Dell Steps Up Enterprise Play With Integrated Oracle 12c, Cloudera Hadoop Appliances

Sam Greenblatt, CTO for Dell's Enterprise Solutions Group

Dell is moving beyond the commodity server business that has made it a staple in data centers worldwide with the introduction of new workload-specific servers, including a server integrated with the Oracle 12c database application.

Dell Tuesday used its Dell User Forum to introduce several new integrated servers, which also include an in-memory appliance for big data using Cloudera's Hadoop solution as well as an application acceleration appliance featuring high-performance Fusion-io technology.

Future plans call for Dell to integrate software from Red Hat and SAP onto its servers for sales as integrated appliances, said Sam Greenblatt, CTO of Dell's Enterprise Solutions Group.

[Related: Dell Outlines Software-Defined Storage Strategy, With Compellent, Nexenta Playing Key Roles]

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"We're trying to package this so customers can deploy applications in modular fashion to scale up and scale out their data centers," Greenblatt told CRN.

Dell's new integrated appliance approach will be huge for customers, said Chris Pace, founder and CEO of Centre Technologies, a Houston-based solution provider and Dell partner.

Having an appliance turned specifically for an application improves performance when compared to selling servers that can be used for any application, Pace told CRN.

"Every application is different," he said. "Having it tuned for specific hardware is critical for meeting different workload needs. For VARs, this means we can go into organizations and deliver them something that gives consistent results with no back-and-forth finger-pointing between vendors."

Aaron Cardenas, CEO and founder of P1 Technologies, a Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based solution provider and Dell channel partner, told CRN that the new workload-specific servers show that Dell has come a long way in terms of the maturity of its enterprise business.

"Dell has been criticized for not having the integration ability," he said. "The good news is that Dell is stepping up with the technology."

Moving to an integrated appliance offering is a smart move for Dell, said Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and longtime Dell partner.

"It speaks to Dell's overall IT vision that there's more than one way to skin a cat," Clifford told CRN. "It's no longer a question of just having something to sell."

The first appliance, the Dell Integrated Systems for Oracle 12c Database, features a Dell server integrated with the Oracle 12c database software and a plug-in for the Fusion-io Ion Accelerator software for accelerating applications using flash storage, Greenblatt said.

NEXT: Understanding The Dell Integrated Systems for Oracle 12c Database

Dell also is providing a plug-in for Oracle Manager that sits on Oracle Linux with Oracle Virtual Manager to allow customers to dynamically configure how many processor cores are dedicated to the Oracle database, he said.

"Using fewer cores, we can provide equal or better performance than any other hardware appliance running Oracle 12c database," he said.

However, Greenblatt was less specific when asked about the performance of the Dell Integrated Systems for Oracle 12c Database vs. Oracle's own Exadata engineered system.

"It may not be faster than Oracle Exadata because Oracle may do things inside the solution that we can't," he said.

The introduction of the Dell Integrated Systems for Oracle 12c Database was not a complete surprise.

Oracle President Mark Hurd at last year's Dell Enterprise Forum, which this year was renamed as the Dell User Forum, first unveiled a partnership between Oracle and Dell in which Oracle will work with Dell to deliver integrated hardware and software solutions, with software optimized to run on Dell's x86-based servers.

Michael Dell followed up with a September 2013 Oracle OpenWorld keynote in which he talked about the potential integration of Oracle management software for Dell solutions, as well as other software and services offerings, as a way to make it easier for Oracle to expand its presence in the cloud.

The move to tie Dell servers, Oracle software and Fusion-io performance acceleration technology into a single solution is not so much about increased performance as it is about increased simplicity, said Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and longtime Dell partner.

Tanenhaus told CRN his company lost a deal to the Oracle Exadata specifically because that solution was a single SKU.

"Oracle provides cloud-like simplicity in delivering a solution," he said. "Dell publishes reference architectures for how to configure these solutions all day long. The reference architecture is 10 to 20 pages, and it's complicated. But if you are a hardware vendor and can integrate the software into a simple solution, why not, if you have the partnerships."

NEXT: Dell Integrated Appliances For Databases, Cloudera Hadoop

Dell Tuesday also unveiled the Dell Acceleration Appliance for Databases, a pre-integrated appliance featuring Dell servers, storage and networking technology, along with application acceleration technology from Fusion-io, to accelerate MySQL, Sybase, Microsoft SQL and MongoDB databases.

The use of the Fusion-io technology to accelerate the databases resulted in a significant boost in performance, Greenblatt said.

"We've been working with Fusion-io on this for seven months," he said. "We've pre-packaged this for someone who wants to drop another database into their data center. We were shocked by the test results. I made Fusion-io show me the data before I believed it."

Dell also unveiled the Dell In-Memory Appliance for Cloudera Enterprise, an integrated appliance targeting Cloudera's enterprise implementation of the open-source Hadoop big data technology, Greenblatt said.

The appliance includes Dell server technology pre-integrated with the Cloudera Enterprise application, he said.

There are two versions. The first, a midmarket solution designed for scale-up applications, features the Dell PowerEdge R720XD server with the Apache Spark DataBrick for real-time analytics on streaming data.

The second, an enterprise scale-out solution, features the Dell PowerEdge R920 server with Intel Xeon E7 processors tuned specifically to big data applications, Greenblatt said. It also includes ScaleMP’s Versatile SMP, or vSMP, architecture, which aggregates multiple x86 servers into a single virtual machine to create a large virtual memory system, he said.

"We're providing a scale-out, in-memory appliance for Hadoop," he said. "Customers can drop it into their existing Hadoop environment without disrupting it. It's a complete, secure platform. We think we're going to surprise the market with the most comprehensive, scale-out appliance."

Dell's use of Fusion-io's performance acceleration technology is the first time any system OEM has taken advantage of it in a fully integrated appliance, said Gary Smerdon, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Fusion-io.

Until now, the technology was more used in a "do-it-yourself" fashion, with customers assembling the software, hardware and recommended parts themselves, Smerdon said.

"With this engagement, we're seeing the first OEM partner embrace the Fusion-io Ion technology as a part of their own solution," he said. "This is the first time it's part of an integrated, tested and supported solution. That's as different as night and day."

The new appliances are slated to be available via Dell's channel partners in the second half of 2014.