The battle between on-prem and public cloud infrastructure is over. That was the message that Michael Dell conveyed, kicking off the first in-person Dell Technologies World in three years. Who won that battle? The IT department did.
IT infrastructure is more expansive than it has ever been. Enterprise IT resources live on-prem. They also live in the cloud. And at the edge. It seems like data and compute are everywhere. Workloads can be placed where it makes the most sense. That's powerful flexibility for IT architects.
The challenge for IT is managing the complexity that accompanies all that choice. It makes no sense to force IT administrators to use different tools and practices based on where the organization's data resides. Yet, that's precisely what the technology industry has given IT.
At first glance, Dell Technologies seems an unlikely champion to bring together all the disparate pieces to unify infrastructure management. Dell is a box company, goes the standard thinking, despite its years-old mantra of “edge to core to cloud.” Dell always seemed to be a little light on the cloud piece. That has changed.
Dell made several storage-first announcements at Dell Technologies World. Like the partnership with Snowflake to leverage on-site storage for Snowflake's cloud-oriented execution model, some bridge concerns about moving data to the cloud. Others, like the announcement of Dell's Project Alpine, bring the power of Dell's industry-leading storage technology directly into the public cloud. No Dell hardware is required.
Beyond these announcements, Dell released a slew of software updates spanning nearly all its storage products. The company delivered more than 500 feature enhancements to the Dell PowerStore, PowerMax, and PowerFlex products.
Let's get into the details of what Dell announced.
It’s impossible to ignore Snowflake. The company promises to provide the infrastructure for data warehousing and all of the complex data analytics that accompanies big data. The challenge for IT administrators is that Snowflake only runs in the cloud. Not every enterprise is comfortable moving all of their to the cloud.
Dell and Snowflake have come together to solve that dilemma. The two companies announced a joint innovation effort that will allow Snowflake users to leverage the capabilities of Snowflake in the cloud, but using data stored on-prem in a Dell EMC ECS object storage platform. In addition, there is further integration work happening to marry Snowflake with the Dell EMC Objectscale platform to support cloud-native workloads.
Beyond the joint innovation required to deliver the magic to make on-prem data seamlessly available to Snowflake's cloud-based application, Dell Technologies and Snowflake are partnering more broadly to bring the technology to market. The companies announced plans for product integrations and joint go-to-market activities through the rest of 2022.
Native Cloud Storage with Project Alpine
Nearly every enterprise has some data stored in the public cloud. However, while public cloud providers have performant and scalable storage technology, they tend to offer storage as a set of building blocks, not solutions. This is where traditional storage companies, like Dell Technologies, can leverage their decades of experience to deliver an enterprise-class storage offering on the public cloud.
Project Alpine brings the entire software functionality of a Dell EMC storage platform to a virtual machine running somewhere in the public cloud. Dell is being vague about precisely what form Project Alpine will take as its delivered to customers at some point soon, but the discussions and demonstrations make it clear that Project Alpine is based on Dell’s midrange PowerStore array. That's a choice that makes sense, as the Dell PowerStore sits in the sweet spot of IT storage needs.
Virtualizing a storage array and placing it in the cloud is a powerful capability. Beyond the feature set of whatever Project Alpine ultimately delivers, it will enable an experience for Dell customers that is consistent from edge offerings, to on-prem storage, to consumption-based APEX storage, to the public cloud. No longer will storage administrators need multiple toolboxes to solve their problems. Instead, they can just buy into the Dell ecosystem.
Dell is not the first storage company to make this play. Pure Storage was there very early with its Pure Cloud Block Store. Likewise, NetApp is amid a pivot to a cloud-based future, with its NetApp Cloud ONTAP, available on both Amazon Web Service and Microsoft Azure clouds, delivering nearly 7% of its top-line revenue in the most recent quarter. Customers like the experience.
Dell delivers over five hundred software enhancements across its storage product line-up with these updates. There's no room to list them all here, but we can talk about the benefits that the updates collectively deliver to the Dell PowerMax, PowerStore, and PowerFlex storage arrays.
PowerStore is Dell’s popular midrange storage array, which continues to be one of the fastest-growing products in Dell's history. The upcoming PowerStore software release takes what was already a strong storage offering and makes it better. The new software, available for free to existing PowerStore customers, delivers 66% greater capacity while also improving the performance of mixed workloads by up to 50%. It's unusual to see such a speedbump enabled purely from software, but Dell has done it.
Beyond the performance capacity enhancements, the software enables new native capabilities metro replication for disaster recovery. It also contains multiple cyber-security enhancements.
The big dog in Dell’s storage kennel is the Dell PowerMax. Dell says that PowerMax is designed for "zero trust," a sound policy when protecting your organization's data. The updates to PowerMax offer higher 4-to-1 data reduction guarantees, multi-array intelligent provisioning, file workload consolidation, and data-in-place upgrades.
Supporting Dell’s multi-cloud message, the new PowerMax software improves the performance of cloud-based snapshots. This allows storage administrators to move data to cloud much more quickly, improving data recovery times.
Dell EMC PowerFlex is Dell’s software-defined storage solution. PowerFlex allows the aggregation of storage resources across multiple nodes to deliver a high-performance, resilient, and scalable storage pool. The PowerFlex update brings new capabilities for integrating PowerFlex with Kubernetes and other cloud-native orchestration tools, including those offered by Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, SUSE, and VMware.
Dell’s embrace of the multi-cloud reality that most IT organizations face is a powerful statement from the world’s most dominant IT infrastructure provider. Dell isn’t just messaging “edge to core to cloud,” but is actively delivering the products and solutions that will simplify life for IT administrators.
Dell's most powerful statement on how it views the multi-cloud world is its Project Alpine. The company is also demonstrating this commitment with its partnership with Snowflake to simplify the mix of cloud-based data warehousing with its on-prem object storage.
Beyond cloud integration, the slew of updates across Dell's storage portfolio are focused on cyber-security, data protection, performance, and simplified manageability. Each of these directly impacts an enterprise's ability to protect and extract value from its data. Storage administrators will be pleased with what they find.
It’s nice to see that the world’s leader in enterprise storage isn’t resting on its laurels. Dell isn’t trying to change the tides propelling IT infrastructure head-first into public cloud integration. Instead, Dell recognizes the reality that most IT practitioners live in and is delivering what's needed to make their jobs easier. I applaud that.