You probably didn’t notice, but VCE reached a significant milestone this week. I don’t think it got nearly as much fanfare as it should have, but the VCE Developer Portal that was announced as part of the VCE Vision Intelligent Operations launch in February, and which has been in beta for some time, finally went live and to the public. Let’s look at what the portal offers, and why I feel it’s such a significant event for VCE.
Tactically, the VCE Developer Portal is a way for operations and infrastructure people to learn about the software and APIs that VCE has developed to assist in the consumption of the Vblock Systems, to meet and interact with a community of people who are doing the same thing and to share code and methods. It’s designed for developers and it’s where all of the VCE developer teams can participate directly with the community.
The portal includes two primary sections, one that provides a structured collection of all of the tools and materials that a developer would need to develop against the VCE Vision API, including the VCE Vision Intelligent Operations SDK. The other, the developer community, is where the people live, creating new ways to leverage the platform to help align IT and IT infrastructure with the business goals they are supporting.
The best part about the community is that it’s open to the public, not just to VCE employees, partners and customers. Sure, VCE is the first company to start pushing the concept of using APIs to provide intelligent information about converged infrastructure, but we’re convinced we won’t be the last. The feedback from customers has been too overwhelmingly positive, and much like we saw the majority of hardware providers scramble to introduce something that looked like a Vblock System after they saw the success we had, it’s only a matter of time before having a CI API becomes table stakes for all of the other players in this space. For the vendors who have made an art form out of avoiding any investment in the management plane of their reference architecture, or for the vendors who struggle mightily to integrate the dozens of software-based management tools they have acquired over the decades into a coherent and cohesive product for customers to use, this may be a tall order.
So why is this important? Why do I think this is such a milestone for VCE? Come over here, I’ll tell you a secret:
VCE is now, finally, a software company.
Sure, Vblock Systems include a whole bunch of hardware. They have to, because enterprise applications need to run somewhere! Customers, by and large, don’t care about the infrastructure, but they understand that it’s not easy, and that it’s critical to the success of the enterprise applications that sit on top of it. Someone is going to have to put the pieces together, someone is going to have to validate the architecture, someone is going to have to help with software and firmware validation, and we might as well. Infrastructure is boring, but it’s still damn hard work.
But look at what VCE is doing to provide value on top of that boring hardware:
- In-house development of a full quoting platform, the VCE Advanced Configuration Tool, that allows for validation and quoting of a multi-vendor, standardized product that may consist of hundreds of individual line item SKUs. Sure, it started out as an Excel macro, but we’ve polished it up a bit since then. :-)
- Full software and firmware regression testing for every piece of code running on top of the hardware, including the applications customers use most;
- Full development of the logical configuration that’s being laid down to support customer applications;
- In-house development of the patented code used to integrate the VMware, Cisco and EMC ticketing systems to provide customers with a real unified support experience. This was a multi-million dollar investment made by VCE very, very early on, and one that has continued to pay dividends. If you really think that a “cooperative” support model or a 3rd party who is taking a call from a customer and then opening multiple tickets with vendors is the same thing, I invite you to visit the VCE call center in Richardson, TX to learn more!
- In-house development of the entire VCE Vision Intelligent Operations software stack, including:
- The VCE System Library for Vblock Systems, which provides the discovery and compliance engines as well as the object model used in the discovery process;
- The VCE Vision Intelligent Operations SDK, including the API and associated documentation, all of the sample code, the Java binding and the Vblock System simulator;
- The Vblock System plugin for VMware vCenter Server, which provides inventory reporting, health diagnostics, compliance checking and reporting and direct access to the element managers for provisioning and administration tasks;
- The Vblock System adapter for VMware vCenter Operations Manager, which provides physical and virtual troubleshooting information, capacity and performance monitoring, reporting and trending over time
Look, I’m not going to pretend that we are anywhere near as good at this as we will become over time, and I’m not going to tell you that we don’t have a lot of work in front of us. George Reese would not be happy with this API, I’m sure, even with all of that Dell money cheering him up. The amount of effort that is going into trying to hit release dates and maintain the features that are being requested is almost overwhelming (by the way, we are hiring the CRAP out of developers in the Raleigh area). That said, don’t underestimate the accomplishment that is taking a joint venture that was created to package and resell hardware and turning it into a company with over $1 billion in sales that will make a significant amount of revenue from the development and delivery of unique software. The executive leadership at VCE, especially Todd Pavone and his team, deserve a lot of credit for seeing where the customer value target was going and pushing the organization in that direction. It hasn’t been easy, nor even fun at times, but the opening of the developer community is itself a huge validation of the work they’ve done.
So now, the fun begins for real. Whether software development is part of your job or just a hobby you’re passionate about, please be sure to visit the Developer Portal and contribute. If you are a VCE customer, and you need to start educating your team about APIs and how they are the language of development and operations in a converged world, this is where you need to go. If you are a competitor and want to see what we’re doing, you can come too! If you want to talk with awesome VCE development employees like Josh Bonczkowski, it looks like they even gave him his own blog on the site! An open and inviting community is the best kind, and I openly invite you all to participate and see what happens when you take the best, most boring hardware on the planet and wrap it in an API. No, it’s not software defined infrastructure (don’t get me started), but it’s certainly software accessible, programmatically available hardware, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.
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