Head in “the clouds”
The term “cloud” has become quite the buzzword these days. Everyone wants to leverage “the cloud”. It’s a place to put things that you want (or don’t want), but they are taking up space on your device and you’re running out of room. All of your pictures of your fancy meals at that fancy restaurant or that you made at home? Store them in “the cloud”! Your movie collection? Stored in “the cloud”! Pictures of your cat? To “the cloud” right meow! Email and shared files?? Toss them to “the cloud”! Your most precious, near and dear to your heart business applications?!?! Why not! Move ’em to “the cloud”!!!! Your Mother-in-law?!?!?! “THE CLOUD”! (LOL – Just kidding) Seriously though…there are many who treat “the cloud” as a mystical place where things are stored and we can forget about maintaining them, protecting them, checking up on them regularly because, after all, the cloud gives me everything I need, right?! WRONG. Sometimes they can, but the ideology that “the cloud” is an all-inclusive supplier of all of my IT needs is a myth. What I have experienced is that those trailblazers that have gone all-in on “the cloud” have realized the implications of their hastiness. They have run into unmanageable monthly bills, unpredictable performance, lack of control or visibility and/or many other challenges that have prompted them to reevaluate their current environment outlay. A large portion of those customers have brought their workloads back in house in more modern data center infrastructure that in most cases is leveraging Software Defined _____ (fill in the blank) technology and some automation. The advancement in technology over the past decade has brought a considerable amount of consolidation from the Hardware and Software layers as well as simplifying the overall management experience which allows our customers to do more with less. Less hardware, less management panes, less staff, less outages (if done right), less money, etc. Cloud has transitioned from a place to an operating model. It’s a way of doing IT in such a fashion that you have the flexibility to run workloads where they should run based upon all of the qualifying factors. As I covered in my APEX – Part 1 post, APEX is NOT a public cloud or hosted solution. What APEX allows you to achieve is cloud-like consumption of cloud infrastructure that will play into your overall cloud strategy and meet 3 critical challenge points:
The largest part of the APEX portfolio is APEX Cloud Services. Let’s talk about the current Service offerings.
APEX Cloud Services Offerings
As we dive into these offerings you will see that there are clear differences with each Service, but it’s also good to understand the commonalities between some of the offerings. First, I am going to discuss the commonalities of the Private and Hybrid Cloud Services offerings, then I will discuss the APEX Cloud Services with VMware Cloud as it is a slightly different approach to this Service.
Commonalities between APEX Private and Hybrid Cloud Services
- Hyper-Converged Infrastructure
Both solutions leverage VxRail as the underlying infrastructure solution. If you are not familiar with VxRail let me give a very brief description of what this is. VxRail is a jointly engineered HCI Appliance between Dell Technologies and VMware that leverages vSphere and vSAN, managed by vCenter, as the Software-Defined Compute and Storage layer which runs on the latest PowerEdge Server technology. HCI brings together Compute and Storage onto one hardware platform (x86) which are otherwise totally separate physically and from a manageability perspective. VxRail provides full integration into VMware vCenter for non-disruptive single click, rolling node Upgrades of both Firmware and Software, as well as automated cluster expansions and contractions, hardware monitoring and alerting and many other automated functions that typically consume a large portion of an IT Admin’s time. This is the foundational building block of the Modern Data Center.
- Designed to meet a variety of Workload types
Because both solutions are leveraging the same underlying infrastructure solution, we maintain consistency in configurations to allow for a common, simple wizard-driven process in the APEX console whether you are choosing the Private or Hybrid Cloud Services solution. Here are the key decision points in the APEX Console for Private and Hybrid Cloud Services:
As you go through the configuration wizard in the console there are options to select your Cluster Storage Type which you have the selection to choose from All-Flash, All-NVMe or Hybrid (SSD+HDD) which are consistent between Private and Hybrid Cloud Services.
Now that we understand the commonality between these 2 great offerings, let’s take a look at each of the 2 solutions and their respective differences in detail.
APEX Private Cloud
APEX Private Cloud is what you would know and refer to as standard VxRail clusters deployed to run a given workload or a set of mixed workloads. This offering is ideal for customers who want to continue to deploy VMware vSphere + vSAN clusters to run their workloads on-prem in a very similar way you do today.
APEX Private Cloud is a Customer Managed offering in which you, the customer, interacts with the systems just as you do with any other on-prem system. You have full root access to the nodes and you manage your workloads from the same vCenter console you know today, with the added value of VxRail and its inherent automation capabilities. The Node configurations are baselined to map to the Instance Selection in the APEX Console so you won’t need to select CPUs, Memory DIMM sizes and config, Disks, etc. The Vmware Software needed to run on the VxRail cluster is included in the subscription cost which accounts for vSphere, vSAN and vCenter licensing.
Rack or No Rack? You have the option to have the VxRail cluster configured in what is called a Dell Integrated Rack OR you can select to have the cluster deployed in a Customer Provided Rack which allows for flexibility in Rack type, top-of-rack switching and PDUs. In the Dell Integrated Rack, we add the ToR switching, Management switch and the PDUs along with the nodes all racked, crated and shipped to your site where Dell Professional Services will come and deploy the cluster(s).
Services and Support are also included as the ProSupport Plus and ProDeploy Plus offerings. All additional VMware Software, OS software, etc. is at the responsibility of the customer and is not included in the APEX Private Cloud 1 or 3 yr subscription pricing.
APEX Hybrid Cloud
This is a build upon of the Private Cloud. Still VxRail, still managed by the customer and includes ProSupport and ProDeploy Plus for Support and Services. One of the major differences in this offering is that with APEX Hybrid Cloud Services we are including the VMware Cloud Foundation licensing bundle and deployment model on VxRail.
VMware Cloud Foundation provides the Software Defined Data Center stack which is inclusive of the following products:
- SDDC Manager
- vRealize Suite Enterprise (w/ VCF Enterprise)
This solution is for customers who desire consistency in operations between Private and Public Clouds and want to lay the foundation to deploy a cloud operating model in on-premises data centers. A massive advantage to running VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail is the integration between VxRail Manager and SDDC Manager to orchestrate full stack upgrades that include all of the VCF components listed above as well as the underlying hardware. This allows for a heavily simplified approach to maintaining compatibility across your infrastructure which results in time savings and lowers risks for outages caused by version mismatches and manual error.
Also, an architecture difference with VCF solutions is that there is the outlay of a Management Cluster to run all infrastructure management VMs such as, SDDC Manager, vCenter, NSX-T Manager, vRS Components, backup appliances, monitoring and analytics tools, as well as any other management workloads needed in the environment. The inclusivity of the Management Cluster is within the configuration of APEX Hybrid Cloud in the APEX Console.
APEX Hybrid Cloud is only offered as a Dell Integrated Rack solution which will come installed in a Rack with ToR and Management Switching, PDUs and cabling. Site Survey details are provided in the ordering path to ensure your site meets the needs of the solution.
*NEW* APEX Cloud Services with VMware Cloud
At VMWorld 2021, Dell Technologies announced the soft launch of APEX Cloud Services with Vmware Cloud which is a differentiated offering in the APEX Cloud Services Portfolio. We are combining the benefits of on-premises infrastructure with Dell Technologies Managed Services to alleviate the burden of IT Systems Management that comes in the form of break/fix, Lifecyle Management, expansions, etc. that plague IT Admin’s and consume a majority of their time. This solution allows our customers to manage from the Guest VMs and up, not having to monitor and maintain the underlying infrastructure.
This solution follows the APEX Instance Based configuration approach like the other Cloud Services offerings and comes fully installed in a Rack with all of the necessary components needed to run the environment. Here is a high level list of what is included in the rack:
- 1x 42U Rack
- 2x 25GbE ToR Switches
- 1x 1GbE Management Switch
- Redundant VMware SD-WAN Appliances
- Redundant Smart PDUs
- No UPS Option
Much like the other offerings in the Cloud Services Portfolio, there are a variety of Workloads that would be great candidates for APEX Cloud Services with VMware Cloud.
As we consider the operational benefits of offloading much of the management requires for the infrastructure, it starts to look very much like the Public Cloud in that you manage the workloads themselves, not really worrying about the underlying hardware. This is where you get the best of BOTH worlds – combining the performance, security and control benefits of on-prem Private Cloud infrastructure with the speed, agility and OpEx model of the Public Cloud.
The idea here is that we provide consistency in your experience whether or not you are consuming infrastructure on-prem or in a hosted data center or Public Cloud provider running VMware Cloud Services. There are thousands of VMware Cloud Partners in the marketplace and all of the big Public Cloud providers realize that there is value in consistency thus you have started to see VMware Cloud partnerships pop up in AWS, Azure, GCP, etc. This provides our customers the flexibility and choice of where their workloads run to achieve a certain goal. It also protects our customers from being pinned down to one specific provider with the ability to migrate out easier and not have to learn a new interface or console. Work smarter, not harder!
As we continue to build out the APEX Cloud Services portfolio, there will be more exciting things to come with additional flexibility to meet even more use-cases and outcomes that our customers desire. It’s exciting to see the progress we have made in such a short time!
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