by personally attacking the questioner. Why is that?

2. Online reputations make presumption of innocence harder to achieve
I find it sad that the originator of the “NotApp.com” fiasco who is widely known to be a member of Chad’s Army has not been disciplined for his unprofessional actions. Moreover, how many “antagonistic EMC” articles on The Register or independent blogs on “EMC Anti-Social Media” do we need to see before EMC’s leaders acknowledge they have a social media problem on their hands? Passive / aggressive responses by you Chad are only a step in the right direction, but …

3. Revisionist history is disappointing signal of a weak argument
As per Jeremiah / Chad’s review of the #Twitpiss above, the omission of Jonathan Donaldson’s “contribution” to the discussion severely undercuts their positions. Vapid comments aimed directly @valb00 such as “You have proven time after time to be just marketing mouthpiece”, “Val you obviously do not understand ad hominem”, “Your arguments are <0" & "again you make no sense" are the obvious turning point of this particular debate into a #Twitpiss, yet seem conveniently forgotten by the EMC camp?

4. Mob mentality is ugly
Chad – why did you feel the need to "bring in" as you say additional Tweet fanboi's into a debate with @valb00? A 1:1 dialogue of the facts behind the provenance of your army could be a very interesting discussion for you to clarify, given Capellas' history with the channel and the apparent fact that half your army originated as channel specialists while the other half is comprised of competitive specialists? A flash mob on Twitter attacking @valb00's character while dodging this obvious point weakens your argument and lends credence to @valb00's point that EMC execs can't fight their own battles.

4.Twitter has usurped Email as the worst possible communications medium for a debate
You are a very eloquent and enthusiastic blogger Chad. Why not address the provenance of your army directly via a transparent blog on the matter? No need to emotionally overreact online and/or change the subject.

5. Blog comment debates get bogged down pretty quickly to the point of becoming white noise for most readers
I don't expect many people to get down this far, but that seems to be yet another observation of online EMC behavior. Every time their reputation is challenged online, a torrent of off-topic tweets and lengthy blog comments seem to bog down the discussion to the point where the average reader has little incentive to follow the increasingly convoluted discussion. After all this time, this can't be accidental behavior on EMC's part, but it is a ruthlessly effective mechanism for stifling debate. Another good metaphor for the DDOS attacks against WikiLeaks today as a matter of fact…

JohnFul 11.29.10 at 1:17 pm

Hi David,

I certainly don’t want to stir the pot on the he said/he said any further, however I am definitely genuinely confused on the VCS/Acadia business model and the who’s who of Acadia/EMC.

Things like this http://linkd.in/hwOSQ9 only serve to add confusion and make one wonder. Is he EMC? Acadia? Why the apparant dual position? What is the business model and orgianizational structure of Acadia, and how is it staffed?



Rob Bergin 01.04.11 at 2:33 pm

I thougth Acadia/VCE are the same thing? And isn’t the E in VCE for EMC, so EMC is an partial owner of VCE or Acadia??

I have no idea who is who.

I have seen some Acadia folks with @EMC.com email addresses so maybe some of the Acadia folks work for EMC or Cisco or Vmware (which is EMC)??

David Davis 01.04.11 at 3:45 pm

Hi Rob,
Yes, Acadia and VCE are pretty much the same thing (as I understand it – I don’t work for any of these companies). I may be mistaken but I believe that Acadia will be “deprecated” and only VCE will remain.
You are correct that VCE is VMware, Cisco, EMC and many of the people who work for it have email addresses from their respective companies. However, as I understand it, there are also some people who work just for VCE.
Yes, you are also correct that EMC is the majority shareholder of VMware but VMware is run as a separate company.
I was recently told that there will be some big announcements soon about VCE so “stay tuned”!
Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments!

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