Embracing The Inevitable Move From Hardware To Services

When Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and other hyperscale public cloud providers started becoming a force in IT almost a decade ago, questions arose about what the future looked like for traditional datacenter hardware providers like Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

The response was a sharp shift toward software and services, an embrace of recurring revenue over one-time system sales and, eventually, the roll out of as-a-service platforms to deliver more cloud-like experiences for organizations as they embraced multicloud strategies. The OEMs also are making more of their software available in the public cloud.

That has been on clear display at this week’s Dell Technologies World show in Las Vegas. Missing from the keynote stage were the servers and storage systems that were commonplace in such events in the years leading up to the pandemic. The talk this week was about additions to Dell’s Apex as-a-service portfolio and the software innovations driving enhancements to the core of the vendor’s storage lineup.

CEO Michael Dell during his keynote at one point reminded the 5,500 attendees that the company’s server and storage infrastructure still formed the foundation for Apex, but it was software and services that were center stage.

“What we tried to articulate through our storage announcements was about the advancements in our software and they are leading our hardware innovation and how the manifestations of those products are now going to be brought into the multicloud world,” Jeff Clarke, vice chairman and co-COO at Dell, said during a Q&A session following his own keynote.

Clarke called Apex a control point “at its core,” and it’s through the control point that Dell can offer a modern consumption service. Now the company is offering full-stack managed services – first with cybersecurity and later with other areas, such as HPC, MLOps and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – and then its different storage tools to create a single common pool of storage assets for developers, he said.

A next step will be to build an orchestration layer between multiple clouds.

“The advancements we’ve made around software and the inherent capabilities we’ve put into our arrays will manifestly make their way into the marketplace through software,” Clarke said.

Dell rolled out more than 500 enhancements to software for its PowerStore, PowerMax and PowerFlex storage portfolios that touch on everything from automation and data mobility to secure that stretches from the datacenter to the cloud and edge environments. PowerStore OS 3.0 includes upgrades that improve the mixed workload performance by 50 percent and capacity by as much as 66 percent. It also includes greater VMware integrations for vVols latency and performance boosts and VM-level snapshots and fast clones.

The hardware also is being refreshed, with the latest Intel chips, and 100GB NVMe-over-TCP networks.

PowerMax OS 10 comes with more than 200 new features, including security functions like multifactor authentication, continuous scanning for ransomware and support for zero-trust architectures. It can scale to 65 million immutable snapshots per array and deliver 4:1 data reduction and up to 50 percent better response time. NVMe-over-TCP.

The PowerFlex software-defined infrastructure offers new file services to enable unified block and file to run on single platform and support for all major Kubernetes and container orchestration platforms, including those from Red Hat, SUSE and VMware to Amazon, Microsoft and Google. It also includes NVMe-over-TCP.

Dell also built on the announcement in January of Project Alpine, an initiative to make its file, block and object storage software available in public clouds like AWS and Azure. At the show, the company offered demonstrations of the capability.

“It’s all about having that streamlined experience and that consistent experience,” Caitlin Gordon, vice president of software and solutions product management at Dell, said during a briefing with journalist. “One of the biggest value propositions is the fact that because we’re building off of our existing storage software, you can take advantage of things like the native mobility and replication technology to move data from on-prem to the cloud and back seamlessly without having to use any new tools, without having to retrain staff and, just like we have with data protection today, consume them either as a native cloud service or through a public cloud marketplace.”

In addition, the vendor is working with Snowflake to enable data from Dell object storage systems to connect with Snowflake’s Data Cloud. Through the partnership, organizations will be able to analyze their on-premises data on Snowflake’s cloud-based data analytics framework, either by copying the data to the public cloud or by keeping it on premises, a key capability for enterprises with data limited by privacy, governance or sovereignty issues.

“This is really about taking out technology, offering it as software and then being able to provide that across many, many platforms,” Clarke said. “This is really about having built a multicloud … system that includes all the major clouds. Project Alpine really takes our enterprise-class data services and makes them available in the public cloud. That’s for cloud-bursting. It’s for test and development, it’s for cloud-based analytics and it’s for data and container mobility. And it’s really about unlocking the power of data.”

Apex is Dell’s initiative to offer its entire portfolio as a service, giving enterprises a cloud-like consumption model that includes subscriptions and pay-as-you-go capabilities. It is similar to what some competitors are doing, such as HPE with GreenLake, Lenovo with TruScale and Cisco with Cisco+.

Dell rolled out a full stack of fully managed security services called Cyber Recovery Services and aimed at making it easier for organizations to recover from ransomware and other attacks. The vendor is taking a custom product offering cyber vaults for data that had been deployed more than 2,000 times and making it a service.

Dell also is making its PowerProtect Cyber Recovery software available on Azure – it was brought to AWS earlier this year – and its CyberSense for PowerProtect Cyber Recovery to AWS. CyberSense uses machine learning to help detect if an attack has occurred.

“What CyberSense does is will provide full content indexing of those air-gapped cyber vault copies,” Chad Dunn, vice president of Apex product management, told journalists. “in the case of a ransomware attack, you’ll be able to use CyberSense to find the last known good backup copy and be able to recover that confidently in the public cloud. The other benefit we found is that CyberSense actually can be a last line of defense to detect that an attack has occurred as well because it’s doing full contact indexing and can have the intelligence to detect if a ransomware attack has actually happened.”

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