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Dell EMC pushes VxRail hyper-convergence to the edge

Dell EMC VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure expands E Series models with AMD EPYC processors. New VxRail D Series is built to withstand extreme temperature and shock.

Dell EMC has broadened VxRail hyper-converged appliances for demanding hybrid cloud uses outside a core data center.

Dell EMC expanded its VxRail E Series models designed for the edge with new models equipped with AMD EPYC processors. It also introduced rugged Dell EMC VxRail D systems for use in harsh outdoor settings subject to extreme temperature or environmental conditions.

Dell EMC also added support on certain VxRail models for Intel Optane media, including the Barlow Pass generation that Intel launched last week. Dell EMC said it will support Intel Optane persistent memory DIMMs and Intel Optane DC SSD on existing VxRail E560, P570 and P580N systems. In addition to supporting Optane devices, Dell EMC said customers with large rendering farms or CAD projects can outfit VxRail systems with 48 GB Nvidia Quadro RTX graphics processing units.

Dell EMC integrated additional VMware SDDC software capabilities in VxRail to boost network resilience and remote management, said Eric Hanselman, a chief analyst at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence. The SDDC network integration ensures all VxRail nodes run the same version for consistency.

"The value of [hyper-converged infrastructure] HCI is that it hides all of the complications from you. And the real danger of HCI is that it hides all the complications from you. What Dell has done is to automate the network configuration piece. You plug in your VxRail boxes and they automatically detect and sync to each other," Hanselman said.

"These are incremental changes in VxRail Manager but have a big operational impact by reducing your chance for error, which reduces the chance for failure."

Dell EMC VxRail
Dell EMC VxRail HCI family now includes AMD EPYC servers.

Dell extends HCI market lead

A hyper-converged appliance provides an alternative to traditional array-based storage. HCI configures networking, processing and storage capacity in a single integrated appliance. An onboard hypervisor virtualizes the hardware components and enables storage management.

Dell EMC VxRail is the vendor's flagship HCI system that packages VMware vSAN and vSphere virtualization on Dell PowerEdge servers. Dell EMC also sells VxRack, a rack-scale turnkey appliance that scales to petabytes of storage.

Dell EMC dominates among branded HCI hardware systems with nearly 34% market share in the first quarter of 2020, according to analyst firm IDC. Dell Technologies posted $666.3 million in branded HCI revenue last quarter, up 13% year over year and ahead of Nutanix ($261 million) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise ($118 million). Dell also gets revenue from its XC Series, which bundles Nutanix HCI software on Dell hardware.

Dell-owned VMware controls 42% of the HCI software market. VMware vSAN generated $841 million for the quarter, followed by Nutanix ($562 million), HPE ($102 million) and Cisco ($85 million).

Extending VxRail use cases

AMD has been making inroads in enterprise data centers with major server vendors, including newly launched models of Dell PowerEdge. The expanded Dell EMC VxRail E Series includes three 1U single-socket models equipped with AMD EPYC processors, available in all-flash, hybrid or NVMe configurations. Dell EMC claims the AMD-enabled systems offer equivalent performance to existing two-socket VxRail E models. The EPYC systems scale from eight nodes to 64 nodes and up to 1 TB of Intel Optane Persistent Memory DIMMs.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) was an early popular case when hyper-converged systems hit the market, and VDI has gained renewed prominence during the global pandemic. Dell EMC said additional VxRail E Series use cases include databases, high-performance computing and unstructured data management.

Dell EMC pinpoints VxRail D use cases in heavy industry, oil and gas and transportation, where data is collected and analyzed and tiered to a back-end data lake. New hybrid VxRail D systems -- Dell EMC said the "D" stands for durable -- scale to 46 TB of SAS or 23 TB of SATA storage. Use cases include drilling rigs or work areas where physical space is limited. Unlike the new AMD-powered E Series, the D Series systems standardize on 24-core Intel Xeon Scalable processors. The 20-inch-deep racks are engineered for space-constrained environments. Dell EMC claims VxRail D systems operate without fail at 5 degrees below and 130 degrees above Fahrenheit and are shock-resistant up to 40G at 15,000 feet elevation.

The VxRail D Series illustrates how the pendulum is swinging back to distributed storage, said Bob Laliberte, a converged systems analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"Anywhere that you need real-time analysis, it's got to be done locally," Laliberte said. "The ruggedized VxRail shows the need for computational power in harsh environments where IoT is picking up, or where quality assurance and things like that are required. The goal is to take the power of the data center and put it into a package you can deploy the edge, with a minimal footprint and that's easy to manage."

Dell EMC VxRail is at the center of its expanding cloud presence. Customers can continue to buy VxRail as a traditional on-premises deployment, but Dell EMC also sells VxRail hardware as a subscription bundled with VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) software. Several VCF on VxRail configurations are available through the Dell Technologies Cloud Platform.

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