Can Dell be a leader in the Software Defined, Converged Data Center?

IDC recently recognized Dell as the leader in total terabytes sold (internal and external), and strengthened our stance that Dell is well positioned as we continue down the road to software defined storage and converged infrastructure. Dell is unique among storage vendors like EMC and NetApp in that they have a server product offering that’s not only popular with IT professionals, but also with storage software vendors. And of course, they have external storage offerings for the majority of IT professionals who are not ready to jump on the SDS/converged bandwagon.

Software Defined Storage Hardware

While we leave the number counting to firms like IDC, it does seem that many of the data centers we walk into are running their software defined storage or converged infrastructures on Dell servers. While Dell has its own software defined and converged solutions like Dell Fluid Cache for SAN and their recent agreement with Nutanix, it also seems that many of the vendors in the software defined storage space, that we do lab testing, are also running on Dell servers.

In fact, in my most recent Data Center Visit blog “Data Center Visit – Cloud Provider vs. Converged Storage” the IT infrastructure designer was struggling with how to best implement converged storage, but his mind was made up on Dell servers. He was convinced that they were the ideal platform for hosting software defined storage. And in the same week, a visit to two San Jose based software defined storage vendors yielded the same result. Their demo facilities, benchmark testing and development work were all done on Dell servers.

We may be heading to a software defined data center, but you must have hardware to run that software. Dell seems to provide that capability nicely with cost effective servers that have plenty of internal storage capacity.

External Storage For The Rest of Us

It is true that converged infrastructures and software defined storage are getting much of ours and IT planners’ attention right now. But many data centers, probably a majority, are sticking with more traditional legacy shared storage solutions connected via iSCSI or Fibre. These systems have proven themselves over the course of time. They also continue to improve as we discussed in our blog “The Three Requirements of the Modern Storage Network“.

For its part, Dell’s SC4020 array is an example of its continuing innovation in the external, shared storage market. It provides flash features like flash optimization, write layering and automated tiering targeted at medium sized, tier-2 data centers or enterprise remote offices.

StorageSwiss Take

For most data centers, the move to software defined storage and/or converged infrastructures will be a gradual one. It shouldn’t be forgotten that no matter how software defined the data center becomes, there will still be a need for quality server hardware. But many data centers will never make the converged / software defined move, instead sticking with traditional, shared external storage. There will be a market need for both types of solutions for a very long time. Vendors like Dell that can execute on both fronts have the advantage.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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