OEMs selling software and services is nothing new. IBM does it; HP does it; and Oracle now does it. Dell has slowly been moving in this direction, and this week it more firmly cemented its positioning, announcing three new service and support agreements. Chief among them, a new management plug-in for VMware vCenter.
With the Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) customers can provision bare metal servers, deploy hypervisors, roll out firmware and BIOS updates, and manage alerts directly from VMware's vCenter console. The solution is tailored to Dell's servers, specifically its 11G PowerEdge servers, although it will also work (albeit minus some of the functionality) on ninth and tenth generation PowerEdge servers, Doug Iler, senior manager of virtualization systems management for Dell, told ServerWatch.
The software leverages technology found in the most recent generation of PowerEdge servers to connect the hardware to the BIOS and firmware and the virtual servers within. Functionality unique to Dell hardware, such as alerts and warnings, has been added to the code. Ideally, customers would be hard pressed to notice where vCenter ends and where Dell's solution begins.
Iler described the ideal customer for the plugin as an organization looking to accelerate its virtual adoption or streamline a deployment, as well as anyone having trouble with BIOS and firmware updates.
Customers already on board include SuperValu, Rules-Based Medicine and Southwest Airlines.
Dell claims its software is superior to other vendors' solutions because the offering integrates server management functionality directly into vCenter and enables customers to work from a single, familiar console.
Iler said future versions of the software will incorporate networking and storage functionality as well as integration with VMware Update Manager.
Although the Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter is being described as a plug-in virtual appliance, Iler was quick to note that it is not an extension of its KACE Family of Systems Management Appliances, which are positioned at client virtualization deployments.
With the plug-in so closely aligned to vCenter, it's not surprising that its pricing mirrors that of vCenter, with a three-server license priced at $299 and an unlimited license priced at $2,999. Because of Dell's midmarket focus, however, it added two additional tiers: a 10-server license for $799 and a 50-server license for $1,799.
The two other products announced Wednesday were the Dell Lifecycle Controller and Embedded Systems Management, and the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller.
HP's Virtual Appliances
Dell was not alone in unveiling virtual offerings this week. HP and Microsoft further cemented their partnership with the announcement of four new converged application appliances that combine applications, infrastructure and productivity tools into a single system. Under the terms of their agreements the two companies will work together to deliver cloud, virtualization and converged applications solutions over next three years, Dave Peterson, group manager, Industry Standard Server and Software, explained.
Application services that the new offerings will deliver include business intelligence, data warehousing, online transaction processing and messaging.
One, the HP Business Decision Appliance, is available now. Another, the HP E5000 Messaging System for Microsoft Exchange Server, is scheduled for release in 45 days. The remaining two, the HP Business Data Warehouse Appliance and the HP Database Consolidation Appliance, are expected to be available in June and the second half of 2011, respectively.
The HP Database Consolidation Appliance is aimed squarely at the private cloud. This appliance consolidates hundreds of databases into a single, virtual environment. This provides customers with a private cloud database solution that offers self-service, on-demand scalability and dynamic elasticity with the additional control offered through an on-premises deployment.
The appliance is packaged as complete, pre-installed, pre-tuned hardware with rapid deployment and enhanced manageability. It is optimized for SQL Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud.
Appliances have long had a rocky path in the physical world. If recent developments are any indication, virtual appliances are a completely different kettle of fish. With the OEM marketplace being increasingly commoditized and virtualization differentiation boiling down to management capabilities, bringing them together to maximize value seems a natural fit.
Amy Newman is the senior managing editor of Internet.com's server vertical. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in 2009.