For Dell, being edgy now means single-node HCI without virtual storage, and rugged laptops

Is it really hyperconverged if it has vSphere but not VSAN? Big Mike says 'yes'


Dell has made a play for the edge, with pretty much the same stuff it offers in most other places.

The centrepiece of the hardware giant's edge compute push, revealed today at the Dell Technologies Summit, is a "VxRail satellite node" – a 1U server that runs a subset of VMware's hyperconverged stack. The nodes are 1U servers, lightly ruggedised, and Dell assumes you'll run vSphere on 'em so that your edge servers behave the same way as the data centre servers you entrust to Virtzilla.

Readers may recall, however, that VMware generally recommends its HCI stack runs on multiple nodes, and that doing so is necessary for resilience of the VSAN virtual storage array – also just for resilience in general.

Dell told The Register the satellite nodes are designed for applications that don't need the high availability an HCI cluster offers.

"Resiliency within a satellite node can be achieved through redundant power supplies, network cards, and local disk drives through RAID protection with a PowerEdge RAID controller (PERC)," according to Dell. Satellite nodes also don't include VSAN.

But they're still part of a cluster.

"They are an extension of VxRail to edge environments and managed centrally by a VxRail cluster," we were told. "All data path operations remain local on the satellite node, meaning even if connectivity to the VxRail cluster is lost, there is no interruption to workloads."

Business as usual then, in terms of VMware as the glue for everything, but with some allowances made for Dell's assumption that these satellite nodes will end up in places like cell towers and factory floors where their small size and moderate ruggedisation are more important than the kind of resilience required in a data centre.

Which may seem a little odd as Dell also thinks that this kit needs to be ready to process data in real time.

Dell has also announced a new edge gateway – essentially another server, but fanless and intended to work in "harsh industrial environments".

Once the gateway or satellite node has collected data out there on the edge, Dell has added enhanced GPU video analysis capabilities to the Streaming Data Platform it suggests you run to process edge-sourced data.

Dell's definition of edge also encompasses rugged laptops, of which it has two new models. The 5430 and 7730 laptops will become available to order on 9 December 2021, with Windows 11 aboard and Windows 10 an option. The 5430 is semi-rugged, but The Register was told the 7730 offers "extreme field usability" – a phrase illustrated with an image of the machine sitting on snow. Both machines offer dual hot-swappable batteries and touchscreens that can be operated while you wear gloves.

Edge tends to overlap with the kind of places telcos put infrastructure so Dell has also cooked up some tools to help carriers manage its new hardware wherever it lands.

One is the "Bare Metal Orchestrator" – software that automates the deployment and management of "hundreds of thousands of servers across geographic locations." Dell reckons this is just what 5G operators need as they build out their Open RANs, and says some of it is its own tech while some is open-standards tech. Might that be a sniff of OpenStack we've detected?

The House That Mike Built has also added a services team to help telcos deploy this sort of thing, and made sure folks like Wind River, Mavenir, VMware, and other carrier-centric software providers have reference designs ready to roll.

The company reckons this push means that when edge customers – carriers, manufacturers, retailers, and the rest – want hardware that doesn't need handling, Dell has what they're after. ®

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