Dell, Red Hat Team Up for HCI and Container Storage

By Dave Raffo, Thursday, September 15th 2022

Analyst Blogs

You hear the term “multi-cloud” thrown around a lot these days. Like many IT buzzwords, multi-cloud means different things depending who is talking about it.

To Dell, multi-cloud means working with multiple partners – other tech providers as cloud providers and other channel partners – to deliver private and public cloud services through its APEX storage-as-a-service program.

To that end, Dell revealed a significant APEX partner this week in Red Hat. In a deal aimed at helping developers and IT teams deploy and manage containerized infrastructure, Dell will launch three APEX offerings this year and in 2023 including Red Hat OpenShift technology. They involve Red Hat’s OpenShift container management platform and Dell infrastructure, including its VxRail and PowerFlex HCI products.

Two services will be managed by customers, and the other managed by Dell.

  • Dell Validated Platform for Red Hat OpenShift – available in September, this jointly developed platform is a reference architecture for managing on-premises infrastructure for container orchestration. It is optimized for deploying and managing OpenShift and PowerFlex, Dell’s software-defined HCI storage, on bare metal. The validated platform is integrated and managed by the customer. Dell can provide customers with Deployment Services for Dell and Red Hat components. The Dell channel can also resell the Dell and Red Hat technology.
  • Dell Apex Containers for Red Hat OpenShift – this is a Dell fully-managed container-as-a-service, optimized for on-premises workloads. It is aimed at providing a cloud-like experience for developers while freeing IT teams from day-to-day management. Dell will manage the full stack, including the Red Hat OpenShift container platform and Dell PowerFlex software-defined storage layer. This is available through an Apex subscription. Dell owns the infrastructure and takes first and second support calls. Apex Containers for Red Hat OpenShift is scheduled for availability in early 2023, and will be available for channel resell.
  • Co-engineered Hybrid Cloud Solution – this turnkey appliance is managed on-prem by the customers, and consists of OpenStack fully integrated and tested with Dell VxRail. VxRail uses VMware vSAN storage software, but the co-engineered appliance for OpenShift is an alternative to using VMware’s Tanzu container management. This is a similar approach as IBM Spectrum Fusion HCI turnkey appliance takes for running containers in OpenShift. The Dell OpenShift-VxRail appliance is expected in 2023.

Evaluator Group Comments

Because it combines compute and storage in the same infrastructure, HCI can be a good fit for working with containers in Kubernetes. But most HCI systems were developed around virtual machines (mainly VMware technology), not for containers. Dell and Red Hat anticipate HCI customers will want to use those systems to run containers, and they are positioning themselves to provide that option through OpenShift.

IBM has taken a similar approach with its Spectrum Fusion HCI turnkey appliances and Dell’s main HCI competitor Nutanix also has a budding partnership with Red Hat to combine VM-based HCI with container storage. HCI with container capabilities are an alternative to container-native storage (CNS) products that also combine storage and compute, but were designed for Kubernetes and containers from the ground up.

When Dell spun out VMware in 2021, both companies said they would continue to work closely together but pointed out they were also free to explore other valuable partnerships. It’s hard to believe this Dell-Red Hat partnership would happen if Dell still owned VMware

The partnership also underscores Dell’s strategy of letting VxRail support major Kubernetes distributions besides VMware’s Tanzu. This could be helpful if Broadcom decides to discontinue or de-emphasize Tanzu after completing its VMware acquisition.

This deal is also a result of IBM’s pledge to keep an arm’s length distance from Red Hat when IBM acquired the open source giant in2019. That decision allows Red Hat to work with companies even if they compete with IBM.

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