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Dell Apex joins with OpenShift, deepens VMware uncertainty

Dell jumps on the Red Hat OpenShift bandwagon with its Apex container management products, intensifying uncertainty about the future of VMware Tanzu under Broadcom.

Dell's new partnership with Red Hat OpenShift expands enterprise choices for Kubernetes platforms amid uncertainty about VMware's future under Broadcom.

Reducing the notorious complexity of Kubernetes management is the central issue Dell will attempt to solve for on-premises deployments with three planned OpenShift products: Dell Apex Containers for Red Hat OpenShift, an on-premises infrastructure service; Dell Validated Platform for Red Hat OpenShift, which contains documented guidance; and an on-prem hybrid cloud infrastructure to integrate Red Hat OpenShift with Dell infrastructure.

The Dell-OpenShift collaboration means more options for enterprises looking for a supported Kubernetes platform, said Lee Sustar, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"While open source and mix-and-match options have been available as a pathway towards modernization, conservative enterprises, such as governments, have been looking for the big vendors to join the pack," he said. "This partnership is going to give them that."

The partnership will be well accepted, said Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at RobustCloud.

One highlight of the joint Dell and Red Hat partnership is that the hybrid solution is co-engineered and validated, reducing customers' risk of adopting the solution.
Larry CarvalhoPrincipal analyst, RobustCloud

"One highlight of the joint Dell and Red Hat partnership is that the hybrid solution is co-engineered and validated, reducing customers' risk of adopting the solution," he said. "The challenge is to quickly get both organizations to work in coordination to sell and deliver the joint offering."

Questions hover about VMware as Dell Apex diversifies

Since spinning off VMware, which included Tanzu, in 2021, Dell has continued to offer Tanzu Advantage. The Dell Apex product line also integrates VMware Tanzu components. Dell has not disclosed any plans to discontinue those products.

However, one industry watcher predicted that Dell's partnership with Red Hat means that OpenShift will become its favored container management platform.

"OpenShift is one of the largest, if not the largest platform and marketplace for containerized workloads," said Brent Ellis, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Also, it gives [Dell] more credibility with the DevOps community."

IBM, which acquired Red Hat in 2019, also benefits from the partnership. Dell has signaled that it plans to work with IBM and Red Hat to build a comprehensive hybrid cloud environment, which could have benefits for enterprise clients.

"IBM is leveraging OpenShift as a way to partner with other infrastructure providers and open their portfolio of services up for wider consumption," Ellis said. "OpenShift becomes a way to continue to maintain wallet share in data centers and enterprise IT budgets that it may have lost over time."

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If Dell does focus on OpenShift going forward, that would leave VMware the odd one out, though it has an enormous enterprise customer base, and will remain the strategic provider for many companies, Sustar said.

"There has been a question in the market as to how VMware going to execute the transition from a virtual machine-based stack to a modern Kubernetes-based stack," he said. "The proposed acquisition of VMware by Broadcom -- expected to close within a year -- has raised questions further about its future."

It remains to be seen whether Broadcom's reputation for focusing on its top customers will continue to guide its strategy, as it did with the Symantec and CA Technologies acquisitions, Sustar said.

"There is concern that VMware customers could have the same sort of experience in which perhaps the top-tier customers do very well, while the lower-tier people don't have access to the same level of innovation and service that they've had in the past," he said.

For now, though, VMware remains a strong participant in the Kubernetes open source community, Sustar said.

Apex-OpenShift availability and pricing

Dell Validated Platform for Red Hat OpenShift will be globally available to Dell customers on Sept. 30. The cost will vary depending on the scale and configuration of the platform implementation, according to a Dell spokesperson.

Dell Apex Containers for Red Hat OpenShift will be available in the U.S starting in early 2023 and the co-engineered Dell hybrid cloud platform for Red Hat OpenShift will roll out for Dell customers and channel partners in the second half of 2023. Pricing details for these products are not yet available.

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