Last week, Dell opened its 2019 Dell Technologies World at the Las Vegas Venetian Convention Center. Evaluator Group was there to attend keynotes and other sessions, take part in the program for industry analysts, and walk the show floor. Overall, we felt that the conference was highly informative and gave us a sense of where Dell Technologies is headed.
Dell Technologies encompasses the following brands:
We were impressed with the degree to which VMware and its CEO Pat Gelsinger occupied a prominent position during the conference aside from Michael Dell himself. In the words of Pat Gelsinger, “IT needs a strategy to support all of the devices workers use. The Dell Technologies unified workspace is powered by VMware.”
Another theme that came across consistently was the need to integrate these technologies in ways that deliver innovative and differentiated solutions. Dell technologies is now looking to identify the synergies within and across the solution portfolio at large.
Cloud computing was also a dominant theme. At times it seemed that Dell representatives could not say “hybrid cloud” without also saying “multi-cloud” at the same time. For Dell, hybrid cloud refers to the connection between the enterprise data center and public cloud providers. Multi-cloud recognizes that enterprises are progressing to the simultaneous use of multiple public clouds integrated with hybrid cloud. Dell will embrace and support both aspects of cloud computing. And to that end, cloud platform announcements were given center stage during the first day keynotes. These included VMware Cloud on Dell EMC and VMware Cloud on Microsoft Azure.
Dell Technology’s Data Center as a Service (DCaaS), announced as “VMware Cloud on Dell EMC,” was featured prominently as the first solution within the Project Dimension Family. DCaaS integrates VMware Cloud Foundation software with VxRail HCI. This hardware/software “stack” is delivered as a complete private cloud platform that is consumed by the customer on a subscription basis meaning that customers pay a monthly fee for DCaaS as opposed to buying it. It will include a half-rack or full-rack with three or more VxRail servers, two top-of-rack switches, two NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud appliances, and an uninterruptible power supply.
Customers deploy workloads as they would with VMware Cloud on AWS. In this case, VMware operates the infrastructure along with Dell EMC, who are continually monitoring the SDDC infrastructure. VMware also takes care of all software patches and upgrades. One monthly fee for DCaaS is calculated on measuring the amount of RAM and storage consumed on average within each month under the same terms and conditions as Dell EMC’s Flex on Demand program. (See Evaluator Group Product Brief: Dell EMC Flex on Demand and Managed Storage Services)
VMware and Microsoft jointly announced the availability of Azure VMware Solutions, VMware-based, software defined compute, storage, networking and management – deployed in the Azure public cloud. In essence, VMware Cloud Foundation is now also available as an Azure-supported platform.
Dell Technologies simplified their HCI line card into two products based on underlying software platforms. VxRail runs vSAN—the HCI appliances that Dell EMC has offered for several years. VxFLEX runs the VxFLEX OS which offers a disaggregated storage architecture (from ScaleIO technology) enabling HCI nodes to be storage only, compute only or a combination. Both VxRail and VxFLEX include comprehensive management software and are available in “integrated rack” configurations that replace the VxRack products. Dell EMC also offers HCI products based on software from Nutanix (XC) and Microsoft (Azure Stack).
New Dell EMC Unity XT
Michael Dell positioned Dell Technologies as the Essential Infrastructure Company. However, as infrastructure becomes increasingly more software-defined and virtualized, VMware will clearly play a central role as Dell pushes forward its position within enterprise computing. This leaves up in the air the role that Pivotal will play as time goes on. VMs dominate the enterprise IT landscape while containers and Kubernetes are perceived to be the next virtualization “wave.” We assume that moving containers into enterprise IT production environments will fall to a Pivotal/VMware integration but how that will be done is an open question. Indeed, during his keynote, CFO Tom Sweet wondered “How do we bring VMware and Pivotal together?”
We were particularly interested in the progression of the EMC acquisition to date. During an interview with Travis Vigil who now heads-up the storage product line. Travis stated that he is now on a multi-year journey to identify the where is the most innovation they can bring to market while simplifying/rationalizing the portfolio. He highlighted the desire to exploit Dell EMC’s differentiation in the marketplace as expressed in PowerMax and Isilon as well as “lean-in” to next generation workloads in AI and IoT and high-performance applications such as TensorFlow. He also mentioned that he believed customers are now asking for integrated “stacks” that now include support for containers and Kubernetes. To that end, Dell EMC will expand support for the Container Storage Interface (CSI) stating with XtremIO and PowerMax. For data and storage management, he highlighted CloudIQ and ClarityNow. Finally, in recognition of developers, he stated that Dell EMC will approach development community with transparency – they should be given an opportunity to understand the storage environment they are leveraging.
VMware cloud solutions were given center stage. In addition to VMware Cloud on AWS, customers now have the choice of consuming VMware Cloud Foundation as an on premises service or in another public cloud – Microsoft Azure. All are managed via a consistent user interface. Customers can now migrate VMware workloads into AWS or Azure, or when they need to remain on premises but still leverage a cloud environment, move them to Data Center as a Service. VMware is essentially saying “have it your way” when it comes to a customer’s cloud workload mandates. It is a protect the base strategy that VMware users will undoubtedly have to examine.