Dell ramps up converged infrastructure push with Active Systems

Dell on Thursday will outline the next phase of its strategy to move up the IT value chain and sell higher-value systems that combine hardware and software for building out data center infrastructure.

The new head of Dell's enterprise business, Marius Haas, is due to meet with press and analysts in San Francisco to discuss its offerings under new brands it calls Active Infrastructure and Active Systems.

Active Systems combine Dell's server, storage, network and management products into preconfigured infrastructure offerings for deploying applications, virtual desktops and private clouds, it said in a statement. They include a new Active System Manager tool for simplifying common infrastructure administrative tasks.

It's all part of a big push by Dell to move beyond selling PCs and stand-alone servers and into higher-margin gear. It's bought several companies in support of the effort, including SonicWall, AppAssure, Scalent and most recently Quest Software for US$2.6 billion. It's likely to give an update Thursday on how it will integrate the Quest products into its business.

Dell has already rolled out some converged products, like its Virtual Integrated System, and it wasn't clear before Thursday's event if the Active systems are all new products or if some are a rebranding of existing offerings. It's likely to explain that at the event Thursday, which is being webcast starting at 10 a.m. Pacific.

It's a challenge for Dell, which moved later than rivals like IBM and Hewlett-Packard to diversify its business. To support the effort Dell hired Haas, who previously oversaw the expansion of HP's network business, and John Swainson, the former CA chief, to boost its software efforts.

The Active Systems are based on Dell's PowerEdge M1000e chassis and blade servers; Compellent or EqualLogic storage, including a new EqualLogic Blade Array; and a new "plug-and-play blade I/O module," the PowerEdge M I/O Aggregator, which Dell said is optimized for virtualization and high bandwidth.

For applications that need faster performance, it introduced the Active System 800, according to a press release. It's a blade-based system that includes EqualLogic storage and Force10 networking for highly virtualized environments.

The Active System 800, Active System Architectures and Active System Manager will be available in the U.S. in late November and worldwide early next year, Dell said.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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