Spinning Up Two Data Centers in 90 Days

How our software-defined storage strategy made it possible to expand our IT footprint in record time.

Over the past several years, Dell Digital, Dell’s IT organization, has gained flexibility and efficiency as we created a modernized data center built on converged and hyper-converged infrastructure. We recently put our software-defined strategy to the test when we built two new data centers from scratch on opposite sides of the United States in just 90 days.

We faced an urgent need for added storage and compute capacity in the light of climbing data demand across Dell. Because we had built a simplified and scalable infrastructure foundation on a standardized set of software-defined building blocks, we were able to quickly spin up these data centers from zero to 100% to meet that burgeoning demand as well as provide for future storage and compute.

We couldn’t have managed this change five years ago when we started to transform our traditional data center into a flexible, agile, multi-cloud environment built on Dell technologies. Or even just two years ago, as we continued to consolidate and modernize databases spread across the company using Dell PowerFlex, a software-defined uniform storage platform that accommodates all different types of workloads in a unified experience.

However, we have expanded and evolved our use of Dell PowerFlex, as part of a multi-pronged approach to increase agility and simplify infrastructure management with software defined storage. Our rapid data center expansion is a testament to our strategy, which includes transforming the way we operate by adopting a product model approach, investing in standards-based solutions and rationalizing applications and retiring technical debt.

Expanding our SD reach 

We began transforming our storage strategy and approach with the virtualization and modernization of applications across IT to transition to cloud infrastructure. We simplified our storage building blocks around Dell VxRail, Dell PowerFlex and Dell PowerMax.

But what began as an effort to incorporate software-defined storage into Dell’s data center has expanded to become the common compute and storage platform for the majority of our data center workloads. PowerFlex has evolved into a fully engineered software-defined infrastructure with integrated IT operations and life-cycle management. PowerFlex Appliance is what we now use for the vast majority of new storage and compute in our data center.

We’re able to grow our storage footprint and our compute footprint just by adding racks to our spine. And a simple deployment process lets us scale our footprint up or down easily.

To ensure simplicity, we have a reduced set of options that we bring into our data center to accelerate the installation, management and automation of the infrastructure components. Dell PowerFlex hosts 60% of our storage as the common platform for high-performance, high-capacity workloads. Dell VxRail accommodates another 20% of our storage, providing a turnkey, low touch solution that is easy to roll out and serves workloads with a smaller storage footprint. For the remaining 20%, Dell PowerMax is our high-end storage solutions with advanced data services for core applications and databases with large CPU, memory and storage requirements. And we protect it all with PowerProtect DD.

Our strategy not only simplifies our ability to procure and add storage environments but also provides increased performance for our most demanding workloads like databases, which have netted a 70% performance improvement.

Frictionless infrastructure delivery 

Beyond our data center stack, we have managed to increase flexibility and efficiency for our business users and developers. We have an on-premises and multi-cloud solution, so we can quickly pivot workloads between public and private cloud, based on the business needs.

Central to this is a private cloud marketplace that sits within our Dell environment, giving developers a catalogue of as-a-service capabilities to provision infrastructure such as VMs, containers or platform-as-a-service. It also acts as a broker between private and public cloud offerings. The result is a frictionless way to interact with Dell Digital and deliver infrastructure, built on top of our data center stack of software defined networking, compute and storage.

But perhaps more fundamental, is our product model approach to how we provide IT. In accordance with the Dell Digital Way, we have identified people, processes and technology and mapped them to products within IT teams. The product model enables IT teams to more rapidly discover, develop and deploy solutions for their business users.

Overall, by creating reduced complexity and standardized products built on a server platform that is the same wherever we go, we were able to build out new data centers using a  simple template and standardized building blocks.

Keep learning: Our session “Increase Agility and Simplify Infrastructure Management with Software-Defined Storage” at Dell Technologies World 2022 will go into depth on how we are driving transformation by modernizing our infrastructure with a software-defined storage strategy. Join us to meet Dell’s IT practitioners, learn our best practices and ask us all your questions. Register now.

About the Author: Jim Hall

Jim has been with Dell for over fifteen years in a variety of roles supporting our customers with enterprise solutions, preparing our field for new product, and providing leadership for data center compute and storage solutions within Dell Digital. He enjoys spending time with his family and breakfast tacos on a Sunday morning.