Dell EMC’s Service-Defined Infrastructure – The Next Evolutionary Step in Converged Systems

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 21, 2016

One of the more interesting events at VMworld 2016 was Dell EMC’s launch of its new Validated System for Virtualization which reflects a substantial shift in the company’s converged systems portfolio. The new solution, Dell EMC said, “Incorporates a wide range of form-factors, technology choices and deployment options, right-sized to fit each customers’ needs,” an approach that the company calls “service-defined infrastructure.”

In other words, rather than crafting a converged system optimized for specific virtualized workloads, Dell EMC has instead created a modular template for virtualized systems that can be flexibly scaled and adjusted to meet individual customers’ discrete requirements. How the service-defined infrastructure approach works and why it’s important for converged systems development are worth looking at closely.

Converged systems 101

What exactly are converged systems? In essence, they combine servers, storage, networking and software into solutions that vendors integrate and configure for specific applications or workloads, and can be designed for easy installation and use by customers. From a development/deployment perspective, converged systems are the opposite of reference architecture solutions where configuration, installation and optimization are entirely managed by the customer’s IT staff or with the help of third party system integrators.

However, Dell EMC’s new offerings prove that converged systems aren’t an “all or nothing” Faustian bargain. Instead, there is a third “middle” approach for organizations that want to capture the value of customer-defined, quickly obtained solutions where management options can be chosen/deployed after the fact. This building block methodology can be used to support a wide variety of solutions the customer prefers or needs.

In converged systems based on Intel x86 silicon virtualization typically takes a major role with many products marketed as “in-a-box” solutions for cloud, virtual desktops and core data center functions. But Dell EMC’s Service-Defined Infrastructure approach means that customers can choose form-factor, technology and other options that enable systems to be right-sized for most any compute and business requirements.

In addition, the new Validated System for Virtualization solutions leverage Dell EMC’s simplified ordering and fulfillment processes. Customers can easily configure a system, receive a quote and place an order in minutes. Plus, Dell EMC’s automated lifecycle management tools enable customers to easily deploy, scale and update the system as necessary.

In other words, Dell EMC’s clear focus on satisfying its customers’ needs continues long after physical systems are delivered and deployed.

Real world applications

So where and how might organizations employ Dell EMC’s new Validated System for Virtualization solutions? One use case is as a proof of concept for customers exploring the move from virtualized systems to hybrid clouds. For example, customers can deploy VMware’s vRealize Suite which enhances IT resource management and complements Dell EMC’s automated provisioning of physical and virtual assets. That approach enables the system to be used as a fully customizable, modular, self-service VMware-based cloud.

Dell also announced VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes, a new hyperconverged offering for desktop and application virtualization that leverages the modular service-defined infrastructure model. Deployment options range from a bare bones reference architecture to fully configured VMware Virtual SAN appliances certified by VMware.

The new solution can be configured with discrete NVIDIA GPU graphics to maximize density/productivity, as well as with storage options, like hybrid (HDDs & SSDs) or all-flash SSD configurations for customers that require superior performance. Dell has also upgraded its Wyse thin clients to support VMware’s graphics protocols, and created a new version of its Precision Thin Client for Wyse that leverages NVIDIA’s latest generation Tesla accelerators.

Finally, customers can choose either VMware Horizon 7 or VMware Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode virtualization software broker options. The latter is VMware’s first solution for managing virtual desktops from the cloud, and Dell is the first major vendor to ship it.

Final analysis

Some might claim that Dell EMC’s Validated System for Virtualization and VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes are simply new additions to its converged system and VDI solutions portfolios but that misses or misconstrues the larger picture.

Converged systems initially arose as solutions for reducing the costs and complexities of deploying and managing enterprise applications. Some vendors offer limited versions of their converged system solutions, but Dell EMC’s service-defined Infrastructure approach incorporates building block configuration and simplified management options that are far above the norm.

As a result, Dell EMC’s new Validated System for Virtualization and VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes solutions will appeal and be useful to a far wider range of organizations than other less flexible converged system offerings. That should result in good tidings for Dell EMC and improved IT and business performance for satisfied customers.

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