by Andy Patrizio

Dell EMC aims for a converged, custom fit in an off-the-rack world

Oct 19, 2016

Dell EMC says converged systems are too rigid in their deployment options and has come up with an on-premises offering it calls Validated System for Virtualization.

It may be a cloud world, but Dell EMC is still invested in on-premises systems, in particular converged systems. At VMworld 2016 in late August, the company took the wraps off a new product line called Validated System for Virtualization, which reflects a significant shift in the company’s converged systems portfolio.

The new solution, according to Dell EMC, represents what it calls “service-defined infrastructure” by incorporating a wide range of form-factors, technology choices and deployment options, all designed to fit the needs of a customer ranging from midsized to the Fortune 10.

Converged systems, a recent trend in hardware, combine compute, storage, networking and the software workload all into one fully integrated system rather than piecing it together. They are designed for easy installation and use by customers.

The problem is converged systems are rather rigid in their configuration and not easily changed once built and deployed. Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, Validated Solutions Organization, Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division, said converged systems were too narrow.

“Before validated systems, most people in IT had one of two choices – a reference architecture, which is a polite way of saying here’s the system we made and 15 things you need to buy to build it yourself. Or the other side is what our competition used to do, which is it’s racked and stacked, and you get whatever configuration I decide to give you,” he says.

Dell EMC felt there was something in between that could be differentiated. Instead of something inflexible, a customer could keep it deployed, scaled and updated by adding more capacity as needed.

So Dell EMC’s Service-Defined Infrastructure approach means that customers can choose the form-factor, technology and other options that enable systems to be right-sized for most any compute and business requirements. Also, these new systems can be built using Dell’s ordering and fulfillment processes. Customers can configure a system, receive a quote and place an order in minutes.

“Typically, converged systems have tended to be pretty rigid in size,” said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. “Vendors allow for maybe one, two, three sizes of converged systems for a specific app or app workload. With the Dell systems, you could configure it for almost any size. These are aimed at mid-market companies, but certainly there would be room in there to scale for any company.”

King likes the fact that Dell EMC is not really putting a lower or higher end limit on it. “They are saying buy the size you need today, the architecture is scalable enough to accommodate additional deployments if you want over the course of time. To my mind it’s a very flexible and scalable architecture,” he says.

The systems were designed before the EMC purchase closed, so currently there is no EMC product involved. That can change, said Ganthier. “EMC will fit in everywhere. Now that we’re Dell EMC, we will have the capabilities of choosing best in class server, storage and networking and wrap it in our financing,” he said.

The announcement at VMworld was around VMware’s virtualization software. At the recent Microsoft Ignite show, Dell EMC made some Azure-based announcements that mirror the VMware ones. Among them were new Validated Systems for Microsoft Exchange and Validated Systems for Microsoft SQL to provide turnkey solutions for email and database needs.

On-premises business remains strong in growing cloud world

Despite the massive shift to the cloud, Gantheir said the on-premises business remains healthy. “People are doing a combination of on-premises and off. SMBs might be cloud, but we’ve seen cloud repatriation. People who were 100 percent born in the cloud are finding justification for economic repatriating to a hybrid posture to bring home some things and keeping what they can in the cloud,” he says.

In addition to the flexibility, King likes that Dell EMC isn’t picking one virtualization vendor. “Dell’s stated intention is to support multiple apps and virtual environments. What they are doing this week at Ignite has to do with Microsoft technologies. I also expect them to work with Citrix’s Xen hypervisor. This is meant to be an extremely agnostic platform from a standpoint of technologies it supports,” he says.