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Dell pulls storage, PCs, and compute into Apex ITaaS platform – a little late

Continues feeding the hybrid cloud monster

Dell World It took a little over a year, but Dell has followed through (to an extent) on promises it made in 2022 with the introduction of Project Alpine – an effort to make its block, file, and object storage software available in top hyperscale cloud environments.

On the first day of Dell Technologies World 2023, the company announced Apex Storage for Public Cloud is now available in AWS and will debut in Azure later this year.

"When we look at bringing our storage assets to the public cloud, it's about bringing the technology that our customers are standardizing on in their datacenter and enabling them to use that in the public cloud as well. And not just a single public cloud, but multiple [clouds]," Caitlin Gordon, vice president of multicloud product management at Dell, told journalists.

That's an admission that while demand for physical storage arrays remains decent, buyers want their storage to behave identically regardless of whether it's in an appliance or a cloud. The likes of NetApp made this possible years ago. Dell's move is therefore neither startling, nor original.

But at least it has made the move, demonstrating it is closer to embracing a cloudy future in which buyers can choose how to procure tech. Dell remains entirely happy to drop boxes on your doorstep and take a check for them. The debut of Project Alpine shows it's also happy with IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) in which buyers can shop as if they were buying pay-as-you-go cloud, or subscriptions.

Dell also is adding two storage-related changes to Apex Console for managing its off-prem offerings for multicloud storage and Kubernetes clusters. Apex Navigator for Public Cloud Storage claims automatic deployment, storage monitoring, and other capabilities for the cloud – including making it easier to move data between public clouds and on-premises datacenters.

With Apex Navigator for Kubernetes, Dell wants to make Kubernetes container storage management easier for data replication, observability, and the ability to move confidential applications in Dell Container Storage Modules.

Adapting to the cloud

Dell is not alone in pursuing ITaaS with its three-year-old Apex program. Other hardware vendors took similar as-a-service steps, including HPE with GreenLake, Lenovo and TruScale, and Cisco with Cisco+. This is aimed at "providing that simplified cloud experience, do that with trusted technology, but give [customers] the choice and the flexibility to do that where they want and give them much more workload agility to go with that," Gordon said.

Apex was the top focus for Dell on the opening day of its annual gabfest Dell Technologies World. Gordon noted that Dell has offered cloud-based data protection for several years and already protects more than 17 exabytes of data across 1,700 companies in AWS, Azure, and other clouds.

Now comes block and file storage.

Gordon said the service goes beyond rivals with multi-availability zone durability, which lets enterprises extend the resilience they have in their datacenters to the cloud.

The file storage service will also support workloads like analytics in public clouds, giving what Gordon claimed is four times the array performance competitors can muster. It can scale up to one petabyte in a single namespace and offer easier data mobility – because it's based on the same software-defined storage tech from Dell that enterprises now run in their own datacenters.

More clouds on the same platform

Dell also is expanding Apex beyond the storage options. A goal of Apex – as well as cloudy infrastructure from other vendors – is to offer a platform that allows users to cook up custom combos of hardware, software, and cloud capabilities. Thus the Apex Cloud Platform portfolio was introduced, starting off with Microsoft, Red Hat, and one-time Dell subsidiary VMware.

The purpose-built platforms have common infrastructure, including PowerEdge servers, PowerFlex storage, software stack, and automated management and orchestration capabilities. Apex Cloud Platform for Azure supports the hyperconverged architecture Stack portfolio – Microsoft's way of bringing Azure services on premises.

Speaking during CEO Michael Dell's keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella the platform gives organizations more flexibility when choosing where to run their workloads.

"What customers really want is the seamlessness of the edge and public cloud coming together," Nadella opined.

Apex Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift – Red Hat's Kubernetes flavor – targets container-based application development and management, including the ability to host both containers and virtual machines within Kubernetes. Cloud Platform for VMware is about running vSphere with Dell software-defined storage.

"This is about control and having that workload portability and flexibility," Gordon said. "You can take these and build your applications wherever you want, to put your applications where you want, and be able to have the control of that environment. … You can deploy these anywhere – any datacenter, any edge location."

Apex's tentacles also are reaching deeper into compute and pulling clients into new service schemes. There is Apex Compute for bare metal through an as-a-service model and the Apex PC-as-a-Service. Both are part of the aforementioned effort to bring cloud advantages on premises.

Apex Compute includes a range of GPU accelerators, hypervisors, and operating systems to use. For its part, the client Apex offering includes not only desktop PCs and laptops but also peripherals. Dell claims early users have reduced help desk work by half, support costs by 30 percent, and time spent onboarding worker devices by 50 percent. Actual results may vary. ®

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