I recently attended a blogger conference call where Richard Percaccio (Enterprise Marketing Manager Global Commercial Channels) from Dell introduced us to the new virtualization stack offering coming from Dell: vStart.

vStart is a “virtualization turn-key solution” aimed (for now) at the SMB/SME market, right now they’re launching two different models: vStart 100 and vStart 200, the number identifies how many virtual machines the stack can support. The hardware stack is completely made by Dell and the hypervisor selection is currently limited to VMware (licenses not included in the stack) but this is bound to change in the near future with a Hyper-V version coming.

But what’s inside the box rack?

The two configurations are fixed (single SKU I guess), their price include the initial deployment at the customer site (performed by Dell-badged representatives) and you get:

Model vStart 100 vStart 200
Computing Platform 3x PowerEdge R710 (Hypervisors)
1x PowerEdge R610 (Management node)
6x PowerEdge R710 (Hypervisors)
1x PowerEdge R610 (Management node)
Storage Platform 1x Dell Equallogic PS6000XV 2x Dell Equallogic PS6000XV
Networking 4x PowerConnect 6248 4x PowerConnect 6248
Misc 42U Rack with all required PDU, UPS and KVM 42U Rack with all required PDU, UPS and KVM
Price $136,000 $240,000

A full solution overview with server and storage specs is available directly at the Dell’s site

Dell vStart 200 Rack front and back

Obviously everything is pre-wired, pre-installed and pre-configured directly at the Dell factory, the management node includes all the integration plugins for Dell Servers and storage so you can deploy datastores on the Equallogic array directly from the familiar vCenter interface, deploy virtual desktops using array snapshotting techniques and all the other nifty things that the vCenter plugins provide you.

Pain Points

Dell is a newcomer in the integrated stacks arena and their product (intended as the whole stack) is probably the youngest in the market right now (even though is built on time-proven hardware), during the call I noted a couple of fallacies in their offering, first and foremost they’re limited to two fixed configurations, where the vStart 100 is still too big for many SMB customers, Richard assured that they’re working on smaller (vStart 50?) and bigger versions (that will probably include Compellent arrays) and they will be available in the next future, another drawback is the lack (as of now) of an upgrade path between the two current offerings, for instance, you cannot go from a vStart 100 to a vStart 200 by buying an upgrade kit, you need to rip and replace, or buy a new vStart 100. They answered my question saying that they’re working hard on an upgrade path and they hope to have it ready in 2012.


This is definitely a good move on Dell’s side, entering into the stack fight from the lower-end of the market seems a brilliant idea to me, their approach is very aggressive, especially on the price side, and I’m sure that by the time they launch the vStart program in EMEA (due later this year) they will have gained a significant share in the US stack market.

Disclaimer: Cinetica, the company I work for, has partnerships with Oracle, Dell, VMware, Compellent and NetApp.