Dell Adds Management Capabilities, Services For Converged Infrastructure

Dell on Wednesday expanded its converged infrastructure platform with the introduction of new management capabilities and services under its Virtual Integrated System architecture.

The new enhancements come less than a year after Dell entered the converged networking market, said Matt Baker, the company's senior manager for enterprise strategy.

"In early 2010, we introduced our VIS architecture," Baker said. "It's our solution to this emerging world of integrated data centers, or what some may call a cloud."

Converged infrastructure is the tight integration of server, storage, networking, virtualization, and other resources tied together as part of a single-vendor data center solution.

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Such a solution can be managed as a single system. Its resources can be dynamically allocated as needed, providing higher resource utilization and availability than possible with static infrastructures.

Primary vendors fighting for leadership of the converged infrastructure bandwagon include Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. They are either building their solutions with their own storage, server, networking, and virtualization technology, or working with partners to fill in those technologies they currently lack.

For a vendor like Dell, which has traditionally relied on hardware for the bulk of its revenue, the stakes in the converged infrastructure market are high because once a customer settles on a data center-wide solution, it is hard for other vendors to get in.

Dell's converged infrastructure strategy is two-fold. On the one hand, the company is combining its own server and storage technologies with partners' networking equipment into a single architecture. On the other hand, it is using its Virtual Integrated System, or VIS, platform to manage multi-vendor hardware as a single resource.

As part of its VIS enhancement, Dell on Wednesday introduced enhancements to its Advanced Infrastructure Manager, an application that allows a single administrator to allocate server, storage, and network resources for specific application workloads.

The biggest change with Advanced Infrastructure Manager was the introduction of a plug-in for VMware's vCenter virtualization management software that allows both AIM and vCenter to be managed from a single GUI, Baker said.

As a result, customers will be able to manage servers, storage, and networking in both physical and virtual environments at the same time, he said.

Next: Giving Users More Control Over Services

Also new is the VIS Self-Service Creator, a Web-based portal that allows authorized users to select, deploy, and manage a customized catalog of IT applications and resources.

VIS Self-Service Creator automates the steps needed to create a new service so that a user within a company can handle the task without having to engage an administrator, as long as the new service is within the user's pre-set limits, Baker said.

"Today, deploying applications is a very manual process," he said. "For a new virtual machine, in the best-case scenario, it takes a couple days, or in a worst-case scenario a week. We want to take away many of the steps and automate the workflow."

For instance, a user who wants to deploy a high-value application will need a high-performance infrastructure, while someone needing a test-development environment can use infrastructure with less performance, Baker said. VIS Self-Service Creator automatically pulls the appropriate resources and sets up the charge-back capabilities based on the level of service requested, he said.

"This lets IT advisors deliver products and services directly while letting them see what's being deployed, when its being deployed, and how, so they can maintain control while maintaining flexibility," he said.

Dell also introduced its VIS Director, an operations hub for virtual environments which gives customers a complete view of how resources depend on each other to provide reporting and trend analysis, capacity and utilization reporting, and cost allocation and chargeback information.

Dell on Wednesday also unveiled new services related to its VIS architecture, including consulting services to help customers with questions about issues such as self-service provisioning and task automation, assessment services, and design and implementation services.

The company also expanded its ProSupport services, which provide software-specific expertise to help customers reach business goals, with support for Dell VIS.

All Dell's VIS architecture components are expected to be made available to the company's solution provider partners in another quarter or so, Baker said. "We're still developing channel programs for VIS," he said.