Dell's "hardware as a service" Apex expands to include analytics and data recovery

Bob O'Donnell

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In context: Way back in 2006, British mathematician Clive Humby coined the now oft-repeated phrase that "data is the new oil". Since then, there have been numerous, vigorous debates about the accuracy or validity of the comment. Regardless of where you fall in those discussions, it seems fairly obvious now that for most businesses and organizations, data does represent a type of lifeblood, providing information and opportunities that can drive further success—or point to potential concerns and failure.

The importance of data has become particularly apparent in light of the rapidly expanding range of analytics tools that can be used to glean useful insights from it as well as the staggering number of efforts to steal or destroy it via cybersecurity threats. While the needs and requirements necessary to best address these two sides of the data coin are radically different, they do highlight how important the proper use and care of data has become.

In that context, the latest additions to Dell's Apex range of as-a-service offerings are both timely and relevant. The company first announced the Apex concept in November 2020, reflecting a large shift both in how Dell Technologies thought about the advancement of IT and in the types of products and services the company sold. Since then, Dell evolved from its original storage-focused services to integrated on-demand computing, networking, hyper-converged infrastructure and hybrid computing models all delivered in a pay-as-you-go services model. (See "Dell's Apex Brings Hardware as a Service to the Mainstream" for more.)

At this year's Dell Technologies World, the company previewed a new relationship with cloud-based data analytics firm Snowflake and added additional cyber vault recovery services to restore data in the event of a major cybersecurity breach. On the analytics front, the partnership with Snowflake opens a number of potentially important opportunities for companies that keep some or all of their key data within their own data centers or other tightly managed colocation centers. Specifically, Dell Technologies and Snowflake announced the ability to run the Snowflake Data Cloud's analysis tools either on Dell-managed cloud data or, even more importantly, locally stored data on prem.

For organizations that have moved some of the data to various public clouds, this ability is very important. It means organizations that are looking to find insights from combining cloud-based datasets with local ones can now do so and without large data egress charges. For highly regulated industries or companies that have rules around data sovereignty, this is absolutely essential as they wouldn't be able to easily leverage Snowflake's analytics capabilities without an agreement like this. Also, let's not forget that even in organizations that don't have those requirements, a huge amount of enterprise data still lives on premise.

On top of that, Dell Technologies said that it is working with all three major public cloud providers—AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud—to enable this capability, ensuring that organizations won't be limited in the types of data they can use for these analytics efforts.

Cyber vaults are essentially a disconnected or "air gapped" set of storage resources that companies can use to maintain a backup of their critical data.

On the cybersecurity front, Dell is expanding its range of cyber vault services and working with both AWS and Azure to help support them. Cyber vaults are essentially a disconnected or "air gapped" set of storage resources that companies can use to maintain a backup of their critical data.

In the event of a cyber-attack that's aimed at damaging, destroying or removing data (unfortunately, an increasingly common occurrence), cyber vault recovery services can quickly restore a safe, malware-free copy of the data. In Dell Technologies' case, the company's new Apex Cyber Recovery service leverages its own sophisticated storage software to build a system that can autonomously maintain a clean backup of critical onsite or cloud-based data stores on an external site.

Recognizing that many companies may have similar needs, but very unique ways of getting there, Dell Technologies also added other means of obtaining similar services from major cloud providers. The company had previously announced an agreement with AWS to provide this automated service through the AWS market and to leverage the company's existing contracts and credits with AWS to help pay for the service.

At Dell Technologies World, a similar service agreement with Azure was announced, so that companies now have a choice of public cloud providers to work with on storing the data. In the case of AWS, Dell Technologies extended its capabilities to not only store the data but also perform indexing, security analytics, machine learning-based corruption detection, and post attack forensics. Presumably, the company will be bringing these extended features to its Azure offering at some point in the near future as well.

Ensuring that an organization's data is safe, well protected, and available to be leveraged for creating important new insights and opportunities is clearly one of the most, if not the most, important tasks for which enterprise IT is responsible. Having access to new means of delivering these essential capabilities from a well-known partner in an as-a-service model is clearly going to be an attractive option, though I suspect many companies are still getting used to the idea of Dell Technologies as a services provider. Like its competition, however, Dell is evolving into a new type of company that's working to create the kinds of solutions the market now demands while also providing the guidance that many of its more traditional customers still need to evolve their IT infrastructure. The path isn't going to be a short one, but it's an important one to take.

Bob O'Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter .

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