Dell World Roundup: Open Ecosystem Builds


By: R. Scott Raynovich

Another week, another vendor-hosted trade conference. I didn't make it to Dell Technology World in Las Vegas. But Dell's newly minted public company status and its powerful alliance (and ownership) with VMware make it one of the biggest forces to watch in cloud infrastructure, and this week there were plenty of deals.

Dell has moved far beyond the PC company that Michael Dell famously founded in his college dorm room to become one of the largest technology companies in the world. Dell recently reissued shares to the public, resulting in a $50 billion market cap in a controversial move that also included a buyout of the VMware tracking stock (Dell owns 80% of VMware). It's now a sprawling conglomeration of enterprise software and hardware, ranging from EMC's storage systems to networking products and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Overall, Dell's strategy is sound -- focus on providing open, high-performance hardware and then coupling that with best-in-class virtualization solutions covering compute, storage, and networking.

Let's round up some of the more notable deals:

VMware in Azure. If you still believe in the open networking and infrastructure movement (as I do), it's all about alliances. The biggest item of the week, in my mind, is that Dell made progress on that front in a new cloud deal for Microsoft Azure. Dell, VMware, and Microsoft announced a hybrid cloud partnership. Called Azure VMware Solutions, the new system from VMware builds on its Cloud Foundation and will run in Microsoft’s Azure public cloud. VMware is integrating many of its cloud tools for compute (vSphere), storage (vSAN), and network virtualization (NSX). VMware already has a similar deal in place on AWS. At the same time, Microsoft announced efforts to further integrate its tolls with VMware, such as enabling Microsoft 365 and VMware Workspace ONE customers to manage Office 365 using Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory.

Big Switch Extension. Big Switch Networks, which has long had a partnership with Dell, signed a new equipment manufacturing (OEM) agreement with Dell EMC for Big Switch’s software-defined networking (SDN) products. This new deal will extend Big Switch networking into Dell's Ready Stack converged systems. The deal builds on the collaboration between the two companies to promote open networking.

Apastra Goes 3.0. Apstra, a startup to watch which is targeting automation of data-center networking, released its Intent-Based Data Center Automation 3.0 software product, which it says increases application reliability and availability, simplifies deployments and operations through automation, and reduces costs (OpEx and CapEx) by automating the configuration of cloud networks.

One of the important new features in 3.0 include Multi-domain Unified Group-Based Policy, which identifies diverse cloud infrastructure and networking policies in enterprises and allows for automated policy enforcement regardless of the location, type, or manufacturer of the devices and operating systems. Another feature is External Routing Policies, which can streamline complex routing adjustments to prioritize traffic flows. The software upgrade includes others features such as support for "Super Spine" cloud architectures, IVPV6 support, and automation remediation integration with VMware vSphere.

Apstra's been moving fast to upgrade its product to help enterprises adapt to multi-cloud environments, and this announcement shows how next-generation software is going to be the key to guiding infrastructure in a multi-cloud environment.