Back in May 2023, we announced the “APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure“. Today, we are making this platform available. Dell APEX is the vehicle by which we deliver multicloud by design, and it consists of several strategic initiatives: First,
we are taking our industry leading software to the public cloud – a strategy we refer to as ground-to-cloud. This is not new to us, as we’ve already done this with our data protection software which now protects >17EB of data across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Building on that experience, we’re bringing our storage software to the public clouds with several new APEX offers that give our customers management consistency and enhanced data mobility in multicloud environments.  From a hybrid cloud perspective, we’re also bringing cloud solution stacks to data center, edge, and colocation environments. We refer to this as our cloud-to-ground strategy. This is where our APEX Cloud Platforms reside. It’s a new turnkey on-premises infrastructure platform purpose-built collaboratively with our trusted ecosystem partners – Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware – to extend and optimize cloud experiences across your entire IT estate. This provides you with the agility to run your workloads where your business needs dictate in the most operationally efficient way possible.  Finally, we’re bringing simplified cloud experiences to dedicated IT environments. APEX accomplishes this through a range of subscription and as-a-Service offers designed help to reduce IT workload, speed technology deployment, control costs and manage end of life assets sustainably. And we’ve recently expanded APEX to include our client devices and servers, giving you more solutions to solve a broader set of business challenges. Now, with that context, let’s dive into the cloud-to-ground approach in a little more detail.

The Dell APEX Cloud Platform family, part of our Cloud-to-Ground multicloud strategy, is designed to address these customer preferences by enabling customers to expand their cloud capabilities to on-premises environments using a purpose-built platform, with a consistent management experience across different clouds, empowering innovation.

Dell APEX Cloud Platforms is a family of turnkey systems integrating Dell infrastructure, software and cloud operating stacks that deliver consistent multicloud operations by extending cloud operating models to on-premises and edge environments to empower unrestrained innovation across multicloud environments

We currently have three flavors of APEX Cloud Platform – one for Microsoft Azure, one for Red Hat OpenShift and one for VMware vSphere. Each leverages common building blocks, with unique integration between our automated M&O Software into the partner stacks

Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShiftThe APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift is collaboratively engineered with Red Hat to optimize and extend OpenShift deployments on-premises with an integrated operational experience. Full stack integration of  our automated M&O software with Red Hat OpenShift to simplifies deployment and enables a consistent, automated operational experience across on-premises and cloud OpenShift deployments. ​

Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure first, we are announcing a new infrastructure platform collaboratively built with Microsoft to optimize Microsoft Azure hybrid cloud deployments.  This new platform empowers organizations to unlock innovation by optimizing delivery of Azure cloud on-premises while ensuring consistent operational and governance experience across data centers, edge locations, and Azure public cloud.  ​

The platform is optimized for developer-friendly hybrid, Azure Arc-enabled services that empower IT to simplify application modernization and innovate faster. Integration with the Azure portal also enables easy extension of security and governance policies to the cloud platforms.​

Of course, we’ve been partnering with VMware in the multicloud space for years with jointly engineered solutions that help customers with the fastest path to deploy a VMware hybrid cloud with our APEX Hybrid Cloud offer.​ We are now providing customers with even more choice in how they deploy VMware on trusted Dell infrastructure across their IT landscape with new Dell APEX Cloud Platforms for VMware. This is our purpose-built Cloud Platform for VMware virtualized environments using Dell’s high-performance, linearly scalable software defined storage.

What is different about APEX Cloud Platforms?

These platforms leverage Dell’s proven and market-leading IP from its HCI and SDS offerings and are built collaboratively with our ecosystem partners – Microsoft, Red Hat and VMware -to deliver a new generation infrastructure that offers our customers extreme flexibility and investment protection over time.

Specifically, these platforms utilize:

  • Our APEX Cloud Platform Foundation Software – Automated Management and Orchestration delivering a wide range of value-added and unique capabilities (this software-driven innovation was key to our proven success with VxRail. VxRail users familiar with the VxRail HCI System Software will recognize these similar outcomes in ACPs)
  • Open ecosystem enterprise class software-defined storage that delivers linear scalability and resilience (again, we’ve proven we deliver a best-in-class experience in this area with our winning PowerFlex SDS)
  • And they use the curated, next-generation PowerEdge server nodes with Intel Xeon 4th Gen processors as the compute or storage node hardware that underpins these offers

Why does this matter?

Unlike todays HCI offerings which provide different outcomes based on the partner stack (for example in the Dell portfolio VxRail offers VMware customers significantly more automation and orchestration functionality than Integrated Systems for Azure HCI), these platforms will deliver consistent outcomes regardless of the partner stack by leveraging the same Cloud Platform Foundation Automated M&O software. A customer can order the “flavor” of Cloud Platform Foundation software they want (i.e for Azure or for Red Hat) and have the same functionality such as auto deploy, full stack lifecycle management and integrated support.

By utilizing Common SDS on the backend of each platform, customers have a common storage layer regardless of the partner stack. This allows for easier migrations and opens up the possibility of interchangeability between stacks. Additionally this is the same SDS as in our APEX Storage for Public Cloud offers, enabling mobility across multicloud/on-premises environments.

And by leveraging the same PowerEdge nodes for compute and storage, we not only offer all the intrinsic security and performance benefits of the next generation platforms- customers can also realize significant purchasing, inventory and support benefits….

Now, let’s turn our attention to what we have released todat – Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure.

With over 60 announced regions in Azure, Microsoft’s global reach is second to none. However, with a heritage in the enterprise – just like Dell – Microsoft realizes that meeting customers where they are, and where they need their workloads to run, is incredibly important.

That’s why Microsoft created Azure Arc – a set of technologies that unlock key hybrid scenarios by bringing Azure services and management to any infrastructure.

Through Azure Arc-enabled infrastructure, organizations can project non-Azure-based resources such as Azure Stack HCI, VMware vSphere, physical and virtual Windows and Linux servers, SQL Servers and Kubernetes clusters, into Azure, for purposes of management, security, governance and more.

From there, Azure Arc-enabled services can be pushed out from Azure to run locally on-prem, unlocking a consistent experience to help modernize apps and workloads across your hybrid and multicloud environments.

When it comes to extending Azure to certified infrastructure, Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure is in a category of its own. It is the first offer in the market for Premier Solutions for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, a new category created in the Azure Stack HCI solutions catalog that sits above validated nodes and integrated systems and is reserved for top partners with the deepest levels of integration and engineering collaboration with Microsoft.

What are some specific capabilities that make it unique?

  • Our APEX Cloud Platform Foundation Software takes customers from factory delivered nodes to fully operational Azure hybrid cloud in 88% fewer steps using our automated deployment and cluster creation experience versus taking a manual approach. That means we offer the fastest path to Azure hybrid cloud.
  • Our software also provides the fastest path to Azure updates in a turnkey system. Even Microsoft updates appear within our Windows Admin Center extension within 4 hours of being released.
  • Out software provides fully automated, end-to-end cluster expansion.
  • And in Q1 of next year, this platform will also be the only offer in the market that supports 3rd party, extended software defined storage for Azure Stack HCI. Dell software defined block storage will deliver cloud-like linear storage scalability independent of Azure Stack HCI compute and S2D storage resources.

This new platform combines the strengths of two market leaders. Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure is the result of a long partnership history of innovation with Microsoft.

  • Dell brought its pedigree in building engineering-validated infrastructure platforms, management automation and orchestration, and providing broad solutions and services expertise.
  • Microsoft brought its leadership in cloud services, with differentiated capabilities that help customers simplify management, governance and applications through centralized Azure control plane.

Each step along the way, we’ve learned what our customers value most and what they need to accelerate application development, further streamline their IT operations, and maintain a robust security and governance posture.

What comes out-of-the box? What is running after the platform is deployed?

Let’s begin at the hardware layer with our MC nodes. As I mentioned, these are based on our PowerEdge R660 and R760 rackmount servers at initial release. Soon after release, we’ll also have an MC node model based on the edge-optimized XR4000 series PowerEdge servers.

From a hardware perspective, you will have the most turnkey experience if you go with our Dell PowerSwitch network switches, as we provide tested and validated switch configs. However, you can use any physical network switches that are supported by Microsoft for Azure Stack HCI

Dell APEX Cloud Platform Foundation Software consists of a collection of microservices running in one Linux-based virtual appliance per cluster and is instantiated during initial cluster deployment. It remains running throughout the life of the cluster. This VM, which we refer to as the Cloud Platform Manager VM, communicates with the underlying infrastructure and integrates automation workflows into the Dell APEX Cloud Platform extension in Windows Admin Center

Part of the automated deployment process is registration with your Azure subscription. Remember, any Azure Stack HCI-based cluster must communicate with Azure at least once every 30 days to send usage and billing data. You can see that during registration, a Resource Group is created, and a resource representing your cluster gets created in that Resource Group. The cluster nodes are also onboarded to Azure Arc and get a resource created in the Resource Group. Onboarding to Azure Arc simply involves the automatic installation of the Connected Machine Agent onto the cluster nodes.

Now, you are ready to start creating VMs for your traditional, virtualized applications and deploying Azure Kubernetes Service hybrid workload clusters for building your cloud-native applications.

Below, you can see a demo of the day1 operations:

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