On Tuesday I visited the Dell Tech Camp 2011, taking place at the Roundhouse in London. The purpose of the Dell Tech Camp is to allow Dell to showcase it’s products to their customers and partners. This event isn’t really a conference as there was only 1 formal presentation at the beginning, the introduction was led by Stephen Murdoch, Vice President and General Manager of Large Enterprise at Dell EMEA. The introduction concentrated on what Dell had been doing, it was clear that social networking had hit Dell big time, past the hashtag that was being advertised every where, Stephen explained how they had embraced social networking internally and are using a solution called idea storm to assist with product development ideas. Stephen went on to explain how Dell practice what they preach with 7000 server virtualised internally, gaining a 55 million dollar power saving at it’s Austin HQ and it had now reached it’s goal of becoming carbon neutral.
(I apologise for the poor quality photos, they were taken on my iPhone, I will take my DSLR next time!)
Microsoft were next on stage with Terry Smith to talk about their special relationship with Dell and the cloud. Terry talked about how Microsoft was emabracing a different world with software driven experiences and continous cloud services for everyone, they already have over 400 million users on the cloud and half of the fortune 500. Microsoft Bing now has over 30% of the market share in the US and there are 30 million paying users of XBox live, finally Microsoft has roughly 80% of it’s developers currently concentrating on the cloud.
After the introduction presentation we were onto the round central hall at the round house, the hall was separated into different areas showcasing different areas and products from Dell.
My first port of call was to find the Dell storage stand and discuss the announcements at the Dell Storage Forum (US) from a few hours earlier.
I was please to see on show an Equallogic PS6000 series SAN, a Compellent SAN and the recently announced Dell Equallogic FS7500, the FS7500 will add NAS functionality to the Equallogic product line. The FS7500 is powered by Dell’s Scalable File System, this comes from their acquisition of Exanet, it will give clustered NFS and CIF’s functionality to the Equallogic range of SANs. It works by being added into the Equallogic group for centralised management. It come’s as two clustered server nodes and a backup power supply to protect the 24GB of Cache within the unit. for full details of the Equallogic FS7500 be sure to check out the product page here >> http://www.equallogic.com/products/default.aspx?id=10465
The other announcement from Equallogic was the new 5.1 firmware, the new 5.1 version of the firmware will introduce new load balancing methods, for those that don’t know Equallogic virtualises the storage which means your volumes get spread (currently) on up to 3 members, these volumes are then currently moved to the different types of storage based on the workload of the volume. Moving forward with the new firmware this will now happen at the block level, meaning hotspots within a volume are able to be moved to the faster disk, this will also happen starting when you have at least 2 members in your group. Technology similar to this has been used already within Equallogic’s SAS / SSD XVS models. It has been reported that in the Dell labs this has meant an increase in performance of unto 3 x utilising the same hardware! The new firmware will also be able to support the DCB (Datacenter Bridging Protocol) to further enhance the stability of performance and QoS for iSCSI when using 10Gb NICS, watch out for more to come on this.
I also used this opportunity to start understanding the Compellent product line, I will leave the details of this for another post when I know a little bit more, but Compellent is now sitting as Equallogic’s big brother in the Dell storage family and is based on a frame based architecture supporting both iSCSI and FC.
Next for me was onto the Dell SMB stand, my focus once again turned to the storage side of things and the new PowerVault MD3600f / MD3620f, this is Dell’s first FC SAN in their PowerVault range and to be honest I was quite surprised to learn about it. Previous to the Compellent purchase Dell had been completely iSCSI through it’s Equallogic and PowerVault products and this seemed to be a set standard for them. I wonder if we will see FC reach the Equallogic product line in the future? My gut feeling is that we won’t, but then I didn’t think we would see it with PowerVault either. Speaking to the representative on the SAN they explained this wasn’t a shift in direction just meeting demand, they acknowledge that some people have already invested in FC and some have a set mind that they want to use FC.
I visited the Dell user experience area and was shown the processes they go through when designing a new product, I was quite surprised to see the levels of detail they goto to design a business object such as a server. The representative explained that they always start on paper with the server design from a aesthetic point of view, but they like to as quickly as possible get to a foam model (as shown in the picture below, the middle server) Dell heavily involves user groups in the design process, the representative went on to explain how when making the removal disk caddies Dell had initially designed these to be a gloss black in colour, the feedback was this made them look like they were made from plastic and not metal, this final result was this part was painted in a grey powder coat for a more industrial look.
I spent several hours walking around and looking at what was on offer and chatting to various Dell representative’s , there were a number of Alienware laptops on display including a model with a 3D display. I had a go at a first person shoot’em up style game, it was very impressive but for me personally I found the wearing of the glasses to be more of a distraction than adding to the game at all.
There were also a number of solutions for specialist areas such as hospitals, military and the police. The below mobile datacenter was displayed on the crimescene investigation stand and comprised of 6 servers, and Equallogic PS6010.
This was my first Dell Tech Camp and I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was good to network with the Dell employees and see the technology in action. From my point of view I would have loved to have been able to have got some hands on time with the technology and learn the more in-depth aspects of the products. Hopefully this is something we can see added in the future, they certainly had all the technology there on site to do some form or hand’s on break outs.