Dell is one of the biggest providers of servers and virtualised infrastructure for the enterprise market, but the company is now looking beyond this to support companies running a distributed computing model, with new scalable applications and modular datacentres.
At the same time, the firm is openly considering building ARM-based servers, although it does not believe these will necessarily displace x86 systems in the datacentre.
In an interview with V3, Forrest Norrod, general manager of Dell's server platform division, said that private clouds based on virtualisation will prove to be a relatively short-term measure that is required to support legacy applications developed for standalone servers.
"Virtualisation is a way of getting legacy workloads into private clouds, but we've found that many customers are encountering issues as they run into a wall, stalling at about 30 to 40 per cent of workloads consolidated. We think that's because virtualisation actually increases the logical complexity of the environment customers have to manage," he said.
Management tools will eventually catch up, according to Dell, but new applications in the future will be developed to scale across multiple servers, following a distributed computing model.
"We believe that there are additional efficiencies that can be gained if you write your applications to be aware of the fact that they are living in a dynamic cloud-like environment, and you deploy them on software platforms that provide streamlined services," Norrod explained.
These 'revolutionary' platform approaches are set to open up a new set of economics for new kinds of applications, he claimed.
And while Dell sees both paths as valid for the majority of customers, it sees an opportunity in supporting the distributed model.
"Most of our competitors are focused on virtualisation, and that's where the bulk of the market is right now, but we think a substantial portion of the growth and new uses for server-side computing will come out of the other approach, so we have multiple product lines to support both," Norrod said.
Dell is targeting the scale-out distributed compute market chiefly with its C-series of servers, introduced last year. The firm recently updated the line with the PowerEdge C5000 system that can fit up to 12 separate server nodes into a 3U rack-mount enclosure.
These so-called microservers are similar to blade servers, with their high-density and use of shared infrastructure, but are optimised solely for Ethernet rather than multiple datacentre fabrics connecting to a SAN. They also use more automated systems management, are typically targeted at specific use cases, and have fewer options for I/O and expandability than general-purpose servers.
"The use cases for microservers are typically web front-end, some HPC applications, and low-end dedicated web hosting," Norrod explained.
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