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Dell vStart bundle draws VAR interest

Combo platter of Dell server, EqualLogic storage and VMware could best Vblock in the midmarket.

Dell’s new vStart virtualization appliances won’t be available to the channel for two months, but many VARs are already interested in what they see as reasonably priced bundles of Dell servers, EqualLogic storage and VMware virtualization.

The new Dell vStart 100 lists for $99,000 and supports up to 100 virtual machines (VMs). The larger vStart 200 starts at $169,000 for up to 200 VMs. The bundles are available now from Dell but will be available through partners on June 6, Dell said.

VStart price points come in well below those of the VCE Company’s larger Vblock bundles of Cisco Unified Computing Systems (UCS) servers, Cisco networking, EMC storage and VMware. That could make vStart attractive to VARs serving smaller shops that are unwilling to pay the full Vblock freight.

 When Vblocks were announced in the fall of 2009, the lowest price for the Vblock 0 was $100,000 for Cisco server and networking, EMC Celerra storage and vSphere supporting 300 to 800 VMs. But the primary Vblocks 1 and 2 ranged in price from $1 million to $6 million and supported up to 6,000 VMs.

Paul Clifford, principle of Davenport Group, a St. Paul-based solution provider, thinks his customers will like the idea of a reasonably priced, preconfigured package.

“Since virtualization isn’t the leading edge anymore, it’s the next logical progression,” Clifford said. “It’s a smart thing [for Dell] to do and makes a lot of sense. Once I learn more about it, I don’t see why we wouldn’t start offering it to customers.”

David Hiechel, president of Eagle Software Inc., said it’s been hard for him to make money with preconfigured packages because of fixed margins and customers’ desire to customize their environments, specifically storage. “We’re a storage company looking for storage solutions that may have virtualization tied into them, not virtualization solutions with fixed storage inside,” Hiechel said.

But he acknowledged that it makes sense for Dell to offer vStart appliances for customers looking for virtualization packages that don’t need a ton of configuration.

“It’s pretty interesting. I’ve seen others doing it and I think Dell should have success with it,” Hiechel said. “It will be good for some [VARs] to offer to help desks and call-center-type environments. We’re not as cookie cutter, but we might be able to use it in the future.”

VCE Vblocks blazed the trail for hardware-software-virtualization bundles but were also hamstrung by what was seen as high price and inflexibility. VARs also said, despite claims that VCE offers one point of support, that they still had to deal too much with the VCE parent companies—Cisco, EMC and VMware—separately and compete with their sales forces. Many virtualization-savvy VARs offered vBlocks but also configured their own bundles or offered FlexPods, backed by Cisco and NetApp.

Generally speaking, FlexPods are more easily adapted and can be cheaper than Vblocks, said one mid-Atlantic VAR that sells both options. That means the Dell virtualization bundle might compete more directly with FlexPod than Vblock per se.

Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director, contributed to this report.

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