Dell EMC VxRail hitches ride on Enterprise Hybrid Cloud

Dell EMC’s VxRail turned one today, and the vendor marked the anniversary by adding the hyper-converged platform to its Enterprise Hybrid Cloud package.

Dell EMC claims over 1,000 customers for VxRail through the end of 2016, with more than 8,000 nodes, 100,000 CPU cores and 65 PB of storage capacity shipped in the system. VxRail is EMC’s first successful hyper-converged appliance, following a short, failed attempt with a Vspex Blue product launched in 2015.

Like Vspex Blue, VxRail is based on Dell-owned VMware’s vSAN hyper-converged software. It also runs on Dell PowerEdge servers, although VxRail originally incorporated Quanta servers until the Dell-EMC acquisition closed last September. VxRail launched just after VMware upgraded vSAN to version 6.2, which added data reduction and other capabilities that improved its performance with flash storage. Dell EMC VxRail senior vice president Gil Shneorson said 60% of VxRail sales have been on all-flash appliances.

“We’re definitely seeing the combination of hyper-converged and all-flash taking off in a meaningful way,” he said.

Now VxRail is an option for Dell EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud (EHC) customers. EHC is a set of applications and services running on Dell EMC hardware that provide automation, orchestration and self-service features. The software includes VMware vRealize cloud management, ViPR Controller and PowerPath/VE storage management, and EMC Storage Analytics.

Other EHC storage options include EMC VMAX, XtremIO, Unity, ScaleIO and Isilon arrays sold as VxBlock reference architectures with Dell PowerEdge servers. EHC is also available with VxRack Flex hyper-converged systems that use Dell EMC ScaleIO software instead of VxRail appliances. Data protection options include Avamar, RecoverPoint and Vplex software and Data Domain backup hardware.

Along with the Dell EMC VxRail option, the vendor is adding subscription support and encryption as a service to EHC. Dell EMC does not break out EHC financials, but Dell EMC senior vice president of hybrid cloud platforms Peter Cutts said its revenue was in the “hundreds of millions of dollars” last year.

Adding a Dell EMC VxRail options lets EHC customers start with as few as 200 virtual machines.

“This gives customers the ability to start smaller, configure EHC as an appliance and go forward in that direction,” Cutts said.

For now, organizations who want to use VxRail with EHC need to buy a new appliance. Cutts said the vendor is working on allowing customers to convert existing VxRail appliances to EHC but that is not yet an option.

Using VxRail as part of EHC makes sense as vendors begin to position hyper-converged systems as enterprise cloud building blocks. Hyper-converged market leader Nutanix now positions its appliances that way, emphasizing its software stack’s ability to move data from any application, hypervisor or cloud to any other application, hypervisor or cloud. Nutanix is VxRail’s chief competitor.

“We’ve seen requests for more data center-type features and functionality,” Shneorson said. “VxRail is being put into data centers in much larger clusters than we originally anticipated. We’re seeing a shift from an initial focus on remote offices and test/dev to mission critical data center use.”

But unlike Nutanix, Dell EMC still also sells traditional storage. So Shneorson admits hyper-converged is not a universal answer because not every organization wants to scale their storage and compute in lockstep.

“It’s a matter of economics,” he said. “The advantage of hyper-converged is you can start small and grow in small increments. But some customers’ environments are already large and predictable in growth. By using shared storage you can get any ratio of CPU to disk. With hyper-converged, there is always a set ratio of CPU to disk. If you want massive amounts of storage with a small amount of CPUs for example, you would be better served by a traditional architecture.”

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