Nutanix to lose out as expanded Dell EMC VxRail appliance line targets VMware users?

Dell EMC has announced upgrades to its hyper-converged VxRail and VxRack offerings, with hardware improvement stemming both from Intel Broadwell processors and optimization with PowerEdge servers. Many more configurations will be available, including a 3 node VxRail offering that drops the entry price by a quarter.


Gil Shneorson, VP & GM of VxRail Appliances at Dell EMC

AUSTIN – At Dell EMC World, Dell EMC has announced the expansion of its hyper-converged portfolio with new VxRail Appliances and VxRack Systems configurations. The upgrades here are purely on the hardware side, as the software received a substantial boost earlier this year with VSAN 6.2. The two significant enhancements now are the addition of the latest Intel Broadwell processors, and their integration with Dell EMC PowerEdge servers.

Just as important however, is the positioning. The new offerings significantly expand the total addressable market – both upward and downward, due to the new processor capabilities on the one hand, and a significantly lower entry price on the other. They also give primacy to VxRail appliances in the VMware market – which of course is at present, most of the market. The successful XC series, based on the earlier Dell partnership with Nutanix, will now be limited by Dell EMC specifically to that smaller part of the market where Microsoft, and Nutanix’s own Acropolis hypervisor play. This inevitably will invite conjecture about the future of the Dell-Nutanix relationship.

VxRail was introduced by EMC in early 2016, replacing the VSPEX Blue, which had had a short, unhappy lifespan.

“We had a lot of constraints built in to the way we brought the VSPEX Blue to market,” said Gil Shneorson, VP & GM of VxRail Appliances at Dell EMC. “We were new with it, and there was a learning period to this first product. When we brought in VxRail, the market could not have responded better. We oversold our sales plan by a significant amount in Q1, Q2 and Q3, with thousands of nodes sold and hundreds of net new customers. Within a few months we even ran out of inventory, a problem that is now well behind us.”

So what accounts for the changed fortune of the two products?

“With VxRail, we finally understood what we were selling – a product optimized for the VMware user – which no other product is,” Shneorson said. “At the same time, it has all the other hyper-converged advantages, like the ability to start small and grow easily with the customer.”

VXRail then, now becomes Dell EMC’s formal ‘go to’ product for the VMware space. Shneorson, however, said that does not herald any diminishing of their relationship with Nutanix. Perish the thought!

“We will not walk away from commitments,” he said. “Our XC customers will continue to be served. VxRail will not be an answer for someone that wants Microsoft HyperV, or another product. For that gap, we will have XC. From a Dell EMC perspective, we see growth in all of those areas, as the other areas besides VMware are growing as well. Ultimately, everyone will grow. It’s almost a limitless opportunity.”

It would be hazardous to draw conclusions about the Dell-Nutanix relationship from this development, even as Dell EMC appears to walk a fine line between maintaining a commitment to Nutanix, and kicking them to the curb because of the conflict with the solutions acquired from EMC. Nutanix of course is no stranger to the same game. They have solemnly invoked their commitment to working with VMware, even as they were introducing a free alternative with their Acropolis hypervisor to stop the “VM Tax.” More recently, they unveiled a clever marketing campaign during VMworld offering themselves as an alternative to legacy players VMware and AWS.

Certainly the new VxRail products are much more capable than their predecessors.

“We are not just taking the PowerEdge servers and attaching them to the product,” Shneorson said. “We have expedited some of the plans we thought we would take two years into two months, and brought them together in ways that are very powerful. Supply chains and support organizations are hard to converge, and these will go out in a way that get the benefit of both.”

More specific use cases can also be addressed.

“We are introducing both a storage heavy highly dense node model for Big Data Analytics and Microsoft Exchange, based on the PowerEdge R730xd platform,” Shneorson said. “We are introducing a graphics-heavy offering for client virtualization workloads with GPU acceleration from NVIDIA and AMD. We have also got to a three node offering for the first time with this release, which we have wanted for some time, as it is ideal for the ROBO market. This reduces the overall starting point to about $45,000 from $60,000 — so we are going downmarket as well as upmarket.” New configurations of VxRail Appliances with VMware Horizon specifically optimized for client virtualization will also be available.

The upmarket momentum comes from the new Intel Broadwell processors, with better price performance, more capacity and more CPU. VxRail Appliances with PowerEdge servers now offer 40 per cent more CPU performance for the same price, and two times more storage in all flash nodes.

The hardware enhancements bring similar improvement to the VxRack System 1000, a rack-scale hyper-converged system with integrated top-of-rack Spine-Leaf networking and SDN options. A VxRack System 1000 with PowerEdge servers now offers 2.5x more flash capacity, and 40 per cent more CPU performance for the same price.

“The VxRack is for customers who plan for scale in the first place and are willing to invest in infrastructure,” Schneorson said. “The better supply chain and hardware benefits give us much more to work with.

Shneorson also pointed out that the channel will bring home the lion’s share of business from these enhancements. Under EMC, these products went 90 per cent through partners, significantly higher than the partner share of EMC business as a whole.

VxRack FLEX with PowerEdge-based nodes can be ordered now and will be available in Q4 2016. VxRack SDDC with PowerEdge-based nodes with integrated PowerEdge servers will be orderable in Q4 2016. VxRail Appliances integrated with PowerEdge servers are orderable and generally available in Q4 2016 in most major markets and generally available worldwide in 2017. VxRail Appliances based on PowerEdge servers with VMware Horizon for client virtualization will be available in December 2016.

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