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Dell HCI, server upgrades flex hardware muscle for software plans

Upgrades to Dell's high-end PowerEdge servers, along with HCI servers to run machine learning workloads, illustrate the company's balancing act to address corporate users' needs for server hardware and hybrid cloud.

LAS VEGAS -- Even as Dell Technologies spotlights its hybrid cloud computing ambitions, it is reassuring server hardware customers they won't be left in the dark.

The company debuted two hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) offerings at Dell Technologies World here this week: VxRail integrated with VMware's vSAN and vSphere virtualization software, and VxRack SDDC with VMware Cloud Foundation 2.3 and cloud management and automation software for on-premises IT as a service.

Alongside those systems, Dell also unwrapped two beefed-up PowerEdge servers, each containing Intel's latest field-programmable gate arrays, to more quickly and efficiently run enterprises' most important applications -- especially analytics software.

The Dell HCI systems are part of the company's strategy to accelerate corporate multi-cloud use in VMware environments. That, in turn, is part of Dell's wider initiative to bolster its on-premises presence from the edge to core data centers to the cloud.

The Dell HCI boxes incorporate many of the PowerEdge 14th-generation components, according to company officials. The VxRail system has an updated nonvolatile memory express cache drive, Nvidia's P40 graphics processing card for data-intensive workloads and a 25 Gigabit Ethernet networking capability. VxRack SDDC integrates compute, storage and networking virtualization in a single software stack, and it can run either on premises as a private cloud or as a service in public clouds.

[Users] want to know how to transfer those analytics using machine learning methodologies to drive their business. These systems can get them there.
Ravi Pendekantisenior vice president of product management, Dell

VxRail is available now and has a base price of  approximately $25,000 for a three-node cluster.

The hyper-converged market remains the fastest-growing segment of the converged systems market, and its promise to more tightly integrate technologies could significantly affect the larger cloud ecosystem, said Eric Sheppard, analyst at IDC.

Industry revenue of hyper-converged systems reached $3.7 billion in 2017 -- up 64% compared with 2016 -- and it will surpass $10 billion by 2022, according to the market analysis firm.

For the fourth quarter of 2017, IDC identified Dell as the HCI market leader, with $346.8 million in revenue and a 27.8% market share, followed by Nutanix, with $243 million and a 19.5% share. Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco were statistically tied for third, with $61.6 million and $56.3 million and 4.9% and 4.5% market shares, respectively.

Dell revs PowerEdge servers for AI and machine learning

Ravi Pendekanti, senior vice president of product management, DellRavi Pendekanti

The PowerEdge R940xa and PowerEdge R840 have four sockets to run Intel's Xeon processors -- the R940xa also incorporates four GPUs -- and are scalable up to 112 processing cores and 6 TB of memory. The systems will be available May 22, but pricing is not available.

"Users are constantly asking us for a better way of dealing with analytics," said Ravi Pendekanti, senior vice president of product management for Dell's server and infrastructure systems. "They eventually want to know how to transfer those analytics using machine learning methodologies to drive their business. These systems can get them there."

While many customers want to incorporate AI and machine learning into new and existing business processes, some users may hesitate to pay for higher-priced servers to help power AI-based projects.

"That's a lot of compute muscle [in the new PowerEdge servers], that I'm sure will come with a higher price tag," said one systems engineer with a Los Angeles area aeronautics company. "I'm not sure I need all that to run some of the AI-based things we're doing right now."

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at [email protected]

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