Dell and EMC's Big Splash point to hyper-convergence

On the eve of VMworld Europe it’s like witnessing the IT/storage world’s equivalent of the Big Splash. Yes, I’m talking about Dell’s proposed $67 billion purchase of storage giant EMC.

The aforementioned collision between a proto-earth and a planet the size of Mars is thought to be responsible for the water-bearing, life-supporting sphere we now live on. Will Dell’s EMC provide the same?

In storage terms there are likely to be some casualties, largely on the Dell side of things.

EMC has not only been the biggest of the big six storage makers but has been at the forefront of (often acquisition-led) innovation/productisation wave in storage with an early starts in all-flash (XtremIO) and out-there flash acquisitions (DSSD) as well as holding a wide ranging stable, from enterprise class downwards in storage arrays, that can be hybrid and all-flash (VMAX and VNX), Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

Dell doesn’t come close in terms of leading edge-ness, and doesn’t rival EMC in the enterprise storage space. In the mid-range its Compellent arrays (with Fibre Channel and iSCSI access) compete with VNX, and their future must be surrounded by question marks.

Dell’s other key block storage offerings are distinctly entry-level (the iSCSI EqualLogic), and could survive because of that. In file access it’s a similar picture with Dell’s Windows NAS up against EMC’s Isilon scale-out NAS.

Across other key areas EMC is characterised by having its own product offerings while Dell resells someone else’s kit – eg, ScaleIO in software-defined storage vs EVO:RAIL; Atmos and ViPR/ECS in object storage vs Scality; in hyper-converged ScaleIO Node vs Nutanix.

But of course the deal must be viewed from a much wider perspective than storage alone. We live in an age where hyper-convergence is a key trend, where combined server, storage and networking are the direction in which the datacentre is moving, dragged along by the web-scale pioneers, Google, Facebook et al.

And it’s at this level the giant deal looks to have its key synergy, with Dell adding EMC’s storage expertise and VMware’s virtualisation glue* to its existing market leadership (well, almost) to provide the basis for a hyper-converged infrastructure giant.

Now all it needs is to add networking.

(* Interesting footnote question is can or will Dell’s VMware live with Microsoft Hyper-V in its tent via existing relationships on the Dell server front?)