Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Hardware Vendors… release the emulators to the masses PLEASE!!


If you are a consultant or are an end-user trying to teach/learn new technology it’s not easy to constantly have access to lab and demo kit, most vendors can lend you evaluation hardware for your lab but there is generally a finite supply and you don’t have it for long – if you are busy it’s hard to dedicate time to this, most people are only able to dip in and out every now and then and physical kit means it has to be hosted somewhere so requires remote access.

I’m a hands-on person and I find I learn/understand things much better if I can concrete my reading with “fiddling” with the UI or mocking up configurations rather than just reading the whitepapers.

If you are primarily a hardware vendor like EMC, HP or Cisco you should want people to play with your kit around their own time, whilst this doesn’t always mesh with a traditional sales-force driven model where there is a structured qualification, sales and follow-up model let’s be honest this is 2010, I’m clever 🙂 I don’t really need a sales drone to hold my hand in spending my own {employers’} money or take me golfing – if your product is good and I need it I will buy/spec it once I’ve seen what it can do in MY environment on MY terms.

This definitely isn’t to say there is no place for sales or tech pre-sales in the modern world, far from it – I will probably need someone with product specific knowledge for technical help, or someone to help me price out a solution and options – but I don’t need a sales person’s commission or end of quarter figures driving MY evaluation or purchase process – incentives to buy in a certain timeframe are perfectly acceptable as they help the end-user evaluator focus their priorities, but it’s not the start of the process.

As I’ve written before simulators/emulators/Virtual Machines are ideal as a pre-sales tool, no complicated pre-sales process, just get your tech in the hands of people who can then internally demonstrate its capability to those that sign the cheques.

It just means a bit of registration for a download which gets passed to your pre-sales people so they can follow-up with the potential customer – but you’ve empowered the end-user to do your marketing “foot in the door” with the people that matter for you– and it’s essentially “free”.

Additionally one of the primary concerns with infrastructure technologies is management, you often don’t really know how well you can manage or integrate with your existing management toolsets without actually trying it – VM/Emulators are an almost (financially) risk-free way to try this out.

Most enterprise hardware (blade chassis, SAN’s, switches) are moving to use virtualization and commodity hardware under the hood this opens up some interesting possibilities to distribute packaged up Virtual Machine .OVF versions of your “hardware”/firmware product that people can download and run on VMware Workstation/Player etc.

Most already vendors have these internally for development teams, afterall this is cheaper and more practical than giving each developer a but of hardware to develop against.

This is the list of people that “get it” IMHO …

EMC are streets ahead of the game with this, and have had the Celerra VSA available for some time, CLARiiON coming soon and with the V-MAX being based around commodity Xeon CPU hardware it has to be on the cards.

Zeus produce an amazing traffic manager product which has been available as a virtual machine or hardware appliance for ages – with a free/quick download VM trial.

HP have a time-limited version of the LeftHand VSA and the EVA simulator (accredited partners only) but could go significantly further, why not a VM version of the EVA controllers accessible over iSCSI or FCoE? they may be based on custom ASIC type hardware but I would assume some sort of emulation from x86 is possible (see my idea for VMware Workstation later on).

I have also been reliably informed that there is a version of the HP Virtual Connect “firmware” used internally at HP that runs inside VMware Workstation – making this available to the public (even with pre-sales registration) would be a great way for people to quickly understand how VC technology works and could integrate into their environments.

NetApp  have the ONTAP simulator (partners only), I’m not familiar with the product but it does appear to emulate real NetApp hardware and management interfaces

Cisco have recently released a beta of the UCS platform emulator to developers – from the screenshot Steve Chambers posted this looks like an excellent idea with significant scope for use as a pre-sales tool as well.

With the recent announcement around the death of Dynamips maybe Cisco should better leverage their relationship with VMware and produce a hardware emulator layer to allow IOS or CatOS to run on x86 under VMware Workstation, it’s been reported that the Nexus range runs under a native hypervisor and the NX1000V is already out there.

The 6500 ACE modules would also be a welcome offering as a VM!

Now, there needs to be some expectation setting, I’m not asking for production ready/supported virtual machines of your IPR and hardware margin – that won’t always make sense but availability for learning, pre-sales, training or testing/development is an excellent use-case.

I have previously heard people voice concerns over this sort of model as it allows your technology and IPR to easily walk into the hands of your competitors to allow them to reverse engineer it and steal your ideas, I don’t buy this – I’m pretty sure “the competition” are 1st on the list to buy your hardware when it becomes generally available, either directly or via an anonymous 3rd party – infact HP seemed to have a pretty good stock of UCS hardware :).

4 responses to “Hardware Vendors… release the emulators to the masses PLEASE!!

  1. Pingback: Where Next for VMware Workstation? « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that “stuff” in-between

  2. Pingback: Top Virtualization Blog Voting Time « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

  3. Pingback: That was 2010 so what next « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

  4. Pingback: Hardware is Hard, Software is Easy. is 2011 the year of the VSA? « Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

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