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Equinix has announced a major expansion to its Equinix Metal line of bare metal appliances with the release of several new offerings in partnership with Dell Technologies:

  • Dell PowerStore on Equinix Metal: single-tenant Dell PowerStore all-flash arrays as a fully operated service. 
  • Dell VxRail on Equinix Metal: a data center-as-a-service experience that includes compute, storage, networking and integrated VMware.
  • Dell EMC PowerProtect DDVE on Equinix Metal: a virtual appliance that runs on a choice of hardware or in the public cloud. Equinix adds data security and management capabilities as well as interconnection to private networks or any cloud platform. 

“Equinix Metal services provide the virtual data center facilities and capital assets’ scaffolding that’s required to fully realize the promise of hybrid cloud benefits on a global scale,” said Jeff Vogel, an analyst at Gartner. “Equinix colocation provides the hybrid cloud mooring that enables IT clients to transform their data centers and IT operating models into a cloud-based, as-a-services platform.”

Competitive hyperconverged infrastructure market 

The hyperconverged infrastructure space has become highly competitive. It’s evolving into various as-a-service offerings such as data center as a service (DCaaS) and storage as a service (STaaS). Gartner projects heavy growth in this sector. The analyst predicts that by 2025, more than 40% of all on-premises IT storage administration and support costs will be replaced by managed STaaS, up from less than 5% in 2020; and by 2025, more than 70% of corporate enterprise-grade storage capacity will be deployed as consumption-based service offerings, up from less than 40% in 2020.

“Many infrastructure and operations leaders are embracing cloud-based storage and its benefits as a replacement for owned, on-premises storage infrastructure,” said Vogel. “This trend is driven by the massive growth in enterprise data, the flexibility of cloud-based delivery models and the rise of remote workplace initiatives.” 

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Underpinning all of this is a massive swing from on-premises to the cloud. At the end of 2020, 36% of global corporate enterprise-grade storage petabytes (PBs) were consumed in the cloud. Gartner forecasts this number to reach 59% by 2025, with enterprise storage being increasingly managed as part of a hybrid IT multi-cloud initiative. Further, managed consumption-based storage systems and hybrid IT are expected to host more than 70% of corporate enterprise storage workloads within three years.  

Vogel emphasizes the rise of hybrid IT where traditional services, public cloud services and private cloud services are combined to create a unified IT environment. In tandem, the traditional model of on-premises, external controller-based storage is gradually shrinking. On-premises storage arrays and appliances will remain for some mission-critical applications. But they are losing out steadily to cloud-based options that can more flexibly disaggregate pools of storage and compute, simplify maintenance, and offer automatic upgrades, good performance and quality of service, as well as built-in data protection (backup, DR and anti-ransomware).

With growth rates like those cited by Gartner, Equinix Metal faces heavy competition. Existing STaaS and DCaaS players include Dell Technologies Project Apex, NetApp Keystone, Hitachi Vantara EverFlex, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) GreenLake, Pure Storage Pure-as-a-Service and Zadara Cloud Services. 

“The market is highly fragmented and is constantly changing, with both established and emerging vendors delivering differentiated value propositions and product capabilities,” said Vogel. 

The Equinix strategy 

Instead of taking these vendors on directly, the Equinix strategy is to partner with them and use its vast data center and bare metal backbone as a foundation for their offerings. 

“Weʼll be your trusted neutral as-a-service operator,” said Zac Smith, managing director of Equinix Metal. “We are happy to be valued for the as-a-service plumbing that we bring to the table: operational excellence, sustainability innovation, a suite of connectivity options, global reach, interconnected ecosystems and physical infrastructure automation.”  

These newer offerings build on Equinix’ traditional strength in the colocation market where it competes with companies like Digital Realty, Rackspace Technology, CyrusOne, Global Switch, QTS Realty Trust, Interxion and CenturyLink. With a $68 billion market capitalization, the company spans 220 data centers and 65 metropolitan areas on five continents. It has almost 10,000 staff and as many enterprise customers.  

Founded in Silicon Valley in 1998 as a vendor-neutral multi-tenant data center provider where competing networks could securely connect and share data traffic, its name is a combination of EQUality, Neutrality and Internet eXchange. It runs its operations on Platform Equinix, which has the goal of facilitating digital transformation. 

Beyond basic colocation services, though, Equinix has been steadily rolling out digital services like Metal, Network Edge and Fabric. These are designed to help customers  move faster and deploy in more places. 

“While this overlaps slightly with low-level infrastructure offerings from the public clouds, we see these as-a-service digital infrastructure offerings as filling a gap in the market between colocation and cloud,” said Smith. 

In particular, Equinix differentiates itself via features such as automation and operational experience of cloud services, as well as the choice, control and performance of colocation. This is based on a vision of enabling customers to activate their choice of infrastructure, on demand, in minutes from a global ecosystem of providers. 

Its collaboration with Dell is a good example of this approach. It pairs the “operated and automated, make it just happen” experience of cloud with the “I want the enterprise hardware and technology experience from Dell.”

“An important value of what Equinix Metal is offering is hybrid cloud infrastructure-as-a-service on a global scale,” said Vogel. “Equinix Metal partners with storage, compute and networking vendors to make this a reality. The real value behind this offering is that Equinix, in partnership with its vendors, is capitalizing infrastructure assets ahead of demand – very much cloud-like, solving what I refer to as the last mile issue for IT clients. That requires a bold, cloud-services vision that brings the vendor community and value-add services along with it.” 

Rather than directly compete, Equinix focuses on digital infrastructure plumbing that can be paired with specialized partner technologies. By delivering and managing the lowest layers of the stack as digital infrastructure building blocks and providing cloud onramps in a wide range of locations, the company is positioning itself as a neutral place where enterprises can procure, deliver, install, automate, operate and network their gear, whether it is generic compute or specialized Dell, Pure Storage, Nvidia or other solutions. Its global footprint enables Equinix to deliver low-latency access to various ecosystems. 

Equinix Metal and Dell 

This Equinix technology backbone offers a default Layer 3 network topology in combination with an API interface that gives a cloud-like experience to those taking advantage of its services – without the need for users to deal with any of the underlying IT plumbing, integration and interconnection steps. They gain access to solutions from top-tier technology providers, but without the supply chain and operational headaches of doing it all themselves. By providing users with a single-tenant infrastructure, they can control the underlying technology, choice of their preference of equipment, and independence from the data privacy, security and compliance challenges that impact multi-tenant approaches. 

“We sit at the intersection of physical and digital – helping customers put infrastructure from the right partners in the right places at the right time,” said Smith. “We’re advancing this vision with Dell Technologies by expanding our managed appliance portfolio to include Dell’s most popular storage, hyperconverged infrastructure, and data protection and management solutions.”

Dell PowerStore on Equinix Metal

Equinix Metal provides single-tenant Dell PowerStore all-flash arrays as a fully operated STaaS service. These Dell all-flash arrays are designed for any application or database and can be used for block or file storage. Equinix takes care of procuring equipment (bypassing supply chain constraints), installing, and maintaining of hardware, as well as management of the colocation, power, top of rack and networking. A company in one location, then, can order these services tailored to a specific location to minimize latency. The tendency toward overprovisioning of the data center is avoided as services can scale up or down as needed. But there is a minimum amount of capacity. Dell PowerStore on Equinix Metal requires a commitment of at least 25 TB of storage. It scales up to more than 2 PB per deployment.

Dell VxRail on Equinix Metal 

DCaaS is available via Dell VxRail on Equinix Metal. It combines Equinix colocation, networking, operations and automation with Dell VxRail for reliability and performance. This, in effect, covers the entire DCaaS spectrum of compute, storage, networking and integrated VMware. This service comes in four flavors. The first is a general-purpose configuration. The three others are workload-specific configurations that are optimized either for compute for high performance, memory (for in-memory database workloads), or storage (for workloads needing fast scaling of storage capacity). 

Dell PowerProtect DDVE on Equinix Metal 

PowerProtect Data Domain Virtual Edition (DDVE) is Dell’s virtual appliance for managing enterprise data across any cloud (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, AWS GovCloud, Azure Government Cloud, etc.) or on-prem environment. It includes deduplication, replication, and protection, and works with existing backup, archiving and enterprise applications. 

Dell PowerProtect DDVE on Equinix Metal integrates these Dell services for data security and management with Platform Equinix, where they can be connected to private environments, as well as any cloud platform, through streamlined onramps. The point of this pairing is to unlock the ability to use cloud services in combination with mission-critical enterprise data, while keeping full control.

“Solutions like Equinix Metal are a great fit for organizations of all sizes that have cloud-first mandates, yet need a hybrid approach,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst for StorageIO Group. “They are also a great option for data protection including backup, restore, BC, DR, as well as a failure standby site.”

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