Dell EMC flexes some HCI muscle at VMworld 2017

Dell EMC and VMware announced two joint solutions, VxRail 4.5 and VxRack, enabling users to take advantage of HCI and quickly integrate it with existing VMware software.

Dell EMC flexes some HCI muscle at VMworld 2017
Dell EMC

In the world of technology, August is normally a fairly quiet month, and overall it was—but not in the realm of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).

Around mid-August, Cisco finally announced the long overdue acquisition of Springpath, indicating it sees a strong potential upside in this market. Also in August, VMware held its annual user event, VMworld, and at the event it and its closest technology partner, Dell EMC, made a significant amount of news in the area of HCI. 

Historically, HCI has been used for desktop virtualization, but recently the uses cases have expanded into other business critical areas. And last week, Dell EMC and VMware announced new joint solutions. 

New version of Dell EMC VxRail

One of the big advantages that the Converged Platform and Solution Division at Dell EMC has over the rest of the HCI field is the tight coupling it has had with VMware through joint engineering. The latest version of software, VxRail 4.5, includes automation and lifecycle management for VMware’s vSAN and vSphere. Part of what has made Dell EMC so successful is that businesses that consider themselves to be “VMware” shops have a certain degree of assurance that VxRail will provide the fastest deployment and most complete management. 

With this latest release, upgrading and patching software is highly automated, taking the human element out of the equation. IT spends far too much time performing tasks that have no strategic value to the company or to the skill set of the IT person, such as patching software, and automating such tasks can remove that burden. Also, companies that adopt DevOps practices need to operate faster, and having developers sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for software to be patched significantly inhibits the goal of speed. 

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The new software also includes something called batch multi-node scaling, which automates the scaling of a single VxRail appliance to be scaled to multi-node environments. One of the main reasons why customers buy HCI is because it’s “fast and easy” to deploy, and now VxRail multi-node systems are, too.

Additionally, VxRail 4.5 offers REST-based APIs for programmatic lifecycle management of a VxRail appliance or cluster. This gives customers the option of plugging the management into another set of tools.

VxRack gets an upgrade

Dell EMC’s VxRack also got an upgrade. VxRack is typically used by larger customers that want HCI to be part of a larger software-defined data center (SDDC) initiative. At VMworld, Dell EMC displayed VxRack integrated with VMware Cloud Foundation for simplified management of VMware vSphere 6.5, vSAN 6.6 and the network virtualization product NSX 6.3 in a self-contained system. 

For those not familiar with VxRack, think of it as VxRail on steroids where the benefits of HCI are brought to an entire rack or even data center instead of a single appliance.

Businesses that want a hybrid cloud now have an HCI option, as well. Dell EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud (EHC) platform is now available on VxRack running VMware SDDC software. With this joint solution, users no longer have to tune and tweak the system. The two companies have done all the heavy lifting, allowing customers to stand up a VMware hybrid cloud in a matter of weeks.

A key addition to the hybrid cloud solution is multi-site support, enabling customers to manage up to four sites through a single portal. Also, Microsoft Azure is now supported as a public cloud option, showing that VMware understands that customers do indeed want heterogeneity. This is a big shift in thinking for VMware, which historically looked at the world through only VMware-colored glasses.

VMware, Dell EMC ease deployment of tools

In many ways, the 2017 edition of VMworld was a coming-out party of sorts for both VMware and sister vendor Dell EMC. Both companies have had good technology over the years, but the ease of deploying them held their customers back from maximizing the value in their investments. The mission statement of the Converged Platforms and Solutions Group (formerly VCE) has always been to take the complexity out of multi-vendor solutions, and it seems their influence can now be seen at Dell EMC and at VMware.

IT buyers have lots of choices when it comes to public, private and hybrid clouds, but most have a significant investment in VMware. The joint solutions enable customers to take advantage of HCI and quickly integrate it with their existing VMware software. Customers of Dell EMC and VMware should expect, even demand, more and tighter integration between both companies.

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