Dell Seeks to Simplify SMB IT Infrastructure Virtualization

Aiming to ease the complexity of virtualization for small and medium businesses (SMBs), Dell on Tuesday officially launched its vStart 50 virtualized hardware package.

“A lot of small businesses realize the benefits that virtualization can bring to their companies but haven’t started their journey yet because they’re a little concerned about who’s going to hold their hand,” said Tony Parkinson, vice president of consumer, small and medium business enterprise solutions at Dell (NASDAQ:DELL).

“Even small guys are starting to run into some level of service sprawl and the high power cost of maintaining multiple servers. But they just don’t have the arms and legs to spend the time to put this stuff together sometimes,” said Parkinson.

IT infrastructure virtualization promises simplified management and greater efficiency. The idea behind virtualization is to break the old model of multiple servers with each running a single operating system for a dedicated application; instead, you can run multiple virtual machines on a one physical server, with each virtual machine running its own operating system and applications.

Not only does this let you use the capabilities of each physical machine more fully, it also means your IT professionals have fewer physical machines to manage, freeing them up to focus on other tasks.

By virtualizing your small business IT infrastructure, you no longer have to assign servers, storage or network bandwidth permanently to each application. Instead, your hardware resources are dynamically allocated when and where they are needed, without the need for an IT professional to make the changes.

But while infrastructure virtualization is intended to simplify IT management, deploying a virtualized infrastructure can be a real headache, Meeker said. Challenges include selecting the right components, having the expertise to configure and deploy them, and training staff to get the most out of the new package.

“Customers who have [deployed their own virtualized infrastructure] know how difficult and time consuming it can be,” Parkinson noted. “We wanted to take away a lot of that complexity and time and cost and really free up their time. We’re seeing a growing number of customers who say, ‘Just give me something I can plug in and run.'”

The Dell vStart 50

Dell’s answer is the vStart 50, a single-rack virtualized hardware package that is pre-wired, pre-tested and pre-configured at the Dell factory. Each sale includes an on-site visit from a professional Dell-certified-and-trained technician to install and configure the package for your business.

“It’s a very comprehensive end-to-end solution that we think is really going to meet the needs of smaller businesses,” Parkinson said. “The fact that we can have somebody on-site to put all this together takes away a lot of the guesswork.”

Dell’s vStart 50 consists of a single Dell rack that includes two PowerEdge servers, four PowerConnect Switches and an EqualLogic storage array. Dell takes care of all the cabling, and even color codes and labels the cables according to the traffic they’re carrying.

The vStart 50 comes in two versions depending on your choice of hypervisor: the vStart 50m and the vStart 50v.

The vStart 50m, which Meeker said launches with a price of $59,900, includes Microsoft Server 2008 RX2 Data Center Edition with Hyper-V and Dell Management Plug-ins.

Customers can optionally buy Microsoft System Center Essentials 2010 to add management capabilities for physical and virtual infrastructure. System Center Essentials with Windows Server 2008 lets your IT professionals run, review, save, print or email information about the status of your IT environment.

System Center Essentials features: single console management for monitoring physical and virtual servers, hardware, clients and more from a single console; integrated troubleshooting and resolution for servers, clients and IT services; and automated system updates with the option of automatically or manually applying updates to Microsoft OS and Microsoft or non-Microsoft applications.

The vStart 50v, which Parkinson said launches at a price of $49,900, includes VMware ESXi and VMware vCenter 60-day trial licenses, Dell Management Plug-ins and the Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter.

Dell said its Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter is intended to provide seamless element management and monitoring for Dell servers. It provides zero-touch bare-metal hypervisor deployment without PXE. Additionally, it leverages VMware vCenter roles and permissions, automates remediation with Phone Home capabilities, updates firmware directly from vCenter and provides integration of online limited hardware warranty information into the management console.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to and a former senior editor at He covers operating systems, standards and security, among other technologies.

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