Dell is announcing the details at a big-deal event here. One crucial element is on the networking side: the Virtual Network Architecture (VNA), a framework for automating and orchestrating virtualized applications in the data center.
It's based on Force10 Networks Inc. switches, including the Z9000 line announced in April 2011, and it got a shout-out from Michael Dell early in the event. "With Force10, we're going to be able to deliver an entire data center solution with 10Gbit/s to every server and aggregation using 40Gbit/s technology, with networking technology exclusively and entirely from Dell," Dell's chief executive said early in Monday's talk.
With VNA, Dell is stressing automation -- things like the ability to have a virtual LAN (VLAN) connection follow a virtual machine.
Other announcements include vStart, a platform to let businesses develop their own private clouds, and the 12th generation of its servers.
Why this matters
Dell is certainly putting up a challenge to HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) here. What's more dramatic, though, is the parallel with Cisco, because Dell is pitching exactly the kind of architecture that Cisco is hanging its hat on.
One key difference is that Dell is open to hooking its architecture to another vendor's networking gear. Of course, Force10 is the preferred choice and the one that's "optimized" to work with Dell gear, officials said, but the company's happy to stress it's more indifferent here than Cisco is.
"They have a vendor lock -- a high-premium lock -- and it's optimized for the legacy workloads," says Arpit Joshipura, who was formerly head of Force10's IP networking business and is continuing in a similar vein with Dell.
The bigger challenge here is in getting customers to think of the network as a monolithic product rather than a combination of hand-selected boxes. Cisco puts up its 10,000 UCS customers as evidence that the idea is supposedly catching on.
Some notes on the Dell/Force10 pairing and on data center architectures.
- Force10 Deal Could Sting Brocade, Juniper
- Cisco Brags About UCS (Again)
- HP Picks a Fight With Cisco
- Force10's Fabric Is a Quilt
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading