Digital transformation and IT transformation are both top-of-mind for many service providers because these events promise to fundamentally alter the way companies do business. Dell EMC is committed to helping service providers make the shift to a more streamlined and efficient business by incorporating virtualization, open networking, and new data center architectures.
In this interview, Kevin Shatzkamer, Dell EMC’s vice president, service provider strategy and solutions, outlines his company’s vision of the modern service provider, provides specifics about Dell EMC’s Virtual Edge Platform, and speaks about the evolution of big data analytics.
SDxCentral: What is Dell EMC’s vision of the modern service provider?
Shatzkamer: We really see two transformative events happening with service providers at the same time. The first is IT transformation, which is affecting service provider operations, including network operations, and resulting in foundationally new data center architectures that embrace open networking, virtualization, and software-defined concepts. We see the industry embracing technologies that we’ve traditionally seen in enterprise IT—first with hypervisors, then virtualization platforms such as OpenStack and container platforms like Kubernetes—except that these technologies and architectures are evolving to encompass telco-grade operations and reliability.
The other major transition/transformation we see is digital transformation. Digital transformation for service providers is creating opportunities for local, regional, and even global cloud service providers to bring differentiated as-a-service offerings to enterprise, commercial, and SMB customers. And we’re helping those service providers develop these compelling offerings, not just as vendors but as partners to help them bring those solutions to market to Dell EMC customers looking to make decisions on how to move workloads off-premises. In that regard, I think where we’ve really been focused is on building what we call a set of digital managed service offerings—things like storage-as-a-service, backup-and-disaster-recovery-as-a-service, big-data-as-a service, and others—in conjunction with a number of global managed service providers and to help them target their customers with complete solutions.
At Dell EMC, we’re very committed to open architectures and accelerating disaggregation in the service provider industry—where we think it makes sense to do so. What’s interesting about Dell EMC is that we have a viewpoint about how the architectures—the network architectures, the compute architectures, virtualization, automation, analytics and machine learning, and orchestration—should play out, and we work closely with service providers to bring that viewpoint forward as a strategic advisor.
Where we tend to differentiate at Dell EMC is that because we’re somewhat agnostic in terms of how the full stack plays out, as an infrastructure provider we’re in a unique position to offer an unbiased analysis of the tools and technologies available to the service providers. At the same time, we understand that service providers want to see these viewpoints coalesce into a set of solutions, and at Dell EMC we’ve built a service provider solutions organization over the past 18 months that has been focused on taking our view of how the industry is evolving, building an open but opinionated ecosystem of partners who share common views on that architectural evolution, and then building solutions focused on helping service providers address use cases ranging from the telco cloud to network functions virtualization (NFV), central office re-architectures, the network edge, and even 5G networking.
How is Dell EMC investing in solutions purpose-built to solve service provider challenges?
We’re doing that in three ways. First, while customers still foundationally believe in disaggregation, there’s still a tendency to buy fully integrated solutions. So, building solutions for customers who are interested in buying complete solutions really enables us to move further up the stack with a diverse set of partners who provide the workload and platform value on top of the Dell EMC infrastructure. It’s an area where we’ve been selective in choosing partners whom we believe will be successful in the market, have their own strategic vision, and have the ability to execute. One clear example of this is the solutions that we’ve built with VMware and integrated OpenStack, where Dell EMC has the ability to provide complete end-to-end system end support of infrastructure and software. We do this extensively in open networking with a set of partners there, as well.
Second, as a strategic advisor, it’s important that Dell EMC does its own homework before we share our views with a customer. In my 18–20 years in the service provider industry, one thing is obvious: If you haven’t done it in the lab, if you haven’t built it, if you haven’t learned how to make it repeatable, if you’ve only done it on paper, if you’ve only read about it on the Internet, you aren’t prepared to understand how to operationalize and scale. The industry is moving so quickly, and we see so many diverging technologies (that may sound alike on paper but function foundationally different when we put them in a production environment), that it’s important that we’ve done this on our own. It’s really that expertise of having done this in our lab at scale that provides the foundation for us to be able to advise the industry, even if customers, in the end, didn’t even purchase these solutions but rather purchased disaggregated componentry. For us, this has been an important step in establishing credibility with service providers, which we’ve been very successful at doing over the past 18–24 months.
Third, these solutions are important for enabling managed services. Ideally, the Dell EMC enterprise customer base wants to see a set of uniform capabilities available globally, so learning how to build repeatable managed services and then selecting and partnering with managed service providers to bring those to market is really key to our success. The more we build repeatable managed services based on Dell EMC infrastructure—obviously working closely with the broader Dell Technologies and strategically aligned businesses, and also heavily leveraging partners where we need to—gives us the ability to have scale to bring a set of solutions to our enterprise customer base, with service providers as partners.
What is Dell EMC’s Virtual Edge Platform?
We launched our first virtualized platform in early 2018, and what we’ve been doing is continuing to build a complete family of products that allow customers to deploy at the access edge. And I use the term ‘access edge’ here specifically because I think the industry has gotten lost on what edge actually means. The term edge has been too vague and doesn’t have a clear enough definition for really speaking a common language across conversations. For that reason, we’ve been using and defining access edge as the edge of the enterprise branch office or remote office, where we continue to see traditional MPLS/VPN services giving way to a set of customers that are looking for a more flexible technology either to complement what they’ve done with MPLS or to replace MPLS. And a technology like SD-WAN is a key enabler of that.
When we talk about the Virtual Edge Platform of products, their functions are two-fold. First, they function as universal customer premises equipment (CPE), where customers are looking for an edge hardware platform that they can run access edge applications on top of. We obviously have a history of building industry-leading infrastructure, and we continue that with the VEP4600 and other featured products within the universal CPE family.
The second function is to provide a complete SD-WAN solution. We’ve been partnering with multiple SD-WAN providers and integrating their software stack on top of the Virtual Edge Platform, including VeloCloud (acquired by VMware in 2017), and we also partner closely with other SD-WAN software providers such as Versa Networks and Silver Peak.
So, if you look at our portfolio, we can help address hardware-only solutions, complete Dell technology solutions of SD-WAN provided by VMware, and then a number of third-party partners as well. It’s a clear case where we continue to bring choice to our customers, and allow them to select the best path forward. Obviously, we have our opinions and views, but we leave decisions to our customers, and we support the decisions they make.
How is Dell EMC bringing big data analytics to service providers? How will this evolve in the future?
We’ve been working with customers in the analytics space for a long time, and what we’ve found is that our customers are really going through complete journeys, moving from big data collection to streaming data to analytical and big data insights. Dell EMC has the ability to work with customers at any stage of that journey and bring in the advanced infrastructure capabilities that we have—whether it be four-socket GPU-enabled Dell PowerEdge platforms or Dell Isilon scale-out network storage platforms for unstructured data.
For service providers who want to quickly offer data analytics as a service in containers, Dell EMC has worked closely with customers and partners such as BlueData® and Intel® to create an elastic and multi-tenant architecture that provides self-service access to a variety of big data analytics and data science workloads — such as Hadoop, Apache Spark®, machine learning and more — at the same time, on the same infrastructure without sacrificing performance. Dell EMC Ready Solutions for Big Data come with all the software, hardware and services needed to provide BDaaS.
For the service provider environments, Dell EMC is making available a set of Ready Architectures combing its Ready Solutions for Hadoop with software from Cardinality and Zaloni. The new Ready Architectures help service providers apply actionable insights from network and customer data to improve the customer experience, increase operational efficiency, introduce new revenue generating services, and transform into data-driven businesses. This helps the modern service provider to employ their costly resources to construct use cases as opposed to manual implementation and maintenance.
That’s a lot of information in a short amount of time! Can you provide a wrap-up?
The last time I spoke about Dell EMC’s service provider strategy with SDxCentral was nearly 16–18 months ago. I noted at the time that we were building a team that would allow us to drive a strategic vision into the market, as to how both digital and IT transformations would change the way service providers do business and enable solutions that align with that vision. We’ve now successfully done that.
If we fast-forward from that point to now, Dell EMC is really all-in with service providers to help them find ways to differentiate their offerings, or help them find ways to bring new solutions to market, operate more efficiently, and embrace openness without a locked-in destiny.
When we think about where Dell EMC plays now in working with service providers—whether it be the access and network edge, to the core, to the cloud—we have a portfolio of products, we’ve taken those products, and we’ve established key partnerships in the ecosystem that allow us to drive an integrated set of solutions, and we have a vast array of knowledge and expertise that our service provider customers and partners have been tapping into on a regular basis.