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Dell Technologies makes VMware linchpin of hybrid cloud, data center as a service, end user strategies

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Dell Technologies lays out its hybrid cloud plan with a heavy dose of VMware
Dell Technologies’ crown jewel in its portfolio is VMware and the technology giant is now making it the glue that holds its portfolio of companies together.

Dell Technologies’ crown jewel in its portfolio is VMware and the technology giant is now making it the glue that holds its portfolio of companies together.

At the launch of its Dell Techologies World conference in Las Vegas, the company outlined a hybrid cloud strategy that aims to knit its data center and hybrid cloud technologies with public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and IBM Cloud with more to come. The effort is dubbed the Dell Technologies Cloud. VMware is also launching VMware Cloud on Dell EMC, which will include vSphere, vSAN and NSX running on Dell EMC’s infrastructure. 

In addition, Dell Technologies is launching a data center as a service effort where it manages infrastructure in a model that lines up with cloud computing 1-year and 3-year deals. VMware Cloud on Dell EMC is also designed for companies running their own data centers, but want a cloud operating model. Dell Technologies data center as a service effort is built on a VMWare concept highlighted last year called Project Dimension. 

“Dell Technologies writ large is in a unique position to bring a strong, rational hybrid cloud solution to market,” said Matt Baker, senior vice president of Dell EMC strategy and planning. Baker added that most of Dell Technologies customers use on-premises infrastructure and private and public cloud services.

“Customers are working with 3 to 5 clouds and maybe more, but want consistency from an operating model standpoint,” said Baker.

In a slide, the moving parts of the Dell Technologies Cloud Platform and data center as a service effort go like this:

dell-technologies-cloud.png

Dell Technologies’ hybrid cloud plans also reflect how VMware and its parent are moving closer together for strategic and portfolio planning. For the last year, Dell EMC and VMware have been working more closely and understanding how two worlds–one hardware driven and one software driven–can align. In an interesting twist, a lot of the legwork needed to blend Dell EMC’s infrastructure more tightly with VMware was done to make the highly successful VMware-Amazon Web Services partnership work.

Pat Gelsinger, VMware CEO, said cloud providers have to work together for today’s and tomorrow’s workloads. Gelsinger was on stage at Dell Technologies World with Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of products and operations at Dell Technologies. Both executives have been working more closely together in an attempt to eliminate hybrid cloud silos.

“Cloud silos are the new bane of our existence,” said Gelsinger.

To that end, Dell Technologies and VMware forged a partnership with Microsoft to connect Azure with what Dell and VMware have forged as well as workspaces. 

In a nutshell, Dell Technologies’ cloud strategy is designed to reflect a few key realities:

  • Enterprises have a hybrid approach to the cloud.
  • Many enterprises are using multiple cloud providers.
  • Dell Technologies has a bevy of assets such as hyperconverged systems and software such as SecureWorks that can play well for the on-premises side of hybrid cloud approaches.
  • The biggest advantage Dell Technologies has is VMware, which has built out its ability to span multiple clouds as well as containers.
  • Enterprises are getting accustomed to traditional enterprises connecting on-prem with the public cloud.
  • There are hybrid cloud efforts that at least rhyme somewhat with Dell Technologies Cloud and data center as a service. Oracle has Cloud at Customer, HPE and Cisco have broad hybrid portfolios with platforms to connect private and public compute, IBM has IBM Cloud Private and AWS has an on-prem play with AWS Outpost. Amazon AWS: Complete business guide to the world’s largest provider of cloud services
  • If Dell Technologies can integrate its various units and put VMware and its hardware systems on the same cadence there are selling opportunities.

In that context, Dell Technologies’ approach lines up. When Dell acquired EMC the storage giant was run as a loose federation. When Dell Technologies completed the purchase it better integrated its units from a strategic perspective, but largely looked like a mutual fund. In the last year, Dell Technologies has worked more closely with VMware and used technologies from its various units to hit themes.

Michael Dell’s ambition was to create a one-stop provider of infrastructure. In 2016, he said: “We don’t have to cater to short term thinking. We can think in decades. We will be the trusted provider for infrastructure for the next industrial revolution.”

But to move beyond a technology conglomerate and one that can take various independent assets and combine them for new functions, Dell Technologies needs a heavy dose of VMware. Here’s a screen shot of VMware running on Dell EMC hyperconverged infrastructure. 

vmware-cloud-on-dell-emc-1.jpg

Aligning hardware and software releases

One core theme from Dell Technologies is that its converged and hyperconverged infrastructure will roll out at the same time with VMware updates. For instance, Dell EMC’s VXrail and VMware Cloud Foundation were designed to go together with a similar product and development cadence.

Dell Technologies will also leverage VMWare’s Cloud Provider network, which provides as seamless experience among multiple providers. At Dell Technologies World, VMware and Dell Technologies Cloud integration will be demonstrated for workloads moving across multiple clouds and containers via a single console.

dell-technologies-cloud-available-now.png

The combination of Dell Technologies and a more tightly coupled VMware will target markets like disaster recovery as a service. Baker said that Dell Technologies Cloud will offer multiple service-based components from portfolio companies such as Boomi, SecureWorks and Pivotal. “We can bring capabilities, engines and tooling together into useful bundles,” said Baker. Each of these companies will also have ecosystems on their own that can be integrated.

For customers, the Dell EMC and VMware integration promises one-click hardware ordering, automated patching, monitoring and upgrades, governance from data center to edge as well as the ability to modernize applications via containers and Kubernetes. 

With VMware’s partnership with AWS and IBM Cloud already hooked into Dell Technologies Cloud, Baker said it will be actively working to connect with the largest public cloud providers. “We are not having to knock their doors down. We fully intend to onboard the big three loud players plus VMware has Alicloud in Asia,” said Baker.

Perhaps the best sign that VMware and Dell Technologies has tightly integrated is the data center as a service effort. “We weren’t always best aligned and we addressed that,” said Baker. “Data center as a service is the full realization of it.”

dell-data-center-as-a-service.png

The data center as a service effort is in initial beta with customers and made to cover large scale deployments as well as edge computing. According to Baker, Dell Technologies data center as a service will be available in the second half. Management of the data center service will utilize the Dell Technologies service delivery network.

Extending to the end user too

Dell Technologies also outlined a Unified Workspace concept that will also include various elements of the company’s portfolio including (not surprisingly) VMware.

Brett Hansen, vice president and general manager of client software and security solutions, said Unified Workspace has elements available today such as VMware Workspace One, but the idea over time is to free up IT support tasks over time.

Hansen noted that worker productivity is far from optimized. In fact, the work experience is typically siloed by device. The Unified Workspace is designed to do things like sort top emails, fix issues before they happen, deliver files as you need them based on machine learning and manage multiple devices.

“As a user it’s not a great IT experience. An employee that is highly productive is an asset,” said Hansen.

Dell Technologies’ approach to the Unified Workspace rhymes with its tactics on hybrid cloud. The company plans to mash up various assets, learn from Dell Technologies’ device telemetry and reimagine experiences.

For starters, Hansen said Dell Technologies is looking to take the friction out of deployments, patches, new devices and security overall. In addition user specific images can be loaded onto Dell machines at the factory so an employee would have all the preloaded preferences and apps available instantly. “There would be significant time savings,” said Hansen.

The Unified Workspace is in beta testing now. Hansen said the offering will be available as a subscription, license and bundle with Dell PCs and services. “VMware will be a key component of this to get visibility, insights and automation,” said Hansen. 

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2022 Ford F-150 Lightning gives new electric pickup its EV name

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The all-electric Ford F-150 may still be a ways out from hitting dealership forecourts, but we now know what it’ll be called: the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning. The plug-in pickup will be unveiled officially on May 19, though Ford hasn’t been able to resist confirming the badge that the new EV will wear.

It’s not the first time that a Ford truck has borne the Lightning name, mind. Back in 1993 the automaker launched the SVT F-150 Lightning, a performance pickup intended to take on Chevrolet’s 454SS.

That, though, had a V8 under its hood, whereas the new F-150 Lightning will take a very different approach. It’ll be fully electric, with Ford promising more horsepower and torque than any other F-150 currently on sale. It’ll also have sky-high towing and payload ratings, the automaker says, and accelerate faster than even the speediest current F-150.

“Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game … Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning,” Jim Farley, Ford President and CEO, said today. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates.”

This isn’t the first time Ford has opted to use a familiar name with a new, electric twist, of course. The automaker risked frustrating fans when it opted to brand the its all-electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E, with a name more commonly associated with gas-burning two door coupes and convertibles. Even now, years after that announcement, arguments about whether the Mach-E is a “real” Mustang continue.

Meanwhile, GMC took a similar strategy with its high-profile electric SUV. It resurrected the Hummer brand – probably best known for its profligate gas engines – for the all-electric reboot, keeping the burly styling but pairing it with up to three electric motors.

Ford hasn’t said exactly what configuration it has planned for the 2022 F-150 Lightning. The expectation, however, is that there’ll be a dual-motor arrangement for the electric pickup, for all-wheel drive. Battery size and range haven’t been discussed publicly, either, though given electric truck rivals are talking 300+ miles on a charge – and Chevrolet is promising 400+ miles from its upcoming electric Silverado – it seems likely that Ford will aim for something similar.

Part of the F-150 Lightning’s charm, however, will be how functional it is when it’s standing still. Though the current F-150 can act as a generator for worksite equipment, camping, and other situations, the electric pickup will be able to do that without a gas engine running.

Ford plans to begin production of the 2022 F-150 Lightning in spring 2022, at the new Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. Deliveries are expected in mid-2022.

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Harley-Davidson sparks LiveWire as a standalone electric motorcycle brand

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Harley-Davidson will spin out its LiveWire electric motorcycle into a standalone brand, with a whole range of EVs planned. Announced in production form back in 2018 – though dating all the way back to a 2014 concept – the original Harley-Davidson LiveWire bypassed the clutch and the familiar rumble in favor of a battery and zero emissions, though when preorders opened the following year it was with an eye-watering price tag.

0-60 mph in under 3.5 seconds and instantaneous torque – plus around 110 miles of range – would set you back about $30k, the iconic bike company conceded. The LiveWire was to be the first of a series of Harley-Davidson electric models, as it tried to expand its footprint beyond its traditional audience.

Now, it’s shaking that strategy up a little. LiveWire won’t just be a bike, but a whole brand of its own, initially focused on urban use. It’ll have dedicated showrooms in select markets – initially in California – but also support digital from the outset. Select existing dealers from the Harley-Davidson network will be involved, but you won’t necessarily be able to go into any current dealership and find LiveWire product there.

Of course, though it may be its own entity, LiveWire will get to piggy-back on a lot of Harley’s existing setup. “With a dedicated focus on EV, LiveWire plans to develop the technology of the future and to invest in the capabilities needed to lead the transformation of motorcycling,” the company said today. “LiveWire expects to benefit from Harley-Davidson’s engineering expertise, manufacturing footprint, supply chain infrastructure, and global logistics capabilities.”

Developments by, and for, LiveWire may well find there way into future Harley-Davidson models, for example. Indeed, it sounds like there’ll even be electric Harleys in the future, as LiveWire tech goes full circle to help bring its originator up to speed.

Harley-Davidson has faced challenges in recent years, as it tries to modernize and embrace things like electrification while keeping a grip on its traditional audience and branding. The company launched its “Rewire” plan for restructuring in 2020, trimming select models in some regions, and generally aiming to cut costs. Key, though, is attracting a new, younger audience of riders with Harley conceding a few years back that its appeal among millennials was lagging significantly behind.

We’d already seen the first fruits of that expansion strategy late last year. In November 2020, the company unveiled its Series 1 Cycle e-bike line-up, the first models from its new brand for electric bicycles. Come July 8, meanwhile, we’ll see the first LiveWire branded motorcycle revealed. There, the big question will be whether Harley’s hewn-off nameplate can compete with existing electric bikes on factors like range and price.

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Sleeker Pony.ai self-driving SUV hints at more road-ready autonomous cars

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Autonomous car headgear keeps getting smaller, with Pony.ai revealing its latest self-driving car design and its much sleeker, Luminar-powered scanning hub. Far from the “upturned trashcan” aesthetic many still associate with the bulky LIDAR sensors atop driverless vehicles, the new version adds less than 4-inches of height to Pony.ai’s modified Lexus SUVs.

That’s a considerable difference from the vehicles the company has been using so far. The existing SUVs have a large, roof-rack style block on top, and then a sensor turret rises from that. It’s for good reason, mind: that allows the LIDAR sensors to have a full, 360-degree field of vision around the car.

For effective volume production, though, not to mention aesthetics and practicality, the system needed to be smaller. That’s just what Pony.ai says it has achieved now, tapping Luminar’s slimline Iris LIDAR sensor along with other tech for a much reduced profile roofline. It’ll be just 10 cm high, though still deliver 360-degrees of visibility for the various sensors inside.

The new design will be used in the company’s “automotive-grade production autonomous fleets,” it says, from 2023. Currently, it operates robotaxi services in three cities in China – Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing – and two in California, Irvine and Fremont. Its fleet of 200+ vehicles have collectively provided more than 220,000 robotaxi rides, Pony.ai says, with over 3.1 million miles of driving across a total operational coverage area almost 330 square miles in size.

Luminar is gaining a higher profile in LIDAR circles, including attention from not only autonomous vehicle startups like Pony.ai but established automakers too. Volvo invested in the company back in 2018, then two years later confirmed that Luminar LIDAR would be a key component in its upcoming SPA 2 platform. Expected to go into production from 2022, it’ll be used initially not for full autonomous driving, but for advanced driver assistance.

Indeed, that’s one of the key aspects of Luminar’s tech, and LIDAR in general: exactly what can be achieved with it depends on the software, the legislative environment, and the ambitions – and risk profile – of the company using it. Volvo’s system, dubbed Highway Pilot, will be a Level 3 system designed to take over on select highways and operate without human supervision. However it’ll hand control back over to the human driver outside of that domain.

Pony.ai’s approach, in contrast, is to relegate the driver to passenger status at all times. The company has been working with backer Toyota – which most recently invested $400 million in February 2020 – and the two developed the AV pilots in China together.

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