Dell looks to eliminate 98% of manual tasks with new Dell EMC PowerOne and its autonomous infrastructure

PowerOne’s autonomous infrastructure lets customers choose the outcome, and have the system’s intelligence automatically create the workload. It’s a process that Dell says took ten years to develop.

Drone display — courtesy of Intel — Tuesday evening at Dell event over the set of Alita: Battle Angel

AUSTIN – Dell Technologies has announced the Dell EMC PowerOne autonomous infrastructure, which unites PowerEdge compute, PowerMax storage, PowerSwitch networking and VMware virtualization into a single system. That system has a built-in intelligence engine that lets users choose an outcome, and have the system automatically create the workload to achieve it. This automates 98% of manual tasks.

“2020 marks our first step into ‘the Next Data Decade’,” said John Roese, Dell Technologies Global CTO. “It’s now clear that the typology of modern enterprise will be distributed – with fundamentally smart everything.”

Roese stressed that while software and application revolutions are needed to unlock the data value of this, the limitation is human capacity in the system.

“The humans, especially developers, spend too much time on low-level infrastructure tasks,” he said. “We need to change the way we build platforms for digital business, by automating the IT infrastructure. Without extreme levels of automation, it will not be possible to deliver autonomous vehicles. We simply don’t have the capacity to get there. 40 million autonomous vehicles would mean 7 zettabytes of data, which would need 1 million storage admins. That’s not going to happen.

“If you look at any industry long-term, you see it’s the inability to scale the human capacity to operate those systems that is the concern,” Roese emphasized. “That’s the future that we are most interested in addressing today.”

Roese said three things here are critical.

“First, we need a multi-cloud operational hub, and that is the Dell Technologies Cloud,” he said. “Second, we need AI-driven automation. That’s happening across the company. Every one of our flagship products are aggressively adopting machine intelligence.”

The third priority, Roese said, is to make sure that this automated infrastructure is available everywhere.

“It isn’t today,” he said. “We need to apply it to the majority of enterprise infrastructure. We now have a way to bring best of breed experience into architecture. That’s PowerOne.”

Dell EMC PowerOne is a new validated design for the Dell Technologies Cloud family, which combines Dell EMC infrastructure with VMware cloud software. It unites Dell EMC PowerEdge servers, PowerSwitch networking, PowerMax storage, and PowerProtect data protection.

“It is the first time that we are putting all the Power-branded products together in a new system,” Roese said. “It’s an infrastructure that’s easy to use, highly feature-rich and best cost, all together.”

These Power-branded products themselves are not new of course, but there is a lot here that is new.

“First, this is the first time that we have packaged and sold them all as one offering,” said Trey Layton, SVP of Engineering for PowerOne. “Also new is the autonomous infrastructure, the automation that’s in the product to enable self-assembly. So an admin doesn’t have to take thousands of configuration tasks and make them work.

“PowerOne brings together traditional IT with a future-ready cloud environment,” said Tom Burns, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Networking & Solutions, Dell Technologies. “We do this with autonomous infrastructure. It’s really about this automation. We focus on helping customers reduce time with this autonomous infrastructure and intelligent automation, which is the big differentiation around PowerOne.”

The new automation engine is a complete open source stack, with a Kubernetes infrastructure that leverages Ansible workbooks. It has microservices to run the automation framework, and a controller platform to fun that functionality.

“The way it’s set up, it focuses on the outcome, which is what the customer wants to get done,” Burns said. “The autonomous Controller reduces and automates the steps that have to be done by humans.”

“The core outcomes we want our customers to have is where our energy was placed in PowerOne,” said Matt Baker, SVP, ISG Strategy at Dell Technology. “Managing configuration drift is where our innovation energy went – automating tasks. Customers articulate the outcome that they want, and the system uses the APIs to make those outcomes happen.”

Roese referred to the PowerOne Controller as the brains that does this, where the system is co-ordinated. It is what actually beings about the 98% reduction in manual tasks.

“A common use case is initiating a VMware cluster,” Roese indicated. “That has been complicated. Now, it’s a couple of clicks, because of the deep integration with VMware.”

“The inordinate numbers of configuration tasks has been a problem for customers,” Layton said. “These are dependent on other things. In the act of standing up servers with a storage array, in our own code, there are 2000 plus configuration categories that have historically been done by a  human. PowerOne now puts these categories into 25 questions and six steps, to configure a full VMware data centre in less than an hour. This would typically have taken six months before. Now it’s down to a fraction of a day. It’s what our customers have been asking for for many years.”

“This is what customers asked us to create,” said Michael Dell. “We didn’t create this in a vacuum.”

All the complexity remains under the hood for the customer.

“Most customers realize time spent dealing with the Nerd Knobs is not very productive,” Roese said. “They don’t SEE Ansible or Kubernetes. They see an API. But some customers still want to play with the Nerd Knobs, and the system is smart enough to know that you made a configuration change to a system and so it takes it out of the logical pools. That’s what took us ten years to get done.” The last two years of that has seen an intensive research effort.”

From the perspective of Dell and its partners, this should make the Power portfolio easier to sell.

“It allows selling all these Dell solutions through one product,” Layton said. “Before, there would be multiple discussions through multiple products.”

While the sweet spot for this will be in the enterprise, the company doesn’t see that as its only market.

“PowerOne can scale up but also scale down,” Burns said. “The midmarket also has issues managing these different categories of products.”

Dell EMC PowerOne will be globally available November 22, 2019. It will be sold through multiple options through Dell Technologies on Demand.

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