Dell a Virtualization Management Leader?

In July 2010, Dell acquired Scalent a vendor that allowed for the rapid provisioning and reconfiguration of server, network and storage resources. This was clearly an IT agility play. In September 2010, Dell did an OEM deal with DynamicOPS adding the DynamicOPS private cloud (or IT as a Service) management stack to its Virtual Integrated System (VIS) architecture. Now Dell has done a similar deal with Netuitive, adding direct monitoring of vSphere, integration with just about every monitoring tool on the planet, and real-time self-learning analytics to the VIS portfolio.

Imagine the following scenario. A user orders up a service (a collection of VM’s or an entire application system) from Self-Service Center (DynamicOPS). Self-Service Center automatically provisions the vSphere environment needed to fulfill the request and then turns to Advanced Infrastructure Manager (Scalent) to provision and configure the underlying hardware, and any resources that are needed to fulfill the request that are not virtualized. The resulting application and the underlying vSphere environment are then monitored by Director (Netuitive). There are several very compelling aspects to this offering:

  • It is assembled with arguably best of breed components. DynamicOPS has both a product functionality lead and a lead in production customer implementations over the rest of the IT as a Service (Private Cloud) vendors – especially when it comes to complex enterprise deployments. Netuitive is the clear market leader for self-learning analytics and has an impressive enterprise customer base as well.
  • The prospect that these solutions will become tightly integrated over time as they are deployed together in Dell’s customer base is very alluring. There is no other stack of management software on the market that can meet the requirements for IT as a Service across physical and virtual environments (with support for multiple hypervisors), and that has integrated performance and capacity monitoring backed up by self-learning analytics.
  • The fact that Netuitive is the performance monitoring engine is of particular value since with IT as a Service environments it is not possible to configure monitoring ahead of time. It needs to be deployed with the environment, discover the elements of the environment as they come up and then learn the normal behavior. Any system that relies upon manually set thresholds violates the whole idea of automation and IT agility that is the promise of IT as a Service and private clouds.

Where Does this Leave IBM and HP?

Dell has often be criticized for its lack of systems management offerings and its lack of a solutions oriented approach to selling to enterprise accounts. Both IBM and HP have honed their ability to combine hardware, software and services into integrated solutions for enterprise customers. Dell says that these offerings are intended for the “mid-market” but mid-market includes some pretty big companies. It is also now the case that with Dell having assembled a virtualization management stack out of best of breed components that the Dell offerings are quite frankly far superior to anything that HP and IBM have to offer when it comes to provisioning, IT as a Service and performance management of virtualized and IT as a Service or private cloud environments. You have to wonder if and when IBM and HP will wake up.

Summary

Dell is now in a position to be able to offer a market leading set of virtualization management functionality to its customers. There will no doubt be growing pains as Dell learns to sell a complex set of software – which is an entirely different process than taking an order from a purchasing agent for some servers. But both DynamicOPS and Netuitive have a proven ability to sell their solutions on their own, and one presumes that it is in the interest of all parties for Dell to get some help from DynamicOPS and Netuitive as Dell comes up the sales curve.

The Dell VIS stack (Advanced Infrastructure Manager, Self-Service Creator and Director) now represents the most functionally rich virtualization management offering on the market, as it is sourced from best of breed IT as a Service vendor DynamicOPS and best of breed self learning analytics vendor Netuitive. This stack backed up by Dell’s ability to sell into its customer base with whom Dell is already heavily interacting on the subject of virtualization puts Dell and it partners in a compelling position.