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Dell cloud shoots high with Project Apex initiative

Dell's cloud focus culminates in launch of Project Apex, which allows data centers to flexibly consume IT and storage infrastructure as a cloud-delivered service on premises.

Dell Technologies, the world's largest vendor of servers and storage hardware, is steering customers to buy virtual IT infrastructure as a service.

The latest Dell cloud initiative is Project Apex, introduced on Wednesday at the kickoff of the digital Dell Tech World 2020 user event. Project Apex, part of the Dell Technologies Cloud (DTC) portfolio, offers an Opex model to consume all Dell Power-branded products in a local data center or as edge and cloud deployments.

"With Project Apex, we're going to bring simplicity to how organizations consume and manage infrastructure. We want customers to focus more on managing their business, not their infrastructure," said Sam Grocott, a Dell EMC vice president of infrastructure product marketing.

Dell Tech World was moved online this year due to the coronavirus. Dell is expected to use the virtual trade event to recap its product revamp under a consolidated Power branding across its diversified IT portfolio.

Project Apex reflects Dell's evolving multi-cloud approach. With a few clicks in a web portal called Cloud Console, customers can order desired ratios of IT resources delivered on premises as a Dell cloud service. Dell has offered similar options previously with DTC, but views Project Apex as its main delivery mechanism moving forward.

Cloud-based consumption of IT has been on the rise in recent years. Grocott said Dell customers fueled strong demand due to pandemic-driven lockdowns.

"We've seen aggressive expansion of as-a-service adoption this year. HPE appears to be executing very well with its GreenLake offerings. It just makes sense for Dell Technologies to play here," said Steve McDowell, a storage and data center technologies analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

Buying hardware as software

Gartner predicts 75% of new data creation by 2025 will occur outside the core data center. Dell's Project Apex is an answer to rival Hewlett Packard Enterprise with its HPE GreenLake everything-as-a-service offering. HPE has said it intends to make all its products consumable in the cloud by 2022.

Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said Dell needed Project Apex to address emerging preferences in how organizations plan for and manage data center hardware and services.

"If you think about the way in which IT organizations buy infrastructure, there is ton of complexity and work involved, especially given the massive scale of data centers. When people think about ease of use, they wonder, 'How intuitive is the UI?' They don't think about the fact that one box might have 17 different licenses, all of which need to be traced and managed in different ways," Sinclair said.

Dell said Project Apex services will be available in 2021, starting with Dell Technologies Storage as a Service (STaaS) elastic block and file storage. That will allow customers to purchase Dell EMC storage and enterprise data services on demand. Subsequent Dell cloud rollouts in Project Apex will include Dell EMC hyper-converged infrastructure, Dell PowerEdge servers and PowerOne networking.

"It makes sense for Dell to start Project Apex with storage. The precedents for how companies pay for and use their storage capacity are pretty well understood. But Dell wants to roll this out across all their technologies, including laptops and workstations," Sinclair said.

Instance-based pricing in DTC allows customers to start building a hybrid cloud for as low as $47 per instance. Dell said the pricing estimate is based on 500 compute instances licensed for three years, coupled with all-flash storage and VMware Cloud Foundation. That configuration has an averages monthly cost of $23,500.

Along with its consumption-based offerings, the Dell cloud expansion includes Cloud PowerProtect for Multi-Cloud. The Dell-managed service provides a single destination target for local data backed up to major public clouds. The platform offers a cloud version of PowerProtect, the data protection software that operates physical Dell EMC DataDomain deduplication appliances. Dell said Microsoft Azure customers can use Cloud PowerProtect to retrieve data without cloud egress charges.

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