Dell targets HP and Cisco with Active Infrastructure play

Dell Enterprise Business president Marius Haas

Dell Enterprise Business president Marius Haas

Add Dell to the list of vendors touting a converged/unified architectures and/or systems strategy to the enterprise market. Dell unveiled its Active Infrastructure and Active Systems strategy to press at an event in San Francisco, and says its approach to converged systems is one that will resonate from enterprise down to SMB.

The company’s approach is to bring together its compute, storage, and networking hardware, and combine it with the management tools it has developed and acquired over the last few years.

“Active Infrastructure is our opportunity to convey to the market and to customers that we have, from the ground up, thought about how our engineers can put together the compute portion, the storage portion, and the network portion, and connect all that to the distributed core,” said Dario Zamarian, vice president and general manager of Dell’s Converged Infrastructure and Networking Solutions group.

The company is promoting Active Infrastructure as the lone option for what it considers an open converged infrastructure. Zamarian slammed the company’s opposition for being proprietary, and being either “inflexible and incomplete” (Cisco, due to its dependence on third-party connections with EMC and NetApp for storage,) or “costly and complex” (HP.)

“IT infrastructure is becoming more complex, and of higher value,” Zamarian said. “And it’s not getting better.”

Marius Haas, Dell Enterprise Group president, a grizzled Dell veteran with six weeks on the job, provided an update on the company’s business in the space, saying that Dell “outgrew our competitors in every segment,” with the overall business growing 16 per cent in an industry taking a one- or two-point decline.

But the core piece of the announcement was the introduction of the Dell Active System 800, the company’s first integrated system, which Haas says stars on simplicity (with “75 fewer steps from power-on to in-production,” and offers a modular and scalable approach that is also more flexible, offering support for multiple networking technologies rather than a single-vendor approach, and managing twice as many compute nodes as Cisco’s Unified Computing Systems model.

While the idea of a Dell-centric data centre is the ideal scenario for the Round Rock, Texas-based company, Zamarian said it didn’t really matter if a customer was a greenfield, willing to do a rip-and-replace with all Dell, or looking to integrate new Dell assets with existing infrastructure, mostly because the company’s management tools for Active Infrastructure – mostly those acquired in the Quest Software and other deals — support multiple vendors. And for those for whom the Active System 800 isn’t flexible enough, Zamarian also has an answer – the company will offer a family of Active Reference Architectures based on VMware or Hyper-V virtualization to suit a variety of business sizes and existing data centre environments.

For the company’s growing base of solution providers, Active System and Active Infrastructure provide “the ability to start the conversation at the top,” and address business needs at the business level rather than the IT level, Zamarian said.

“Some of the workloads and solution sets that we’re going to be transforming, especially in the midmarket, the channel is the IT shop in many cases, they’re the people having the conversations,” Haas said. “They want to wrap their services around it, and with Active Infrastructure, they’re able to talk about doing intelligent remote monitoring and other services that we’re going to enable.”

It’s also a play that scales from the enterprise, down to the SMB market where the channel is so frequently the route-to-market. And Haas said that scalability from small to large is not the result of seeking to shoehorn an enterprise-class product into a midmarket price point, but rather the result of a core tenet of “scalable design” when creating the stack.

“It gives partners the ability to go into any size company – small, medium or large – and deliver the solution and the value to them based on their business needs and their economic needs, and to scale with them depending on how they scale their businesses.”