As I have mentioned, I recently joined Dell. I hope I am one of those who Storagebod talks about as having done this for smart reasons not the money. I had a choice of where (and indeed whether) to move, and the main reason I chose Dell was their approach to managing infrastructure.
These days it’s all about owning the stack. It’s why Dell bought Compellent, why EMC teamed up with Cisco, and why Oracle have done whatever weird shit they did this week (OK, with Oracle it’s about world domination first and owning the stack second).
Different vendors do this in different ways.
Cisco’s UCS is undoubtedly clever. I doubt any other vendor could have got away with a solution that combined new-to-market products, eye-watering expense and complete lock-in; Cisco’s presence in CIO mindshare and their golden Gartner halo has allowed them to be bolder than I’d have believed possible and get away with it.
HP are making a competent job of serving their core market with tools that make it reasonably easy for an HP shop to make the transition to “cloud-readiness”, for whatever version of the term cloud is in vogue this week. I don’t particularly like it but mainly for religious reasons (it smells too much of rip and replace and single-vendor; it does not work too smoothly even with their older product).
In the stack-to-cloud space Dell, as so often, is playing a game which at first glance looks suspiciously like following the crest of the wave and sweeping up the leavings, but actually I think it is a lot smarter than that (and I have views on the question of Dell and innovation). Yes, of course I do, that’s why I am working for Dell now. Please check my working:
The Dell Approach (and why I think it’s right)
There are two main parts of the Dell integration, they are called Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) and Virtual Integrated System (VIS, definitely not pronounced Viz). The cricial thing about both of these is that they will work across multiple platforms; HP, Dell, VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat – all fair game. In a world where people increasingly want to get away from purchasing decisions dominated by vendor labels and towards a focus on the service provided, this seems to me to be the right approach.
If desktop virtualisation is driven by “BYO3” (of which more anon, hat-tip Barb Goldworm) then surely the next big move in server virtualisation must be “bring your own stack”, a term for which I claim copyright, trademark and quite likely T-shirt rights. Both the Dell products will work with what you have and probably with what you buy next even if it’s not Dell. That’s rather a powerful message.
AIM is the former Scalent product line, with some further development. Scalent was widely recognised as an innovative and intelligently designed product which performs for servers pretty much the function of user state virtualisation (the AppSense way, not the currently-laughable Microsoft version). The function of the server – the OS and software load – is abstracted from the hardware and delivered as a “persona” which can be targeted to another device or to a virtual machine. Today I have been moving SAN-booted Windows and Red Hat instances from bare metal to ESX to Hyper-V with remarkable ease. The UI takes some getting used to but there’s no doubt that the technology is seriously good. Importantly Scalent was an HP-first product. Some of Scalent’s biggest customers are HP shops and not only are there no plans to drop support for HP hardware, the test matrices actively embrace new kit from HP, IBM and others.
VIS is currently a mixture of Dell intellectual property and technologies licensed from other firms. I don’t think it’s any secret that the Creator component is based on Dynamic Ops Cloud Automation Center, which is a product I love, and the Director piece will be – ahem – hauntingly familiar to those who have compared such industry legends as vFoglight and Netuitive SI. Frustratingly, the precise content I would like to put here is covered by NDA and has been for easily six months, I am working on finding out when the embargo lifts, but suffice it to say that VIS is built on products generally considered best-of-breed. In this case “generally considered” means that not only do I think it myself but lots of other people have agreed.
The crucial points about both of these elements are:
- Vendor agnostic (YMMV)
- Built on well-known and widely respected products
- Significant Dell investment in both new development and maintaining cross-vendor compatibility
The last is, for me, the most significant.
Now, I don’t pretend to have the judgment of Solomon but this is a fast-moving field and right now I think Dell is positioned in a very exciting place. And hopefully I’m along for the ride.