Dell Partners With Morphlabs on ‘Private Cloud in a Box’

A close-up of the Morphlabs’ mCloud Helix appliance, which offers rapid deployment of private cloud infrastructure. Dell is offering mCloud Helix through a new partner program.(Image: Morphlabs)

Dell is partnering with Morphlabs to bring an integrated cloud appliance to market as part of Dell’s new Emerging Solutions Platform Partner Program. Morphlabs is the first company to join the program, which will showcase its mCloud Helix solution.

Dell has tackled cloud on many fronts. It already has an emerging solutions ecosystem that includes companies more geared toward addressing specific functions of the cloud. The new program is designed for companies like Morphlabs that can offer complete, “cloud in a box” solutions.  The program enables Dell to offer specific, differentiated cloud solutions to small and medium business customers, give Morphlabs exposure to Dell’s clientele, and already is the foundation for a new offering from service provider Media Temple.

The appeal for mCloud Helix is that it lowers costs from operations through focusing on efficiency in all areas of the data center. mCloud Helix is an out-of-the-box offering allowing quick deployment. Those looking for managed private cloud tend to also want a little more visibility into who’s providing what up and down the stack, an option that doesn’t really exist as much in the public cloud space.

The Appeal of Converged Solutions

Many end users and service providers are seeking out cloud fabrics or tightly bundled solutions of both hardware and software – a converged, integrated cloud infrastructure solution. Companies like Dell are tackling cloud through partnering and converged infrastructure offerings that still tout the hardware in the bigger cloud picture. In short, the hardware matters very much in practice. Cloud solutions that are tailored for specific hardware are more optimized and can lead to greater operational savings.

This is the thinking behind mCloud Helix, a Dell and Morphlabs strategic partnership birthing a tightly integrated cloud appliance, integrated from the physical box to the orchestration layer.  Cloud virtualization and hardware optimization is still difficult, and this is a way to get an optimized, integrated solution up and running in a turnkey fashion. Both companies stated that mCloud Helix is up and running in a matter of hours.

“Morphlabs is a natural fit as the first Dell Platform Partner as they enable us to rapidly expand our customers’ choices for turnkey open source cloud solutions,” said John Igoe, executive director of Cloud and Big Data Solutions at Dell. “The mCloud Helix unit’s modular and compact configuration significantly lowers the barrier to entry for organizations that want to tap into the power of private clouds, while allowing business to continue to grow and develop with Dell solutions.”

Specs Appeal

The mCloud Helix solution is an OpenStack-based cloud appliance with Dell as the hardware muscle and Morphlabs as the platform/software/orchestration muscle. The mCloud Helix solution features Dell’s PowerEdge C6220 server system with solid state disks (SSD), OpenStack cloud software, and Dell’s Crowbar software framework, along with 24×7 remote management and support services that maintain configurations and pushes updates as needed.  The solution is able to support 80 virtual CPUs (vCPUs) and 3TB in a single 2U C6220 chassis, and all at under 700 watts of power consumption.

Media Temple is a great example of how a service provider can use this

Out of the gate, the solution has a very nice flagship service provider customer in Media Temple, which is using mCloud Helix as the basis for a private cloud offering. This solution allows the hosting provider to fill a key piece of its portfolio with private cloud and also move up-market with mCloud private cloud offerings. It will also bring Media Temple greater efficiency in the data center, as the converged infrastructure solution is both power dense and energy efficient. Media Temple estimates 50 percent gains in operating savings through reduction in power and cooling costs, and potentially even reduced space requirements (one claim noted in the press release is moving from almost a half-rack to a single 2U chassis). mCloud removes a lot of the complexity. It looks to attract businesses that are big, but small in terms of people involved relative to that.

There are many target workloads and use cases that could benefit from this type of converged offering. Enterprise dev and test environments, HPC environments, web facing applications and mid-scale server consolidation all could benefit. Customers with requirements around compliance – healthcare, financial services, media – customers with rapid scaling requirements and those looking to automate DevOps are all target customers for this. Incorporates many of the Dell technologies and IP small and medium business customers already use

Is  a Server by Any Other Name Still a Server?

There’s been a lot of discussion in regards to hardware being abstracted in the cloud model, and whether or not this spells trouble for OEMs down the line. For this reason, it’s interesting to see how server OEMs are approaching cloud. Dell was an original supporter of OpenStack, the first hardware vendor to join, and it has taken a leadership position in the open source project. It has worked to optimize all along the stack for cloud, and doesn’t see hardware as being the exemption to innovation. It says it wants to bring an integrated hardware, software and service experience. There are arguments on both sides.

Users still seek a trusted name on the hardware side despite the abstraction of cloud; at least in terms of private cloud. This is the impetus of Dell’s Platform Partner program, and tight coupling with MorphLabs here for mCloud Helix. The result is a fairly turnkey modular cloud solution, one that is plug-and-play rather than having to worry about running cloud on untested and unproven commodity hardware and configurations.

For the operators of cloud, hardware is a big consideration, and there is a lot of value in using something that is specifically tuned and optimized from the hardware up, and ready to go out of the box. Efficiency extends beyond the server, and into power; density and cooling has been built into the design. This announcement could also be considered some more momentum for OpenStack, with deals like this contributing to mindshare, and eventually, market share.

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About the Author

Jason Verge is an Editor/Industry Analyst on the Data Center Knowledge team with a strong background in the data center and Web hosting industries. In the past he’s covered all things Internet Infrastructure, including cloud (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), mass market hosting, managed hosting, enterprise IT spending trends and M&A. He writes about a range of topics at DCK, with an emphasis on cloud hosting.

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