Dell takes another shot at convergence market with Nutanix alliance

dell logo whiteHot on the heels of arch-rival Hewlett-Packard’s unveiling of a slew of new enterprise and supercomputing systems at its annual Discover conference earlier this month, Dell has upped the ante with its own fresh batch of data center products.

The most significant of the updates unleashed this morning was the introduction of a new converged appliance family dubbed the XC Series that will ship with a third party management stack from Nutanix. The venture-backed startup sells pre-configured infrastructure modules that combine compute, storage and networking in a single chassis with an assortment of systems management tools built in.

That functionality is delivered through Nutanix OS, an abstraction layer that decouples provisioning from the physical hardware and also includes a host of other software-defined features, including a clustering engine that pools the direct-attached storage in the company’s systems into a logical whole. This model, which Wikibon has defined as Server SAN, not only simplifies management but allows for greater scalability as well.

The partnership is landmark for both companies and the burgeoning hyperconvergence market as a whole, according to Wikibon senior analyst Stu Miniman.

Dell saves the time and effort of developing a homegrown software stack, a complex and risky undertaking. The alliance with Nutanix also represents a renewed attempt by Dell to move into the converged infrastructure space, where it has not succeeded in establishing a substantial foothold.

“While Dell maintains the #2 market share position in x86 and #3 total disk storage systems (more from server-based disk than external storage) position, Dell has failed to make significant progress on converged infrastructure with its Active Systems solution set,” Miniman writes. The XC Series is a second shot at the convergence market.

Appearing on SiliconANGLE’s theCUBE at VMware 2013, Nariman Teymourian, the then-head of Dell’s convergence solutions business, said the company banks on customer loyalty. “Our customers like Dell being successful,” he said.

That strong brand identity works to Nutanix’s benefit. The company is gaining access to Dell’s global distribution channel and a new revenue stream. “Dell is a VMware SAN ‘Ready Node’ partner,” Miniman writes. “Adding the Nutanix solution gives a large channel access to the leading Server SAN solutions and will help accelerate Nutanix’s already rapid growth.” Nutanix raised $101 million in a Series D funding round in January.

The XC Series was unveiled at this week’s Dell User Forum in Orlando Florida, which also saw the debut of three specialized machines for data-intensive workloads. The lineup includes an “acceleration appliance” designed to help customers improve the performance of their databases, a specialized system for running Oracle deployments and, most notably, an in-memory platform tailored to run Cloudera’s flagship Hadoop distribution. The latter offering comes in two configurations, one for medium-sized companies and the other geared toward enterprises and featuring ScaleMP’s Versatile SMP server aggregation software.

Additionally, Dell is rolling the SC4020, a new line of midrange SAN arrays based on its high-end Compellent SC8000 family that can be configured as either hybrid or all-flash systems. The main appeal of the series is that it includes storage tiering, centralized management of block and file volumes and other advanced software features that were once only available in more expensive products.