The Dell APEX Cloud Platform family, is designed to address customer wants, needs, hopes, dreams, and ultimately preferences by enabling customers to expand their cloud capabilities to on-premises environments using […]
The Dell APEX Cloud Platform family, is designed to address customer wants, needs, hopes, dreams, and ultimately preferences by enabling customers to expand their cloud capabilities to on-premises environments using a purpose-built platform, with consistent outcomes delivered across disparate cloud ecosystems.
Dell APEX Cloud Platforms are a family of fully integrated, on-premises, 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
At Dell Tech World, we announced 3 members of this family– one for Microsoft Azure, one for Red Hat OpenShift and one for VMware vSphere. The key here is that these aren’t designed in isolation, they’re built on common building blocks, with unique integration through our automated M&O software into the partner stacks:
And the value of this approach can be summarized in 3 key areas here, CHOICE, CONSISTENCY and CONTROL
First up, these are turnkey systems that let customers extend the ecosystem of their choice on-premises. Not a singular ecosystem, but multiple partner ecosystems that customers can choose from depending on their specific strategy, without sacrificing on outcomes or infrastructure capabilities.
These platforms deliver consistent operational outcomes regardless of the ecosystem that customers choose. Each of the platforms are built on a common set of infrastructure building blocks from Dell, designed to deliver consistent outcomes in each of the choices of ecosystems that customers can leverage.
And as the software defined storage (SDS) in the APEX cloud platforms is the same storage architecture as in APEX Storage for Public Clouds, they are compatible allowing for data and applications to extend consistently across multicloud environments.
And finally, this portfolio empowers IT orgs to enforce consistent security and governance policies across deployments and locations through centralized mechanisms. It also takes in intrinsic approach to security, with security capabilities embedded across layers of the stack.
Choice, consistency, and control, and all built on a common foundation which consists of three core pillars.
- Number one – our APEX Cloud Platform Foundation Software –providing Automated Management and Orchestration delivering a whole bunch of unique outcomes and capabilities. To take a slight glance over the shoulder, this software was key to our success with VxRail. Those of you familiar with the VxRail HCI System Software will no doubt recognize these similar outcomes in ACPs
- Next, our open ecosystem enterprise class software-defined storage delivering linear scalability and resilience (again, we’ve proven we deliver a best-in-class experience in this area with our winning PowerFlex SDS)
- And finally this is all tied together with curated, next-generation PowerEdge server nodes with Intel Xeon 4th Gen scalable procs as the compute or storage node hardware that underpins these offers
So this is our starting point with every APEX Cloud Platform offering – three common building blocks delivering a series of common outcomes across ecosystems, and then for each ecosystem, we built additional unique value on top that’s relevant to those specific customers.
Enter APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift
We, as an infrastructure provider, are very familiar with the transformation that’s been happening in IT, with the adoption of a more standards-based approach, more automation, and fully software-driven approaches.
But application architectures have been evolving as well, in many instances way faster than the underlying infrastructure has kept pace with. Applications evolved from physical apps tied a dedicated servers, to being virtualized and more portable, to now increasingly being containerized with micro-services-based cloud native architectures.
Note that we call these traditional and modern, not legacy, not even heritage – traditional app dev is still heavily and well utilized and ever will be. Modern approaches bring additional benefits to some applications and some application architectures, but not all. This isn’t a one or the other, it’s about enabling choice for developers depending on their app’s architectural needs.
And in that quest for choice, the ACP for Red Hat OpenShift’s mission is to make the deployment, management, and lifecycle of a platform specifically designed to host modern applications as simple and seamless as possible.
Indeed we’ve absolutely hit the point now where containerized applications have hit the mainstream. Here we see Gartner saying that 95% of enterprises will be running containers in production by 2028…
It is safe to assume that there is virtually no IT organization that is not thinking about how best to run containers and service their developer needs, and their software vendor’s requirements as well.
And from that perspective, this is actually a replay of what we went through in the shift to virtualization years ago – can you imagine now buying some enterprise software, going to the installation guide, seeing that step one is ‘Deploy an OVA into a virtualized platform’ and having to stop and say hey, I don’t have a virtualized environment, I can’t deploy this app! No, it’d be lunacy today, but that’s a shift in software distribution that IT departments are seeing from a containerized perspective. Open the installation guide, step one, deploy a helm chart into your Kubernetes environment of choice, only for the IT department to have to stop and say hey, I only run VMs, I don’t have Kubernetes, I can’t deploy this app.
Super critical if you’re developing your own in-house applications, but becoming just as critical if you buy in off the shelf software from software vendors.
And in this aggressively growing Kubernetes market, growing at a 23% compound annual growth rate, Red Hat is the clear leader with an astonishing 47% share of that segment, so they’re the perfect partner to work with to address this market effectively
All of this is a long-winded way to say, if your customers are thinking about containers, chances are that they are evaluating Red Hat OpenShift
So containerized cloud native apps are now a mainstream reality and Red Hat clearly leads that market with OpenShift
However, you may find your customers are in varying phases on their container strategy
At #1, customers may be wondering or evaluating if they should have a container strategy at all
At #2, they may have decided on containers as the way to go, but may not have settled on the K8s distribution
Here we’re looking at working with customers when they are between 2 and 3.
If the customer is at #3 and already decided that OpenShift is going to be their primary k8s orchestration, you should position the ACP for Red Hat as the ideal way of deploying OpenShift on-prem
If they are between 2 and 3, you can work with your Red Hat counterpart to position why the combination of OpenShift on dell’s ACP for Red Hat is the best solution
Our goal with the APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift — is to transform how customers deploy, manage and run OpenShift on-prem, with a bare metal implementation on a jointly engineered fully-integrated infrastructure platform.
In a moment we’ll go into the benefits of deploying OpenShift bare metal, but fundamentally the platform is designed to remove complexity and friction – right from initial deployment, through to scaling out, and into on-going lifecycle management.
APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift helps customers transform how they run OpenShift on-premises.
We do that by delivering a fully integrated stack – including OpenShift, compute and storage resources and automated management and operations software– on bare metal infrastructure. You can think of it as a unified application delivery platform, built on the commonality of the APEX Cloud Platform Portfolio, that
- Reduces cost and complexity
- Optimizes workload outcomes
- And enhances security and governance
- So customers can rapidly develop and/or deploy those revenue generating apps
APEX Cloud Platform helps customers trying to address three IT priorities:
Simplifying Hybrid Cloud
APEX Cloud Platform also allows you simplify hybrid cloud by providing a consistent operational experience and allowing use of familiar and centralized tools like OpenShift Web Console across OpenShift environments. This solution was jointly engineered with Red Hat to provide customers with a common platform to support their containerization strategy. DevOps and IT teams have access to familiar tools, mainly the OpenShift Web Console, to manage and monitor their entire OpenShift stack, directly in one location.
Accelerating Application Delivery
First, the platform is particularly relevant for customers who want to accelerate application delivery. The APEX Cloud Platform’s advanced automation and wizard-based deployment reduces deployment time by over 90% compared to manual deployment for faster time to value. Furthermore, extensive lifecycle management automation reduces the time IT need to spend managing their infrastructure so they can spend more time developing new applications and features.
Optimizing Workload Placement:
APEX Cloud Platform also helps customers who want to optimize workload placement. It provides agile adaptable workload placement capabilities across on-prem data center and public clouds to optimize requirements around compliance, security and application SLAs. Likewise, with Dell’s Common Storage Layer across disparate on-prem deployments and public cloud, customers can easily move data where it makes most sense. The Universal Storage Layer also offers enterprise storage performance, linear scalability and extreme resilience, whether on-premises or in public clouds. This ensures strict SLA adherence and empowers IT to decide workload placement without tradeoffs.
So how is OpenShift deployed?
OpenShift simplifies and standardises how you operate and manage the many disparate components of the Kubernetes ecosystem in one cohesive and consistent way, regardless of where you deploy.
Beyond that, it’s up to your customers to diced when and how they deploy OpenShift.
here are three primary ways that customers deploy OpenShift environments today.
1) Public Cloud. The deployment and lifecycle management process within a public cloud environment is automated and straightforward, and while the actual methods may vary between the likes of Azure, AWS, Google, and others, the outcome is relatively consistent, making this a popular choice for customers today. This does also result in the most expensive way to deploy OpenShift, and very limited choice in where your workload is deployed – with only the defined location of hyperscale datacenters available to choose from.
2) The next option customers have to deploy OpenShift in an environment outside of a public cloud, whether on-premises, in a partner datacenter, or in an edge environment, is in a virtualized environment. By far and away the most common way to do this is on top of VMware. This can be because customers already have a VMware estate that they can make use of, but it’s also because VMware simplifies the deployment and management of OpenShift virtual appliances. In this instance, VMware is effectively operating as a middleware which makes lifecycle management of the physical infrastructure a better experience – best delivered through VxRail today – while VMware then also simplifies the lifecycle of the OpenShift elements above. There are significant downsides to this approach though. There is of course a management overhead with all of the VMware elements, with the requisite skills needed to manage that ecosystem needing to be in place, and then licensing is going to be a significant uplift, all of the VMware components need licensed, as well as OpenShift licensing experiencing an uplift in virtualized environments vs bare metal.
3) Which brings us to probably the least common on-premises choice today is bare metal, which in theory it should be the highest performance, the most secure, with the lowest management overhead, and the lowest license cost. The challenge in running bare metal OpenShift to date is that there hasn’t been a turnkey automated way to deploy and then consistently operate OpenShift through its lifecycle. This is the challenge the APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift aims to address – taking the deployment method which should be the most attractive from a cost, management, security, and performance perspective, and for the first time, making it so in practice.
And bare metal implementations of OpenShift do bear fruit for customers, across a number of different vectors
. They reduce Cost and Complexity
- Remove the overhead associated with licensing and managing a hypervisor
- Reduce OpenShift licensing requirements as well
- Without a hypervisor, there is a smaller attack surface
- Reducing the visible attack surface of an infrastructure doesn’t make you immune to attack, but it does make it harder
- With virtualization, there are always overheads, no matter how optimized, which can increase latency and reduce performance. This is often referred to as the “hypervisor tax”
- In contrast, with bare metal, there’s nothing in the way to slow things down, so customers may experience an increase in performance
- Alright, let’s take each of these elements in turn and break them down a bit more
Let’s review some of the key features of APEX Cloud Platform for OpenShift.
Jointly Engineered: First, the platform has been jointly engineered with Red Hat, it transforms how organizations deploy, manage, and run containers, alongside virtual machines, on-premises.
Fully Integrated: Second, Dell APEX Cloud Platform is the first fully integrated application delivery infrastructure purpose-built for Red Hat OpenShift. Gone are the days of the complex “do-it-yourself” approach to deploying and managing Kubernetes. APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift delivers everything you need to rapidly deploy and run OpenShift on a turnkey, integrated bare metal platform.
Automated: Third, APEX Cloud Platform Foundation Software automates OpenShift deployment, making it 90% faster than a manual approach. We perform over 21,000 hours of testing and validation on full stack updates resulting in a 90% decrease in the time required to perform updates.
Supported: Next, the whole solution – hardware, M&O software, and OpenShift are supported by Dell. With full-stack support, should customers encounter an issue, we’re able to resolve it quickly with just one call from the customer.
Consistent: Finally, the combined capabilities of Red Hat OpenShift and Dell APEX provide you with a consistent ecosystem, not just for building and deploying applications – but throughout all phases of the application lifecycle. Red Hat has common services that are available no matter where you chose to run OpenShift and Dell provides a common storage platform that can be run on-premises and in the public cloud.
So ultimately these features deliver an outcome for our customers that:
- Reduces the cost and complexity of deploying and managing Kubernetes
- Optimizes workload outcomes, even for our customers’ most critical application
- Is secure, throughout the whole stack, from the infrastructure into the OpenShift software.
When it comes to deployment it’s tempting to say ‘well that’s a one time operation, it’s not that important, but it’s super important. Number one, it does reduce time to value.
Our engineering team did a side-by-side comparison of the time required to deploy OpenShift on PowerEdge, via the traditional/manual process and compared that with the time it takes to deploy OpenShift with APEX Cloud Platform.
What they found was a reduction of over 90% in the amount of time required. Manual deployment can take up to 10 days whereas OpenShift deployment with ACP took just 6 hours.
Ask your customer, “What could your IT teams do with 9 additional days?” That’s the time they can save by automating OpenShift deployment with APEX Cloud Platform. So it may be a one time activity, but two working weeks are not to be sniffed at.
More importantly though, it’s not just a one time activity, it’s the activity that informs the state of the platform for the remainder of its life. Automated consistent deployment is what provides the solid bedrock for a reliable infrastructure, and consistent deployment across all of our customers is the bedrock for a significantly enhanced support experience.
Deployment is the first step, but one of the most critical.
Beyond the initial deployment, Dell Services can then further help configure it and harden it for mission-ctical and production use. These boxes represent additional optional services to augment the required ProDeploy services, and provide further configuration and assistance for customers who either don’t have the skills to do it, or do not want to take on those tasks.
The ACP for Red Hat makes it easy for you to deploy OpenShift in bare-metal configurations.
1. Eliminate virtualization – Deploying it on bare-metal has been complex and as a result many enterprises resorted to just putting OpenShift in a VM on top of hypervisor
• With APEX Cloud Platform, customers can avoid direct cost of the hypervisor
• They can also eliminate the costs associated with manager another layer of the stack
2. Make it simple/cloud like On-prem infrastructure delivers better long-term economics than running OpenShift and related application in public cloud
3. Operational simplicity – instead of performing manual tasks With ACP, we make bare-metal simple/attainable with an automated predictable approach
And it’s important to keep in mind that this ACP for OpenShift is typically not deployed in isolation. Your customers are likely to have OpenShift deployed in public clouds or other environments as well.
With OpenShift across these locations, modern applications have a consistent application run time, whether they are on an on-prem ACP or in public clouds, and that’s what OpenShift is providing.
Further, as we mentioned right back at the start, if you can cast your mind back that far, the Dell SDS supporting the ACP is compatible with the APEX Public Cloud Storage deployed in AWS or MS Azure. With this, we deliver consistent storage and data services across these distributed environments.
With the combination of consistent app run time and consistent storage services, you now have consistent application environments across your OpenShift footprint, so you can move these workloads across these environments without having to worry about compatibility issues.
Its important to note that the V1 of this solution will not include navigator support for data movement. Customers will have to use tools at the application layer to move apps and data between public and private clouds. In subsequent releases, we will make native data mobility / migration support available.
So first up, we take an intrinsic multi-layer security approach to all of our APEX Cloud Platforms, and then layer further into the specific ecosystems, in this case OpenShift
- At a base we have the PowerEdge cyber resilient architecture designed to accelerate Zero-Trust adoption
- Then features like role based access control, authenticated micro-service interfaces, and more are delivered by Red Hat.
- Then super close engineering collaboration ensures customers have rapid access to new patches, helping plug any security vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Rapid access to supported updates really helps our customers maintain a strong security posture
- And of course, as we said earlier, security is intrinsically enhanced by reducing the attack surface by deploying on bare metal
- And we surface up infrastructure security alerts for the first time, directly into the OpenShift Web Console, so customer don’t need to break out of their existing management tools to go explore alerts or warnings, everything is at their fingertips in that management console they use to manage the application environment
There is incredible enthusiasm around the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and according to our own surveys, over 75% of our customers are increasing budgets to pursue AI iniatives1. ACP of Red Hat OpenShift provides customers with a solution that is ideal for their AI exploration.
- Since ACP for Red Hat is fully integrated and automated, organizations can quickly get started and focus their time on building on top of it.
- With 4th Generation Intel Xeon CPUs along with the choice of NVIDIA GPUs, ACP for Red Hat has the performance required for demanding AI workloads.
- This performance is further enhanced by the universal storage layer and the ability to utilize an integrated multicloud approach while keeping your own data securely on-prem.
- Lastly, if you go off exploring the wide world of LLMs whether via Huggingface or anywhere else, the fastest way to prototype, deploy, and scale any of these models is in containers and ideally in a Kubernetes based environment. So by adopting the simplest way to deploy a high performance turnkey OpenShift environment on-premises, customers significantly ease the path to deploy and start to work with these models. Why on-premises? Because the value customers want to derive from AI is all centered around their data, and rather than expend considerable time and energy moving that data to a public cloud environment, they can bring a cloud-native and AI ready infrastructure to the data instead.
1 Dell Technologies Generative AI Pulse Survey, August and September 2023, http://www.dell.com/GenAIPulse
Some of the initial coverage
Below, you can see some videos, covering the Launch and an overview of the solution