Dell Expands Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Prowess With New EMC, VMware, VCE Technology

Dell's Jim Ganthier

Dell on Tuesday moved to expand its hyper-converged infrastructure offerings to become a single source for the technology for partners serving small businesses to enterprises.

The move comes as the hyper-converged infrastructure solutions become one of the fastest-growing parts of the IT industry, said Jim Ganthier, vice president and general manager for engineered solutions and cloud for Round Rock, Texas-based Dell.

"If you believe the analysts, hyper-converged infrastructure is growing at an asymptotic rate, about 60 percent a year," Ganthier told CRN. "That's like a Harrier jet. It takes off at one end, and if you don't watch it closely, it's gone."

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Ganthier, quoting reports from Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC, said total hyper-converged infrastructure revenue will be close to $4 billion by 2019. "In typical Dell fashion, when we see something growing fast, it's an area we want to dominate."

For Dell, that means a significant expansion of what already is one of the industry's largest hyper-converged infrastructure line cards.

Also on Tuesday, Dell said it will resell a number of hyper-converged infrastructure solutions from EMC, which Dell is in the process of acquiring. Included are VCE VxRack and VxRail solutions and VMware VSAN Ready Node solutions.

Also new to the Dell lineup are a new reference architecture combining Dell server and EMC storage technology, a new Dell-designed cloud platform based on hyper-converged infrastructure, and a significant boost in power and workload capabilities for the XC series appliances based on Dell's long-term relationship with San Jose, Calif.-based Nutanix.

These capabilities add to Dell's Blue Thunder software-defined storage strategy, under which Dell works with multiple vendors of hyper-converged and software-defined storage technology.

Ganthier said Dell in no way would admit it had too many hyper-converged infrastructure platforms.

For the last 30 years, Dell has been focused on providing customer choice, he said. "One size fits none," Ganthier stated. "When customers say they want a hyper-converged infrastructure platform, vendors typically push one solution. But every customer is different. We want to give customers a continuum of offerings. We let them buy and consume hyper-converged infrastructure as they want it."

Dell XC Series hyper-converged infrastructure solution

Having a wide range of offerings is important for Dell's partners as well, said Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and long-term Dell partner.

This is important as customers are increasingly attracted to the hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, Clifford told CRN.

"We have a lot of solutions for our customers," he said. "One solution, however, is a one-size-fits-all solution. That's how this business works. But while SMB, mid-size, and enterprise customers all need hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, they have different needs. This just gives us more tools to use to work with customers."

New from Dell this week is an agreement to resell the fully-integrated and pre-configured VCE VxRail appliance family from EMC. The VCE VxRail is a fully-configured, VMware-ready solution combining VMware's vCenter and Virtual SAN (VSAN) software with EMC's rich data services, Ganthier said.

Dell is also reselling VCE VxRack Nodes and VxRack System 1000 Flex solutions, based on EMC's ScaleIO software. Ganthier said VCE VxRack provides an easy-to-scale infrastructure for customers that prefer pre-configured hyper-converged infrastructure solutions.

Also new from Dell is the Dell Reference Architecture for EMC Converged Infrastructure. The new Dell Reference Architecture combines Dell PowerEdge servers and VMware's VxRack architecture to produce a solution similar to VCE's Vblock.

However, Ganthier said that while VCE Vblocks include Cisco UCS servers, the Dell Reference Architecture for EMC Converged Infrastructure includes Dell servers. "This is a reference architecture (for those) who want to use Dell PowerEdge servers," he said.

Dell also enhanced its Dell Hybrid Cloud Platform for VMware with the addition of Dell System Manager and VMware vRealize and VSAN solutions, Ganthier said. "With this, customers get an entire hybrid cloud platform," he said.

Dell made two big changes to its XC series of hyper-converged appliances based on its Nutanix relationship. The first was the adoption of Intel Broadwell processors, which are now available with Dell PowerEdge servers to boost performance. The XC series is also now certified to be used in SAP's NetWeaver solutions, Ganthier said.

"No IT environment is identical," he said. "We want to offer prescriptive solutions, so if customers have specific requirements, we can offer suggestions."

EMC VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure solution

Davenport's Clifford said Dell's Nutanix-based XC has turned out to be a very good solution for Dell partners and their customers. "It's truly designed for a customer that is growing fast," he said. "Not the normal industry fast, but doubling in size fast. Customers like it. And engineers like it."

The new focus on VMware technologies such as VSAN also shows who the new Dell really is, Clifford said.

"VMware is a driving force in the market," he said. "VMware provides a free VSAN license with the VMware Enterprise Plus package. That gets customers really starting to look at VSAN, and so we're getting demand from our customers for VMware-based hyper-converged infrastructure solutions."