Dell launches pre-fab virtualisation hardware

Dell has launched two appliances for running virtual machines that pre-integrate software and hardware for quick onsite installation and setup

Dell has announced two pre-integrated appliances that make it easy for companies to buy in the hardware and software to support batches of 100 or 200 virtual machines.

The vStart v100 and vStart v200 appliances, launched on Thursday as part of Dell's vStart program, include servers, storage, network, racks, hypervisors, management software and deployment services. They are aimed at enterprises that are keen on virtualisation, but worried about the complex infrastructure required to support it.

Each appliance ships with VMware's ESXi 4.1 hypervisor onboard, but Dell has plans to incorporate multi-hypervisor support at a later date. A Microsoft Hyper-V version is next in line, although Dell would not name a shipping date.

As more businesses realise mid-sized companies want a hassle-free way of implementing virtualisation, solutions will spring up.

– Roy Illsley, Ovum

"The infrastructure is delivered pre-assembled to the customer's site as a single unit, racked and cabled, and directly from the Dell factory," according to Dell press materials relating to the announcement.

vStart applicances

The vStart v100 can support 100 virtual machines, while the vStart v200 can support 200 virtual machines.

The machines use two types of server: a Dell PowerEdge R610 for the management software and several more powerful PowerEdge R710 servers to host the hypervisors, along with an EqualLogic PS6000XV disk array for storage, plus four Dell PowerConnect switches, along with power distribution and rack hardware.

The appliances come with two Dell-developed plug-ins for VMware's virtual machine management console vCentre. These plug-ins allow the underlying PowerEdge servers and EqualLogic storage to be administered through vCentre, Dell said.

Dell says vStart has been built with high availability in mind, with multiple controllers across the EqualLogic arrays and universal power supply in the base. The virtual machine data is stored on EqualLogic arrays within the hardware: although the v200 contains two arrays, the v100 only has one. If the v100's EqualLogic array suffers a critical failure, then the entire appliance becomes useless, as it loses its core storage ability.

Pre-packaged approach

Dell's vStart competes with the vBlock infrastructure packages from Cisco, EMC and VMware, IBM's CloudBurst gear and HP's BladeSystem Matrix.

"I think that as more companies realise mid-sized companies want a hassle-free way of implementing virtualisation, solutions such as this will spring up," Roy Illsley, an analyst with Ovum, told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"The tipping point will be when workloads can freely move between hypervisor technologies; then this pre-packaged approach will be even more appealing, as IT will want to buy a capacity of VMs [virtual machines], and not care what the underlying infrastructure is," he added.

The Dell vStart range went on sale in the US on Thursday, and Dell expects it to become available in Europe, the Middle East and Afria at some point in the second quarter of 2011. The v100 system costs $99,900 (£60,990) for the US, while the v200 is listed at $169,000. The prices include gear, cabling, racks and services, including on-site installation and subsequent support.

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