Dell Technologies has a distinct advantage over the competition because of our track record of delivering Microsoft solutions. With each evolutionary milestone in our journey for continuous innovation, we have learned and re-invested back into our Microsoft software-defined data center (SDDC) and HCI solutions. The following figure illustrates the SDDC and HCI milestones in the Dell Technologies partnership with Microsoft over the last several years.
We began this journey in 2017 when we certified Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions on Dell PowerEdge 13th generation (13G) servers. The reference architectures explained how to implement Microsoft validated designs on PowerEdge servers, following engineering best practices for deployment and steady-state operations.
In 2018, we became the first solution provider to take a fully productized approach to running Microsoft software defined capabilities, including Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). Our Dell S2D Ready Nodes based on Dell PowerEdge 14th generation (14G) servers were pre-configured with certified components and validated building blocks running Windows Server 2016. Dell engineering also validated network topologies using Dell PowerSwitch network switches. We vastly simplified ordering and reduced deployment risks while providing a streamlined and collaborative Customer Support experience.
The S2D Ready Nodes were refreshed in 2019 with the validation of Windows Server 2019 (End of Life June 30, 2023) on the supported platforms. We also introduced the 1.0 version of our Dell OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center. The Dell OpenManage Integration extension added deep hardware monitoring, inventory, troubleshooting, and integrated iDRAC management for the S2D Ready Nodes.
More recently, our portfolio expanded in 2020 when we released the Dell HCI Solutions for Microsoft Server, based on Windows Server 2019 (End of Life June 30, 2023) running on our factory-ready, validated AX nodes from Dell Technologies. The AX nodes consisted of two Intel-based 14G models (AX-640 and AX-740xd, End of Life March 31, 2023) and a single AMD EPYC processor-based 15G model (AX-6515). The Dell OpenManage Integration with Windows Admin Center was updated to v1.1, which added life cycle management of BIOS, firmware, and drivers using Cluster-Aware Updating. Using this new feature, IT staff could apply hardware updates with confidence and save significant time, reducing manual steps by 82%1 and reducing maintenance windows by 40%2. Clusters could be fully updated with only a single reboot per node in the cluster and no impact to the business services running in virtual machines.
After the release of the purpose-built Microsoft Azure Stack HCI operating system in December 2020, Dell Technologies released the Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI. This integrated system included AX nodes tested and validated to optimize the performance and resiliency of Azure Stack HCI clusters. By September 2021, the AX node portfolio consisted of the AX-650 and AX-750, based on Intel Xeon 3rd Gen scalable processors, and the AX-6515 and AX-7525, based on 2nd generation AMD EPYC processors.
In March 2022, Dell Technologies extended the support for all AX platforms to run Azure Stack HCI OS, version 21H2 and Windows Server Datacenter 2022.The Dell OpenManage Integration with Windows Admin Center was updated to v2.2.1 to support the new operating systems and added features such as intrinsic infrastructure security management with Microsoft Secured-Core sever and Dell Infrastructure lock. We also added support for Kernel Soft Reboot (KSR) for updates.
Another version of the Dell OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter, v2.3, was released in May 2022. This version added Dell HCI Configuration Profile Policies for Azure, which creates Azure Policy definitions for our hardware, operating system, and cluster-level recommended settings. Then, we provide compliance visibility and remediation for settings that deviate from our best practices.
The Dell OpenManage Integration extension also has numerous other features that continue to make IT administrators’ lives easier and ultimately provide the business with improved response times and reliability for their mission critical applications. These features include automated cluster creation, one-click full stack life cycle management using Cluster Aware Updating, dynamic CPU core management, and cluster expansion preparation.
The second half of 2022 releases introduced support for NVIDIA A30 and A2 GPU adapters, single-node clusters and 20TB capacity 3.5" drives.
More recently, the 2023 quarterly releases added support for:
- Azure Stack HCI OS 22H2 (factory install and field support)
- New GPU options (NVIDIA A16, A40, and T4)
- New NIC options with Mellanox ConnectX-6 25 GbE (RoCE) and Intel E810 25/100 GbE (iWARP and RoCE) adapters
- Validation of Mellanox CX-6 25G OCP card for Factory Installation
- Validation of A10 GPU for After Point of Sale (APOS)
- Windows Server 2019 End of Life
- EOL for AX-640 and AX-740xd
- AX-6515 End of Life for CE countries 11/6/23