Dell is in transition in the storage market from being primarily a reseller of other vendor’s projects to becoming a true storage company that makes its own hardware and software to fit its vision of the future, says Carter George, Executive Director of Dell’s Storage Strategy. That vision is of an advanced, automated, integrated portfolio providing enterprise-level features designed to meet the needs of Dell customers in three-to-five years and priced for SMBs.
Right now Dell is essentially in the first phase of building that portfolio largely by acquiring startups with advanced technology. But those purchases are not random but rather are targeted to specific key technology needs defined by that vision.
For instance, George said in an interview in the SiliconAngle Cube at the Dell Storage Forum, all Dell architectures scale out easily. They are built in standard blocks that can be easily connected so that “a small company might buy one block, while a large customer might buy six or seven, plug them in together, and be able to do large enterprise data operations at a fraction of the cost.”
George joined Dell with its acquisition of Ocarina. The dedup and data compression technology that Ocarina developed, he said, has already been built into the core storage technology that Dell acquired with Compellent and will become part of all Dell’s storage systems. This is a base requirement for the Fluid Data concept that is a core part of Dell’s overall vision. When fully built out, Dell’s storage portfolio will support moving data transparently and automatically between tiers in systems and between systems, including different models. The goal is to deliver “the right data at the right moment on the right tier of the right system at the right location without needing storage administrators.” To do that efficiently, Dell’s systems need the capabilityto be able to move compressed, deduped data without having to “rehydrate” the data between systems, which Ocarina will provide.
Dell will use the software it purchased with RNA Networks to extend Compellent’s automatic tiering outside the Compellent array. This will allow it to support flash storage on the server as an integrated Tier 1. Not only would this allow automatic tiering between disk and flash, it would also support consistent, application-aware snapshots of data for backup.
Flash storage, George said, is a disruptive technology that will become the standard solution for hot data within five years. But, he says, that hot data is really about 10% to 20% of all data that the average company has, so customers need automated tiering, backup, and other basic services that treat flash as an integrated part of the overall storage infrastructure, even though it resides on the server rather than the storage array.
SMBs also need enterprise-level data protection, he said, and Dell’s recent acquisition of “is our first foray into data protection. We expect a major convergence of backup software and snapshots/replication into a single managed system, and AppAssure is the technology that we will build that on.”
Dell uses its Virtual Integrated System (VIS) to orchestrate and automate its systems at the server layer. However it also is building workload aware storage management into its storage layer that will plug into VIS, VMware’s vCenter, or the Microsoft Management Suite. That provides a consistent way to manage Dell storage through a single management API whatever the customer’s orchestration layer is.
Today Dell is still building out this vision, and its products are still to an extent fragmented. “Over time,” George promised, “You will see our products moving beyond just things that we bought to being distinctly Dell products that fit into our vision of a unified, fully integrated whole.”