For more than a year, Dell Technologies has been putting together the pieces of its hybrid cloud strategy, a combination of its own hardware – in particular, the VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure appliance – and software and VMware technologies, including its VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) platform and, more recently, the virtualization vendor’s Tanzu, a platform for Kubernetes, containers, and cloud-native applications. Dell introduced its Dell Technologies Cloud platform last year and has been adding to it since.
It was Dell planting its flag in the booming hybrid cloud world, expanding its role in the industry-wide push to bring more cloud-like features – like dynamic scalability and flexibility and a range of pay models that include subscriptions and pay-as-you-go – to traditional datacenters and leveraging VMware’s reach into the public cloud through partnerships with top-tier cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and others to offer a datacenter-to-cloud (and also to the edge) play.
The lines between on-premises facilities and the cloud are blurring rapidly, and need to as enterprises continue to migrate more of their workloads and data into the cloud. This is particularly true in the age of COVID-19, with the pandemic forcing organizations to accelerate their migration plans and adopt hybrid cloud strategies. In its annual cloud report, IT management software vendor Flexera found that 93 percent of enterprises have multicloud strategies and 87 percent hybrid cloud plans. On average, they use more than two public clouds and more than two private clouds.
Many in the tech industry have been watching that trend over the past several years and are looking to expand their reach into both sides of the equation. AWS made the move last year with its Outposts systems that can live on-premises and tie back to its cloud. Microsoft’s Azure Arc enables users to run its cloud services on any infrastructure and Google Cloud is using its Anthos platform for the same purposes. From the other end, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware and other datacenter stalwarts are finding ways to stretch their technologies into the cloud. IBM, armed with its $34 billion purchase last year of Red Hat, this month announced it was spinning off its IT infrastructure services business to free it up to pivot even harder to the hybrid cloud space and artificial intelligence (AI) market.
Deepak Patil has been on both sides of the quickly disappearing fence. Patil spent much of the last half of his 15-plus years with Microsoft helping the software giant build up its Azure business, which now stands behind only AWS as the largest public cloud services provider in the world. He then moved to Oracle for more than two years to help grow the company’s cloud and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform and in 2018 moved to Virtustream – a cloud platform company owned by Dell – as its CTO and senior vice president of product and engineering. Since October 2019, he has been senior vice president and general manager of Dell Technologies Cloud.
Patil has seen the changes in what it means to be a cloud company and its pushing Dell vision of cloud as an operating model and the belief that Dell combined with VMware gives the company strong capabilities in bringing that operating model to wherever the user’s workload is, whether in the datacenter, in the cloud or – increasingly – at the edge.
“More than a decade ago, the general narrative in the industry around cloud [is that it was] controlled and driven by hyperscalers. I was one of those people when I was at Microsoft and even when I was at Oracle,” Patil tells The Next Platform. “The digital cloud providers have gone to customers and said, ‘Hey, you come to my cloud and you get certain cloudy characteristics or experiences. You get infrastructure to run your workloads. You get delivery of all of my assets as services over the network. You get fundamentally modernized commerce so you can leverage and purchase and use my assets as a subscription or on a pay-as-you-go basis. We will massively simplify your IT so that you won’t have to worry about upgrades and updates. And we will help you democratize your software development, through containerized API-level access to modern software development technologies.’ At the most basic level, that’s cloud. Infrastructure to run workloads, simplification of IT, modernization of commerce, delivery of resources as a service, democratization of software development. That’s cloud.”
Given the high numbers of enterprises that are now adopting the cloud model — even more so since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – there no reason why those cloud experiences must only reside in the public cloud, he says. Everyone, including hyperscalers, “have an obligation to really meet customers where they’re at. Their workloads span from their own datacenters to public clouds to the edge. The general notion inside Dell Technologies is bringing this operating model to wherever customer workloads are so that customers worry less about where the workloads live and worry more about how they’re going to achieve their business goals and imperatives, performance and reliability, security and efficiency, extensibility and engineering, innovation, speed, things like that. So that’s the general approach and the notion behind the cloud vision inside Dell.”
And it’s evolving, he says. That can be seen with the growth of hybrid cloud environments and the push by all players to be both in the cloud and in the datacenter. At the same time, how enterprises approach the cloud is changing. Within the next two to three years, organizations won’t be going simply to an AWS or Azure cloud. Instead they’ll be going to a Dell or HPE or some other vendor cloud ecosystem hosted on AWS or Azure, Patil says. The winners in this competition will be those that build the right ecosystems.
“Customers agree that the current set of challenges around having multiple applications, diverse distributed applications that don’t work with each other, consoles that are not connected, security development models that are not really aligned … are going to start to become real as more and more mission-critical workloads start to move to the cloud,” he says. “So an ecosystem play where the cloud provider and the partner solutions come together and are presented to a customer in a simple, modern and seamless way is going to be a fundamental requirement.”
VMware and its cloud efforts – not only VMware Cloud Foundation but also its partnerships with AWS and others – are an example of that ecosystem play. An enterprise that likes the virtualization software, lifecycle management, infrastructure and platform software of VMware but wants to have access to higher level Azure or AWS service now have ways of having all of that, Patil says. Dell is shooting for the same thing, giving organizations access to both the company’s hyperconverged infrastructure, storage, networking, data protection and the like can leverage those offerings while also running workloads in the public cloud.
So how is Dell, which has its virtual Dell Technologies World event this week, going to leverage what it’s begun with Dell Technologies Cloud to move forward with its cloud ambitions? At the core is the cloud platform, which has VxRail at the foundation and integrated tightly with VMware Cloud Foundation. Enterprises can now use that as a private cloud platform and, according to Patil, several hundred organizations have bought its over the last eight months. “Given the fact that the foundational software stack for that private cloud environment is based on the innovation happening in VMware, now we are working on extending that for multiple workloads, multiple use cases, multiple industry verticals,” he says.
Next is a plan to transform all of the company’s assets into mobile cloud services to enable enterprises to leverage whatever they want from Dell in a cloud environment. If an organization wants Dell’s data protection or backup services, they can run them across multiple cloud platforms rather than having to manage four different services from other companies that work on four different platforms. It’s similar to the announcement Dell made with Google Cloud in May, with the introduction of OneFS for Google Cloud. The service uses Dell EMC’s Isilon filesystems on premises and the analytics and compute services offer in Google Cloud to more easily to manage data-intensive workloads between on-premises datacenters and the cloud. Businesses can now move workloads as large as 50 petabytes in a single filesystem between the two environments without making changes in the applications.
Dell has talked a bit about making their portfolio available as services over the past several weeks. It’s similar to HPE’s announcement last year of its plan to offer its entire product portfolio as a service by 2022 and dovetails with what other vendors are talking about. Patil wouldn’t comment directly on how its plans compare with HPE’s – though he did say the competitor’s plans were more of a “marketing statement” – but added that Dell offers the three key elements that are needed to truly make its products available as a service.
That includes modernizing the consumption and commerce models – including options ranging from a capital purchase to subscriptions, pay-as-you-go and Dell financed purchases and having a strong services aspect to support and run those capabilities for organizations so that they can decide what parts of the application infrastructure they want to manage and those they want Dell to run. Dell’s service organization has about 25,000 employees.
The last element is the ability to deliver the capabilities over the network. Dell can provide the infrastructure to deliver the core software services – including management, configuration and updates – through the private or public networks “so that our customers can have control of what they want to upgrade and when they want to upgrade, what types of buffers they want to manage, how they can automatically configure and manage their environment without them or us having to throw people at the problem,” Patil says.
Dell will continue to have a lot of competition in this area from the likes of HPE, IBM, and Cisco Systems. Patil says the company has the components in place to push forward with its plans in the coming year and to evolve along with the cloud space.