Dell Extends Nexenta Software-Defined Storage To VMware EVO: RAIL

Sam Greenblatt, CTO for Dell's Enterprise Solutions Group

Dell is expanding its hyper-converged infrastructure solutions portfolio with a software-defined storage update to its appliance featuring Dell servers and the VMware EVO: RAIL software stack, and also plans to add a virtual desktop-specific version soon.

Dell this week said it will be shipping an option to its existing Dell Engineered Solutions for VMware EVO: RAIL that allows customers to add the NexentaStor and NexentaConnect technologies to the solution.

NexentaStor adds unified file and block storage services to industry-standard hardware and scales to petabyte configurations.

[Related: Dell's Two-Part Plan: Merge Storage Platforms, Develop 'Blue Thunder' Software-Defined Storage]

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NexentaConnect allows the connection of software-defined storage with cloud, enterprise and virtual desktop deployments in VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) and VMware Horizon environments, with Citrix XenDesktop compatibility expected soon.

Dell already offers Nexenta's software-defined storage technology as an option on Dell servers.

VMware EVO: RAIL, introduced at the August VMworld conference, is a scalable software-defined data center software stack which includes VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus and ESXi, vCenter Server, VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) for storage and VMware vRealize Log Insight, the real-time log management application formerly known as vCenter Log Insight.

The Dell Engineered Solutions for VMware EVO: RAIL have been ready to ship since mid-September, said Sam Greenblatt, CTO for Dell's Enterprise Division.

"They are waiting for VARs to order them and take inventory," Greenblatt told CRN.

By the end of October, Dell plans to have ready to ship an appliance based on VMware's new EVO: RAIL Horizon for VDI, which includes VMware Horizon as part of the software package, he said.

By year-end, Dell also plans to start shipping the Dell Engineered Solutions for VMware EVO: RAIL with an option for Nexenta's technology as part of a bigger plan to make a variety of applications available for the EVO: RAIL hyper-converged infrastructure platform, Greenblatt said.

"We are going to bring out more and more apps for specialized functions to RAIL," he said. "We are also exploring setting up an app store to bring apps to RAIL."

The Nexenta option stems from a need for some customers for software capabilities beyond what VMware VSAN, part of the VMware EVO: RAIL software stack, offers, Greenblatt said.

"Nexenta has a more efficient file system, and works hand-in-glove with VSAN," he said. "Nexenta also offers more enhanced features. And if you are used to using ZFS-based storage, with Nexenta it's now complimentary to VSAN. VMware wants vendors to differentiate their EVO: RAIL solutions."

NEXT: VMware EVO: RAIL vs. Nutanix At Dell

In addition to the Dell Engineered Solutions for VMware EVO: RAIL, Dell is tackling the hyper-converged infrastructure appliance market with a program to resell Nutanix-branded appliances and to offer Dell servers bundled with the Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure software stack.

Greenblatt said there is no real overlap between the company's EVO: RAIL-based and Nutanix-based offerings.

"If you look at Nutanix functionality, it is also very complimentary to RAIL," he said. "Customers may buy a RAIL and add Nutanix to virtualize the I/O. Nutanix also works with Nexenta. We're giving customers the best of all possible worlds."

Greenblatt said the EVO: RAIL solution is great for customers with VMware environments, while Nutanix is built on Linux and KVM, making it applicable to a wider range of applications.

With VMware EVO: RAIL, Nutanix and Nexenta, Dell is continuing its strategy of offering customers a choice of software-defined storage, said Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and long-time Dell partner.

"The way Dell leverages its OEM partners is great," Tanenhaus told CRN.

One of the limitations of EVO: RAIL is the dependence on VSAN for storage, as VSAN is focused on block storage, Tanenhaus said. Nutanix, on the other hand, has a file system that presents data in a file format. "Together, they provide more options," he said.

Dell is providing momentum not only to the VMware EVO: RAIL solution but also, with its Nexenta option, to software-defined storage, Tanenhaus said.

"Nexenta offers a number of possibilities," he said. "It can be used to introduce storage beyond the VMware environment."

Dell's multiple software-defined storage offerings are not confusing to customers, Tanenhaus said.

"Everyone is pretty clear that the physical and software-defined storage worlds are different," he said. "At Dell World next month, we will probably see more moves in this direction. Software-defined is giving hardware companies like Dell a future."

VMware has signed up a total of eight partners to provide hyper-converged infrastructure appliances combining the VMware EVO: RAIL software stack with their hardware, including Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, China-based Inspur, Japan-based NetOne and Supermicro.

HP on Tuesday officially unveiled one such appliance, the HP ConvergedSystem 200 HC EVO: RAIL, which ties the VMware software to a ProLiant server. It is slated to be released early next year.