Michael Dell: Post-Broadcom Dell PowerFlex Sees ‘Great Momentum’ As VxRail Alternative

“It works with VMware. And it also works with RedHat and every hypervisor and container platform. It’s developer friendly. It works in all the public clouds. It works on-prem. It works colo. It works everywhere. We’ve been having great momentum with that,” Dell Technologies’ CEO Michael Dell said of the company’s PowerFlex in an interview with CRN.

Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell says that while VxRail remains popular, Dell’s hypervisor agnostic PowerFlex is seeing “great momentum” as customers and partners hunt for VMware alternatives.

“Anyone who wants to sell VxRail can sell VxRail,” Dell told CRN. “And also, what are the alternatives? You’ve been hearing us talk about PowerFlex for some time. It’s really our premier infrastructure solution. And it works with VMware. And it also works with RedHat and every hypervisor and container platform. It’s developer friendly. It works in all the public clouds. It works on-prem, it works colo, it works everywhere. We’ve been having great momentum with that.”

Dell PowerFlex is the company’s software-defined architecture that supports hyperscaler and container orchestration platforms for block and file, across bare metal and hypervisors. It is delivered on a single infrastructure platform.

“We want to offer customers and partners the broadest set of choices,” Michael Dell said. “So some customers will want to continue to work with VMware and some customers want to do something else. They can do either one with Dell.”

VxRail has a massive installed base with more than 20,000 customers deploying 300,000 nodes around the world. It is the only HCI product that has been co-engineered with VMware.

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CR Howdyshell, CEO of Dell Titanium partner Advizex, said VxRail remains popular, but more customers are demanding alternatives and the hypervisor-agnostic Dell PowerFlex is making strides in the marketplace following Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware last year.

“Based on what’s happening in the marketplace with Broadcom. It has not been a good experience. It has been a very challenging experience,” Howdyshell said. “What I think about as a partner is, we have to represent our customers and give them the best options. I really believe PowerFlex has come to the table as a viable option for customers. We’re already seeing significant and increased activity.”

After the $69-billion acquisition closed in November, Broadcom changed VMware licensing costs, with streamlined product bundles that are priced per-node. That has caused the cost of some VMware environments to rise by 10x or more to keep their existing VMware estate, according to partners and analysts.

Using PowerFlex customers can reduce the number of nodes running VMware, parsing them by what workloads they are using, said Josh Lee, chief technology officer at VirtuIT, a Nanuet, N.Y.-based Dell Platinum partner, which also holds a VMware Master Competency in data center.

“Those larger customers, say, six, seven nodes up, that’s where Dell PowerFlex is going to come into play,” Lee told CRN. “You can really architect a solution where you can manipulate how many cores they really need for VMware, and you can separate out the storage costs from the compute costs. With VxRail, if you needed storage at eight nodes you had to pay for the compute and the licensing for eight nodes. With PowerFlex, if you only need the compute for three or four nodes, and storage for a few, you just have to pay for what you need.”

Lee said he is also using Dell’s Apex offering with Microsoft to build alternatives for customers in Azure, which allows the customers to scale down to as little as one node. Lee said one customer just built a “very large project” using Azure stack HCI on Dell nodes because “they wanted no part of Broadcom.”

“This takes those nodes, but wraps a lifecycle management controller, and it honestly looks a lot like VxRail Manager,” Lee said. “It looks like a very tight, single-pane-of-glass control plane for management. It makes it – I hate to say it – but it’s almost idiot-proof. You can’t really screw it up. You can go down to as little as one-node. You can scale from one node up to 16. You can have multiple clusters together.”

In February, as Broadcom announced several rapid changes to VMware’s partners, products, OEM agreements, and pricing, Broadcom and Dell’s Gil Shneorson, one of the designers of the VxRail product, vowed in a co-authored a blog, that the sales, support and updates for VxRail would continue.

“It’s crucial to emphasize that Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware does not impact the deployment and support experience of VxRail and VCF on VxRail for which VMware and Dell have been known and remain committed to delivering for their customers,” the blog stated. “Our product and engineering teams continue to collaborate on delivery and support for our customer base, which drives the ongoing evolution and dedication to excellence in both VxRail and VCF on VxRail.”

Dell Technologies acquired VMware as part of its purchase of storage-giant EMC in 2016.

After Dell’s 2021 spin-out of VMware, the two signed a five-year agreement that allowed many of the tight business relationships they shared to continue after the virtualization leader was no longer part of Dell. As a part of the structure of that deal, Dell supplied 40 percent of VMware’s revenue, according to filings.

Dell Technologies killed that relationship in January, two years early, citing a clause in the agreement that allowed either party to terminate it in the event of a change of ownership. Broadcom has told CRN that going forward it plans to work with all vendors on a level playing field.