Alternative paths to private cloud, says McGahon of Comsys

Ben McGahon, Comsys

13 October 2014

Given that cloud computing and its multiple variants dominates most IT conversations these days, it is hardly surprising that the phrase ‘reference architecture’ is heard so much. Public cloud architecture is the preserve of the service providers but the major trend in business is towards private cloud and hybrid solutions. The rapid pace of growth in recent years has taught us that cloud computing is really a new generation of ICT with its own evolving standards and different approaches to solutions, especially in designing the appropriate architecture.


That is why reference architecture has become hugely important in many fields of complex ICT and especially in private cloud. The core benefit and the key to its popularity is that every element of the solution is fully tested and certified, down to a very granular level, by the vendors. That also is a major benefit, because multiple vendors can contribute to a particular solution. But the total carries the combined guarantees.

The leading solution today is EMC VSPEX, the number one integrated reference architecture according to Gartner. It is designed both for flexibility and for fast deployment because all of the components are pre-tested. In practice an EMC partner designs and puts together the specific solution for the client, customised after examination in depth of the business needs and current infrastructure investment. Yet when the VSPEX solution arrives it is essentially, in that now hackneyed marketing phrase, plug and play enterprise architecture for private cloud and end-user computing such as virtual desktops. The client can immediately begin installing applications and adding data.

A reference architecture like this is especially suitable for the mid-market, where the overall requirements package and scale is likely to be less challenging and utilising existing infrastructure where possible will be part of the business case. There is a wide range of vendors that can be used because they are technical partners of EMC for VSPEX — any of the major x86 server manufacturers, for example. The binding element is that it is based on EMC storage, but with many options to suit the applications and workloads. Networking can be Cisco, Brocade and others, VMware is the natural hypervisor partner as an EMC company but VSPEX is actually neutral in that regard.

We see the recent introduction of the ‘Just Call EMC’ programme for VSPEX as a hugely significant market development. In essence, EMC will manage the entire VSPEX solution, all of the vendors involved, any aspect of the technology stack and in multiple locations. Ireland and the UK will be a common requirement in this market, we believe. All any client needs is its VSPEX number to invoke support anywhere, anytime and on any technical issue. A branch office with no IT staff, for example, can simply call its local EMC centre.

Clients in the Irish market, one suspects, will be quietly delighted that VSPEX implementations in Europe are supported form EMC in Cork. No favouritism involved, but nice to hear familiar accents when you are talking to a technical help desk.


Ben McGahon is managing director of Comsys.

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