Dell Technologies World 2018: Make it Real

Dell Technologies World 2018Last week I’ve attended Dell Technologies World 2018 in Las Vegas. I was invited by Dell Technologies via the influencer program, which basically means we get access to the same content as the press or analysts. I’ve spent the weeks alternating between general keynotes, briefings, interviews and catching up with friends and colleagues. In this post I’ll try and summarize some of the main topics of the Dell Technologies World 2018, focusing on what appealed most to me.

AI is here to help you

One of the main topics for Dell Technologies World is in fact similar to last years’ event: workforce transformation. Your workforce is demanding increasingly more mobile and powerful apps, and as a result, place different demands on IT. I’m not going to cover too much on the workforce transformation part. In fact, I wrote about it already last year, go check it out.

AR and VR were last years’ topics; now it’s AI. AI and ML (machine learning) are here to help us mere humans in solving complex issues. Issues that we can’t compute ourselves, or where a system would be much more objective and faster. From an IT admin perspective, it could mean AI/ML will take care of the plain boring task of gathering individual events and processing it into a meaningful alert. Simple example: instead of 6x power supply A failures, machine learning in a centralized management system could transform that into a “Hmm, your power feed A might have failed” alert.

VR also occupied much of the showroom floor. During one of the keynotes, Jeffrey Wright (yes, that actor from Westworld!) presented Project Bravemind. The project uses VR to help soldiers suffering from PTSD by gradually immersing them into stressful past (combat) experiences. Very impressive research!

More power!

We need to help that AI though. AI requires lots of computing power, and fast access to storage. Queue the new server and storage announcements.

  • The new PowerMax 2000 and 8000:
    • Built up from the ground to be end-to-end NVMe capable, while being ready for NVMe-over-Fabrics (NVMeoF) and SCM. Currently Dell EMC is testing with Intel’s Optane SCM
    • With inline deduplication and compression, achieving up to 5:1 data reduction
    • There are migration tools included in the PowerMax if you’re coming from VMAX. Further questions revealed however that you install the PowerMax next to the VMAX, and then migrate the data. There’s no head upgrades, which makes sense since the architecture is different.

PowerMax announcement at Dell Technologies World

  • XtremIO X2
    • Now comes with native WAN replication. Without performance impact to host IO, since it’s completely asynchronous replication. Not sure you want asynchronous replication? Check out this previous post from Storage Field Day 14.
    • It only sends unique data across the WAN link, so also doesn’t bog down your WAN unnecessarily.
    • Not necessarily new, but it has a HTML5 GUI. Another Flash/Java interface bites the dust…
    • And there’s a new entry level package, which promises to make your first small XtremIO a bit more affordable if you only need a few TBs.
  • VxRail and VxRack SDDC
    • VxRail is now a validated VMware SDDC design.
    • Performance improvements: NVMe + 2x more mem + 2x GPU acceleration.
    • New STIG Compliance Guide, with automated scripts that help make your VxRail security compliant.
    • Now with 14th Gen PowerEdge servers.
    • Fully includes VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF)
      • VSphere
      • VSAN
      • NSX
      • SDDC manager

There’s also news from Dell’s Server division, namely the following two new servers:

  • PowerEdge R840
    • 24 direct attached NVMe drives

2x GPU / 4x FPGA support for AI / Machine learningPowerEdge R840

  • PowerEdge R940xa
    • 4x GPU (8x FPGA) in 1:1 CPU:GPU config for GPU database acceleration
    • 32 Flash drives
    • SAP World record processing 2B records in the standard application benchmark

I learned something new here, namely that FPGAs are the more power efficient option compared to GPUs. It’s not a straight “out with the GPU, in with the FPGA” though: the data types need to be adjusted for FPGAs. Here’s an interesting article on FPGA power efficiency, giving you some background info on both.

Apart from the Dell and Dell EMC announcements, I was blown away by the VMware NSX announcement and a separate demo we received as part of the Tech Field Day Extra crew. More on that in a separate post.

My thoughts on Dell Technologies World 2018

To be honest, pure AI is still a bit far away from my doorstep. And that resonates with what we heard in the keynote. 60% of companies is thinking of using it, but only 10-15% is ready to move into that ecosphere. And you can bet it’s the giants in the industry that are leading that trend. Think Tesla, or NASA…

Machine Learning is just another type of AI though, and I can definitely see the advantage there. If software can correlate events and understand what’s going on, it can also provide suggestions on how to improve performance or even fix problems.

There’s a phase where you might want an admin to press the final approval button, but at some point you’re just going to let loose of the reins. The software can run autonomously, and we will not bog it down at that point. That could be simple storage tiering, but it could also be moving workloads between private and public clouds or spawning additional instances of software, based on predicted demand.

Let the reigns loose!

Talking of reigns: on the Sunday prior to Dell Technologies World, I’ve joined Dell EMC Netherlands on their Dutch Delegation tour into the desert. My horse was called Dusty and I definitely did not dare to let go of the reigns, because he was about as stubborn as myself.

It was an exceptionally busy and also entertaining week. If you want more content, Dan has been exceptionally busy in churning out blog posts during the event. He  listed all the links over here, along with a picture of me wearing a Dell Technologies cowboy hat. I’ve warned you.

Disclaimer: Dell Technologies flew me out to Las Vegas for Dell Technologies World 2018 and paid for my conference ticket, flights and hotel. Various other events were also organized, either by Dell EMC Netherlands or GestaltIT, and they picked up the tabs for beers and food. Open Line covered the majority of other costs. I was however not compensated for my time and there is no requirement to blog or tweet about any of the presentations. Everything I post is of my own accord and because I like what I see and hear.