Dell EMC will keep Cisco Vblocks, Nutanix XC Series hyper-convergence

Dell EMC reinforced its commitment to sell Cisco products in Vblocks and Nutanix-based XC Series hyper-convergence, even if those vendors compete with Dell and EMC products.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Although Dell's acquisition of EMC created a combined company with a plethora of storage and server products, Dell EMC will keep selling competing products from Cisco and Nutanix.

Dell EMC executives at Dell EMC World this week said they are determined to maintain close partnerships with Cisco and Nutanix in their converged and hyper-converged division.

EMC has sold Cisco Fibre Channel switching for close to two decades, and the two companies combined with EMC-owned VMware to start VCE converged infrastructure in 2009. EMC bought controlling interest of VCE in 2014 and brought it in-house as its converged platform division, but continues to sell Vblocks consisting of Cisco servers and networking, EMC storage and VMware software. And convergence remains a key strategy for Dell EMC.

"Converged infrastructure and hyper-converged, that's where the world's going," Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell said.

Dell EMC has integrated Dell PowerEdge servers into a handful of EMC products since the merger closed Sept. 7, including VxRail hyper-converged appliances, ScaleIO block storage software and Elastic Cloud Storage. Cisco's Unified Computing System server is a major PowerEdge competitor, leading to speculation that PowerEdge will replace UCS in Vblocks.

Not so, said Chad Sakac, president of Dell EMC converged storage platforms. Sakac pointed to his division's annual revenue of roughly $3.5 billion as a sign of customer affinity for buying Vblocks with Cisco technology.

"The first rule of business for me is: Don't punch your customers in the face," he said. "Vblock customers are very happy with how Vblocks are architected. We have no plan to replace the blades and components inside Vblocks. Period. Stop. End of story. It's a good, happy, profitable business that's growing. There is no gain in doing a swap of those components."

PowerEdge-based VxRack launches

Dell EMC Tuesday launched the VxRack System 1000 hyper-converged infrastructure with PowerEdge R630 and R730xd servers. The System 1000 platform will be available by the end of the year, consisting of 20 configurations, including a remote-office model that starts at less than $45,000.

The VxRail has been shipping on Quanta servers since February. The 1000 platform will continue to use VMware VSAN hyper-converged software, and it will move to VSAN 6.5 soon after it becomes available late this year.

"Are we going to leverage PowerEdge in hyper-converged? Hell yeah," Sakac said. "In one fell swoop, we made our hyper-converged offering 25% smaller, 40% faster and with 200% of the flash. And we went from 12 configurations to 250 configurations."

Still, Sakac said not everybody wants VMware virtualization, so Dell EMC will continue selling the XC Series built on a 2-year-old OEM deal between Dell and Nutanix. The XC Series includes Nutanix hyper-converged software on PowerEdge hardware. Like Vblocks, Sakac said XC hyper-convergence is entrenched in Dell EMC's plans.

Sakac said he recently visited Nutanix headquarters "to send a signal to them and customers that the Dell XC platform is here to stay."

Nutanix-XC for non-VMware shops

Sakac said there are hyper-converged customers who would like to use Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors instead of VMware vSphere. Others prefer multiple hypervisors. Dell EMC will try to sell them the XC Series.

"We believe hyper-converged will disrupt the ecosystem, and we want 80% of the market," he said. "You can't do it with an offering tied to one stack. You do it by offering choice. The XC Series is for customers who do not want to integrate themselves closely with VMware."

Bob Wambach, vice president of VCE marketing, said VxRail had more than twice as much revenue in the third quarter as the second. Dell EMC forecasted its fourth-quarter revenue to more than double the third-quarter total. That would bring it to well over $100 million for the quarter. Dell EMC's hyper-converged goal is to pass Nutanix as the market leader, but Wambach said the vendor will sell XC if it has to.

"If a customer's interested in Nutanix technology, then we want them to buy Dell EMC XC," he said.

Dell EMC goal: Give customers more products, fewer vendors

That fits with Dell EMC's overall goal of becoming a one-stop shop for IT infrastructure, so customers don't have to go anywhere else. The thinking behind that is customers want to deal with fewer vendors.

"We don't see many customers saying, 'We want more partners, we want more people to help us figure this out,'" said Dave Goulden, Dell EMC president of Dell EMC's infrastructure solutions group. "They don't want a bunch of point-product vendors."

Jason Grant, vice president of IT fleet technology for cruise ship lines Holland America Line, based in Seattle, is one of those customers. His company uses Dell EMC SC storage, VMware virtualization and AirWatch, as well as other Dell Technologies products. Now, he is looking at Dell EMC services and software to build out its private cloud.

"The Dell-EMC deal has made it a single point of contact for us with vast resources," he said. "As we become more cloud-based over the next few years, that will make it more seamless for us."

Rhonda Vetere, CTO of New York-based Estee Lauder Inc., said her company is a customer of EMC storage and security products and its Virtustream public cloud. She said Dell EMC's "breadth of portfolio is a key to us. Further out, we're thinking about how we can do things more quickly."

Next Steps

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Nutanix goes public -- finally

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