Dell Cloud and Virt Shakeup: What it Means to MSPs

Dell Cloud and Virt Shakeup: What it Means to MSPs

By Doug Barney

Anyone who follows business or technology news knows that Dell is going through some changes. In fact, you could argue the company is most likely redefining itself in its executive boardrooms, retreats and probably a corporate jet or two. I guess all this public talk about going private will cause Dell leaders to rethink a few things.

Some of the new strategies are now emerging. One of the biggest in the entire world of technology is the cloud, and this is a huge area of change.

To understand the cloud, you first must comprehend its virtual underpinnings.

For most of its history in virtualization, Dell has been largely focused on VMware. That made a lot sense given that VMware was the leader in server virtualization, and competed with Xen and other tools with far less market share.

What is important about this relationship is that Dell has an approach to computing and virtualization far different from IBM, HP and Sun (now owned by Oracle). Each of these giants has many layers of hardware, from low-end servers to mainframe class computers. And they have many homegrown, proprietary tools such as management and hypervisors that work with their multiple platforms.

Dell is different; Dell is simple. Dell has industry standard hardware that largely runs the top bits of software from the leading players.

Now that VMware no longer completely rules the virtual roost, Dell is making some changes, putting more of its considerable muscle behind Microsoft Hyper-V.

Dell and VMware and CloudStack

The cloud is based on virtualization. That is how discrete servers turn into a pool and computing becomes a utility. So it would make sense for Dell to base its public cloud offerings on VMware. But VMware is much better positioned in private where its vSphere sits quite comfortably.

Public clouds are different. Here OpenStack is a major player the way VMware is on the private side.

Dell had anointed OpenStack as its public cloud underpinning for a new service, to work alongside an already existent VMware-based public cloud. If the plan went through, Dell would be a cloud company just like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace and countless others. That market is potentially lucrative, but fraught with competitive peril.

Suddenly Dell changed its mind on both accounts. The OpenStack plan cancelled. The VMware cloud yanked.

The big shift has a bit less to do with vendors and more to do with where the clouds rest. OpenStack will now drive private clouds and offers a neat way to sell hardware to support these clouds.

On the public side, Dell is all about partners, such as MSPs. This new partner ecosystem, as Dell calls it, is designed to bring Dell customers up into the public cloud.

While Dell already has thousands of partners, there are only three in the new ecosystem, but Dell says that is only a start. These partners are charged with tying public clouds in with Dell-based private clouds.

Dell Pitches Partners

The switch in emphasis from public to private clouds means the hardware powerhouse will presumably be seeking specific types of MSP partners.

Those that integrate private clouds with public were already mentioned. But since private clouds are based on carefully managed and orchestrated virtualized servers, IT solutions providers could offer to manage this whole shebang.

On the public side, Dell will work with its current customers, helping them move to another public cloud offering, particularly from a new Dell partner.

The three main new partners are ZXeroLag, ScaleMatrix and Joyent.

Dell hopes to attract more of these kinds of partners through its new Cloud Partner Program, which is aimed at helping solution providers construct Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings. Partner offerings will replace what Dell itself sold previously.

“Dell will offer customers a choice of vendors and technology, freedom from lock-in to a single platform or pricing model and a central point of solution integration and control. Sales of Dell’s current in-house multi-tenant public cloud IaaS will be discontinued in the U.S. in favor of best-in-class partner offerings,” the company said.

Dell thinks it and its partners are moving in lockstep with customers.

“Many Dell customers plan to expand their use of public cloud, but in order to truly reap the benefits, they want a choice of providers, flexibility and interoperability across platforms and models, the ability to compare cloud economics and workload performance, and a cohesive way to manage all of it,” said Nnamdi Orakwue, vice president, Dell Cloud. “The partner approach offers increased value to Dell’s customers, channel partners and shareholders, as part of our comprehensive cloud strategy to deliver market-leading, end-to-end cloud solutions.”

Dell and Hyper-V

The Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor was an also-ran for years. But like most important products, Redmond simply sticks to its guns, waits it out, and eventually builds up a healthy market. It did it with Windows, Office, Exchange and SQL Server and now it’s happening with Hyper-V.

Now Dell is telling the world that Hyper-V is a great solution for OpenStack environments, something other leading hardware vendors haven’t yet done. “This development, which is the first instance of a leading technology vendor enabling Windows Server Hyper-V hypervisor on OpenStack for private clouds, will give customers additional flexibility and choice to run OpenStack workloads within their existing Windows Server environments,” Dell said.

Dell as MSP

Dell is certainly no stranger to the MSP space, having served them for years as partners. And nearly six years ago, Dell literally bought its way into the space when it acquired SilverBack Technologies, Inc.

SilverBack was focused on remote management for networks, applications and systems. Silverback had an incredibly rich set of services, especially at that point in the market. Here’s what it offered: managing and monitoring storage, networks, servers, notebooks and desktops.

It also sold “patch management and deployment, remote access, remote scripting, software distribution, file transfer, and desktop management solutions; and monitoring solutions, such as proactive monitoring, event management, security monitoring, knowledge base, dashboard, and alert management solutions.”

On the reports front, SilverBack had “executive reports, performance scorecards, security scorecards, monthly service reports, technical reports, and long-term trending reports; and hosted packages, including monitoring licenses, patch scanning and deployment, vulnerability scanning, reporting, remediation, product training, sales and marketing assistance, and maintenance and support.”

More recently, as in little more than two years ago, Dell bought itself deeper into MSP territory when it snagged SecureWorks, an MSP that offers IT security and protection against cybercrime.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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MSPToday Editor at Large

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