Last week I attended Tech Field Day 10 and the visit we had at Dell was better than what I had expected. You know, primary vendors have a high probability of failure when presenting at these events, which are full of start-ups. Sometimes it’s just a question of putting the wrong person in front of the audience. In other cases we (bloggers) are to blame, comparing them and their solutions (designed for the largest possible number of users) to fancy startups with innovative disruptive technology (but which are still immature under many aspects).

Dell at its roots (Awesome hardware)

The first thing we did was to visit one of the Dell Data Centers. I have to say that it’s a pleasure to start the morning with a good conversation about real world solutions and to see them put in practice. During our visit we got to talk to engineers about some of the engineered solutions Dell proposes with its partners: SAP HANA cluster, Microsoft Azure private cloud racks, Vmware, HPC and so on.

I saw some intriguing things, especially in the commercial HPC space. The FX2 platform, for example, is a great product and seeing such a CPU power density and flexibility in a product that I could buy without being an hyper-scale end user is really cool.

Dell VRTXThe VRTX is another Dell product that I really liked that morning. it’s probably the opposite of FX2 in that product line. But it’s an awesome product. It’s a chassis that can accommodate up to four X86 blades and 25 2,5″ disks and can be mounted in a rack as well as on it’s own base (like an old fashioned tower). The perfect compromise for the small business or a remote office. It has a really nice management interface and could be perfect for setting up a home lab too (…more on this later).

Screenshot 2016-02-12 17.04.35Still, on the hardware side I also suggest you watch this video.
Some of the features of Dell servers regarding management and serviceability are awesome. I particularly liked tha App that leverages NFC to get all the diagnostics from a server when your front gets close to the front bezel!

The Dell that I didn’t know about

Screenshot 2016-02-12 17.10.29Only a few primary hardware vendors can cater to any type of customer. And I wasn’t aware that dell has a division to serve hyper-scale customers too. I’ve always loved their PowerEdge C series for service providers, but the hardware designed for their hyper-scale customers was news to me.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a 90-disk/2-node server (some in the range of 70 and 80 though). The density of such a storage monster is unbelievable! And this is only one example, other interesting pieces of hardware were shown during the session.

Back to the home lab thing (while closing the circle)

Screenshot 2016-02-12 17.10.45The VRTX would be great to build a decent home lab. Designed to work in small offices, tower or rack, with a decent storage and different options for running all kinds of workloads, with remote management (perfect for when your wife asks you to put your stuff in the basement!) .
It’s just too pricey for a home lab… unfortunately. 🙁

After the session at Dell’s, it’s all we talked about on our way back to the hotel. Anyone of us would love to have such a piece of hardware at home. I may be the exception… my lab is “on the cloud” (for the little testing I do, I love to play with Digital Ocean, Azure or AWS), but all the others are much more hardcore than I am and they would love to have that gear.

I think vendors should take “influencer programs” much more seriously. I had the chance to be part of one program run by Ivy Worldwide and HP last year. In practice HP gave a restricted number of influencers a top class notebook to get their opinion and comments and involve them in a discussion that lasted a few months. At the end most of the influencers got to put their hands on that PC and carried it with them to the customers while working and at conferences and so on. It was not only the number of posts, but also the fact that these guys had voluntarily (or involuntarily) publicized the product (and they got a free PC in exchange… some of them gave it away with a raffle to their readers). I don’t know what came out of it for HP, but I thought it was a really great idea.
Well, this is all just to say that I would like to see more of these programs from vendors. Not free hardware of course (ethically speaking, it is also very hard to justify a gift such a PC), but special discounts or special lease options for a selected number of influencers could bring a great return for vendors.

BTW, I didn’t get the PC. I refused the offer because they were available only with a US keyboard and without all the è è ì à ò… it would make life too difficult in Italian 🙂