Project Alpine: native Dell storage services in the public cloud and CloudOps


Dell’s Project Alpine could open the door to the big cloud service providers adopting hybrid multi-cloud as a reality and porting their software to each other’s environments.

Project Alpine has the Dell development machine operating at high intensity to port Dell’s file, block and object storage array software to the three main public clouds. Think of your on-premises PowerStore, PowerScale, PowerFlex and Object Scale array software operating with the exact same on-premises interface but on top of AWS, Azure and GCP hardware, represented by the cloud providers’ instances. 

Dell’s engineeers have done the software plumbing needed to hook up the user-level interface software layer – meaning APIs, command line and GUI – to the underlying CSP’s instance infrastructure. A demo at the Dell Technologies World event shows a 4-node PowerScale/Isilon cluster being set up on AWS with the user selecting service level, such as performance or capacity-optimized and capacity needed, and then automated software setting up the required AWS instances to deliver 4-node Isilon cluster functionality to applications and users exactly as if they were executing on-premises.

The Dell Public Cloud file, block and object storage services are expected to be available as purchasable options in the CSPs’ individual marketplaces and/or as native CSP services, like AWS FSx for ONTAP, done with NetApp and FSx for Lustre.

This can be done for Azure and GCP also, with a probable ability to move a public cloud-based Isilon cluster between the clouds as circumstances permit or recommend and also tier data between or within the on-premises and public cloud worlds – such as primary, secondary and long-term retention tiers. In other words, Dell’s Project Alpine opens the door to Dell entering the CloudOps world, up until now virtually a NetApp-only environment.

It’s likely that all mainstream storage vendors and the up-and-comers will feel customer pressure to do the same as Dell and NetApp – meaning Hitachi Vantara, HPE, IBM, Infdinidat, Pure, and VAST Data for example.

CSPs embrace multi-cloud

There is another fascinating angle to this and it is Project Alpine becoming a public cloud re-orientation factor. The running in providing storage services spanning the on-premises and public cloud worlds has been made by vendors, such as NetApp, Pure and Dell. They say customers are accepting the reality that it is a multi-hybrid world now. But there is no evidence that the big public cloud vendors have accepted that reality.

For AWS the world it provides to its customers is largely an AWS-only one, with vendors effectively providing data on-ramps to AWS to provide for a customer’s ultimate migration to commit to AWS for everything. But this is nonsense. No customer is going to give AWS a lock-in like this. 

Which means that AWS, Azure and GCP will have to accept that it’s a hybrid, multi-cloud world as well and – this is the thing – commit to helping, or at least tolerating, their customers porting their AWS services/instances to Azure and GCP and maybe the Oracle Cloud. Ditto Azure, GCP and Oracle. They will all have to do what vendors like Dell and NetApp are doing, and port their service interfaces to run on top of a rival CSP’s infrastructure so that, for example, AWS customers can run their services on other CSPs environments as they see fit.

Will AWS, Azure, GCP and Oracle each build their own software to do this or – big question coming up – will they ally with a vendor that has already done the work, such as Dell with Project Alpine?

Isn’t it a fun world we storage and other IT infrastructure folks are operating within? Big hybrid multi-cloud world questions are coming and they require big answers, both from vendors and from the big CSPs.

Boot note: PowerProtect is already GA across the public clouds. Also Power Max is not included in Project Alpine, because Dell’s customers are not requesting PowerMax-level block services in the public cloud.