I haven’t had a lot of contact with Dell gear recently, where customers have Dell gear I haven’t been called on to do any host deployments or troubleshooting. That might be a good sign, the best products for customers are the ones that don’t fail and support people never get calls on. I enjoyed visiting Dell and hearing from people who were excited about what they are doing. I also got to say hello to @GMinks who recognised me when we met at VMworld 2011 from my voice on the APAC Virtualization podcast.
As part of Tech Field Day we spent a day at the Dell Round Rock campus, in the building that is apparently also home to Michael Dell’s office although we didn’t see him. One thing I wasn’t expecting was to hear that Dell has an active community area on it’s web site, called the Dell Tech Center. I’d always thought of Dell’s web presence as a rather regimented sales and support vehicle. The guys who run the community were as enthusiastic as you’d want and seemed to have a good level of resourcing to actually play with the products they talk about, several racks of gear. The site also seems to be primarily a way of generating an engineer oriented tech message and then sharing it.
One piece of tin got a lot of mentions, the VRTX (pronounced vertex) blade enclosure had just been launched and all the delegates who work in the server world wanted a look. This is a 4 slot blade enclosure with 12 x 3.5” or 25 x 2.5” spindles of disk. It’s a little like the HP C3000 enclosure in that there aren’t a lot of blade slots but it will run in a cupboard from simple power and ambient air. It’s like the IBM BladeCentre-S in that it has compute and storage in the enclosure. It’s unique in that it has PCI-e expansion slots in the back that can be mapped into the blades. One of the challenges in blades is getting the expansion cards you need in their proprietary mezzanine card format, the VRTX avoids that by having full size PCI-e slots so you can have a hardware GPU or a Fusion-IO card or a Teradici Apex2800 card. The other aspect of the VRTX is that it has a management tool which is essentially a modified version of the Gale Technologies cloud automation product I saw at VMworld in 2011. Dell acquired Gale in 2012 so it’s good to see them release a product, just a shame that the Dell product only has support for Dell hardware and not may options even there.
The two software pieces we were shown by Dell didn’t do a lot for me. The backup products are still three different products in three different market sectors without a cohesive overall look and feel or easy migrations paths between. The vKernel part didn’t look like it had moved a lot under Quest’s stewardship so I’m hoping it gets to spread it’s wings now that Dell has picked up all of Quest. I always liked vKernel products so was sad that they sold out to Quest. My view of Quest is coloured by the death of the VizionCore name and the stalling of it’s product suite. Very disappointing as these were some of the top products around VMware in the early days, if the smart people are still there then Dell has a great chance to create some virtualization management products that rock. They will need to focus on a world with multiple hypervisors including cloud vendors and I think there is a huge opportunity in that space.
© 2013, Alastair. All rights reserved.