Dell boosts VxRail with DPUs running vSphere

Dell Technologies has announced co-engineered developments with VMware covering VxRail hyperconverged appliances, special edge site VxRail systems, APEX cloud subscription offerings, and validated AI systems with automated machine learning.

The announcements were made at VMware’s Explore event against the backdrop of Broadcom’s pending acquisition of the virtualization company.

Jeff Boudreau, president of Dell’s Infrastructure Solutions Group, said: “Dell Technologies and VMware have numerous joint engineering initiatives spanning core IT areas such as multicloud, edge and security to help our customers more easily manage and gain value from their data.”

VxRail

There are actually three VxRail announcements: VxRail with DPUs, VxRail and vSAN ESA, and VxRail modular edge nodes.

VxRail systems now support vSphere 8 software that has been designed to run on server-attached DPUs (data processing units) such as Nvidia’s BlueField-2. This vSphere Distributed Services Engine software is part of the Nvidia-VMware Project Monterey that offloads hypervisor, networking, security, and storage tasks from the CPU to the DPU. No configurations have been announced yet but we performance stats with some anticipation.

Nvidia BlueField-2 will be used in Dell VxRail appliances
Nvidia BlueField-2

Dell told us that PowerEdge servers will support onboard DPUs as well.

Certain VxRail configs support VMware’s new vSAN Express Storage Architecture (ESA), which can deliver an up to 4x vSAN performance improvement through using NVMe technology. This vSAN ESA is a single-tier HCI storage setup and all NVMe VxRail models are optimized for it.

Dell has also announced rugged and modular VxRail systems for edge locations, the smallest form-factor VxRail systems to date. 

We were told in a briefing that these new ruggedized modular nodes can be racked, stacked, and mounted for use anywhere in almost any environment and scale from two to 64 nodes. They’re specifically designed with half-width blades and are the industry’s first onboard integrated and purpose-built hardware witness. 

A hardware witness is an ESXi host in a stretched cluster that stores virtual machine (VM) metadata, known as the witness components, for each VM object. If a host in the stretched cluster fails, the other sites may not be able to decide which one is the master or authoritative site. The witness provides a so-called vote to build a quorum and decide which is the main site. Then VMs from the failed site can be vMotioned to the new main site and restarted.

The onboard hardware witness removes the need for remote datacenter infrastructure power and administration that’s typically required with a separate witness node. 

Scale Computing HE150
HE150 and mobile phone for scale

We are envisaging non-rackmount chassis, and thinking of wall-mount systems and table-top designs. Dell envisages these mini-VxRail systems being used for healthcare, energy and utilities, and digital cities with deployments in high-latency, low-bandwidth locations.

Scale Computing has had a strong focus on edge location HCI systems for some years. For example, it has a cigarette box-sized HCI edge appliance, the HE150. This uses Intel’s NUC micro-PC processing hardware. We don’t know if VxRail will come this far down the small system scaling curve.

APEX and AI

APEX Cloud Services with VMware Cloud adds managed VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid services, meaning customers can provision Kubernetes clusters and containerized workloads through the vSphere user interface. 

APEX Private Cloud and APEX Hybrid Cloud offer new compute-only options so customers can scale compute and storage independently. They can connect compute-only instances to Dell storage such as APEX Data Storage Services.

Dell Validated Designs for AI – Automatic Machine Learning (AutoML) uses automated machine learning models to help data scientists develop AI-powered applications. It includes validated configurations of VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure with H2O.ai, Nvidia, and VMware software with automation that delivers up to 18x faster AI models. This is according to an April 2020 Total Economic Impact Study Commissioned By Dell and Intel.

Availability

  • New Dell VxRail systems will be globally available beginning in the second half of 2022 
  • Hardware-witnessed VxRail systems are expected to be available in January 2023
  • Managed VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid for APEX Cloud Services with VMware Cloud are available now in the USA, UK, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand with additional availability forthcoming
  • APEX Private Cloud and APEX Hybrid Cloud updates are available in the USA, UK, France, and Germany in September with additional global availability forthcoming.
  • Dell Validated Designs for AI – Automatic Machine Learning (AutoML) is globally available now