What is Dell Apex?

Dell's HQ in Santa Clara
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

For as long as organisations have had IT systems, managing data across systems that are often disparate and disjointed has been a battle for IT professionals.

Over the past 15 years, many vendors have unveiled their take on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), embracing servers, storage, and various other cloud-based hardware units, packaged up and made available to organisations to pay as they go.

Among these options available to businesses is Dell Apex. The anything as a service (XaaS) project, launched in October 2020, aims to consolidate the firm’s offerings and goes toe-to-toe with HPE’s GreenLake platform. The services available range from on-premise consumption-based storage to custom cloud-based managed solutions.

What services does Dell Apex offer?

Dell Apex covers a breadth of data and workload requirements across multi-cloud, multi-edge, and multi-data centre environments.

There are three main parts to Dell Apex’s offerings: Apex Data Storage Services, Apex Cloud Services, and Apex Custom Solutions.

Apex Data Storage Services

This is Dell’s on-premises storage as a service offering, based on Dell’s storage hardware and software portfolio. It’s customer-operated with Dell-owned and Dell-maintained infrastructure.

It features a shared responsibilities model that demarcates the roles played by the customer and Dell on a function-by-function basis. Overall, there is an application delivery strategy that enables a customer’s IT team to concentrate on day-to-day operations while Dell looks after the underlying infrastructure for the service.

Customers find and subscribe to services in an online catalogue available through the Dell Apex Console. Dell can then match services and other technology to deliver the outcomes wanted by the customer. This console offers monitoring and management of the subscribed services. Customers can create usage and spending reports, status and predictive analytics to anticipate problems. The hardware managed by Dell can be deployed on-premises or in Equinix colocation sites.

Apex Cloud Services

This offers streamlined and reliable multi-cloud services based on VMware technology. The solution is akin to hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and delivers Dell Technologies VxRail as a service in a full-stack enterprise infrastructure bundle.

Dell lets administrators manage Apex Cloud Services infrastructure through its Apex Console. This is a cloud-based management tool allowing customers to oversee procurement, deployment, and even health monitoring of its deployed infrastructure. This console can be run alongside operations interfaces provided by VMware software. Apex Cloud is available in the following core configurations:

Apex Cloud Services with VMware Cloud: This is a joint engineering endeavour between Dell and VMware that offers a scalable, flexible multi-cloud infrastructure with compute, storage and networking delivered as a service.

Apex Hybrid Cloud: Based on VMware Cloud Foundation, this allows workload automation, and automation across the organisation's entire cloud environment. Organisations can manage their own automated infrastructure, with Dell assistance in areas such as proactive monitoring and maintenance.

Apex Private Cloud: This uses VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus and VSAN to provide an entry-level infrastructure as a service with an emphasis on edge computing, remote/branch offices (ROBO) and remote locations usage.

Also, within Cloud Services, are Apex Backup Services and Apex Cyber Recovery Services. The former is a cloud-based data protection solution with a web-based console that offers visibility and management across workloads and users. The latter is a cyber recovery solution encompassing hardware, software and service to protect critical data.

Recently, Dell expanded its cloud services to cover multiple cloud management. This helps organisations manage, store and protect data across multiple cloud platforms enabling them to have the flexibility of public cloud platforms at a location of their choosing.

Apex Custom Solutions

If a customer has a need that isn’t addressed by the above products, Dell can also tailor offerings to the organisation's requirements. Apex Custom Solutions enables organisations to define what their hardware, software and services requirements are today and plan for their future needs accordingly. Following that, the technology is installed and made available to the organisation.

Automated tools monitor usage to enable Dell to react rapidly to new service requests, workload variations and changes driven by business needs to enhance IT flexibility. Organisations can also customise their infrastructure based on workload to avoid over-provisioning and curb costs by paying for flexible resources as and when they are consumed. Apex Custom Solutions are available in the following options:

Apex Flex on Demand: This is a flexible consumption model that enables organisations to only pay for the infrastructure they need. and provides immediate access to buffer capacity. This is available with storage, server, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, data protection and services. It also caps billing at 85% usage of total installed capacity. Organisations can select their total deployed capacity and minimum usage commitment and at the end of the usage term, organisations can go month to month, extend the term, or return and refresh equipment. Total deployed capacity is made up of what Dell calls “Committed” and “Buffer Capacity.” Access to Buffer Capacity is instantaneous and does not necessitate a hardware deployment.

Apex Data Centre Utility: This is billed as a “highly customizable way to move part, or all, of your data centre operations into a pay-per-use model.” It couples Dell’s portfolio with professional services and support to fully manage an organisation’s data centre and its operations. Organisations receive a single-invoice monthly payment based on their actual usage. With this solution, Dell works with customer organisations to outline capacity needs and growth prospects and create a rate structure with consistent usage-based pricing. There is also automated monitoring that records actual consumption levels. This data is provided to organisation on a regular basis for review.

What are the use cases of Dell Apex?

Organisations can use Dell Apex to fully utilise the cloud even if they haven’t yet migrated all IT infrastructure away from on-premise environments. There are a handful of use cases that Dell Apex can be used in. These include analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), containers, databases, data protection, high performance computing (HPC), Microsoft Azure SQL workloads, Oracle workloads, SAP workloads, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

As far as AI use cases go, for example, organisations can deploy image recognition capabilities among a handful of options including fraud detection and natural language processing (NLP). HPC use cases, meanwhile, include applications in public safety, personalised medicine, and structural analysis. There are plenty of other applications, too, such as data virtualisation in the database component, and accelerating image processing in the container element.

What is the Dell Apex Console?

The Dell Apex Console is a web portal that brings together cloud and infrastructure subscriptions to match business needs. Administrators can use this to deploy, provision, monitor and improve services, assign role-based access for users and stakeholders, and get support. It can also help in tracking costs and spending.

Businesses can get started by selecting from the central catalogue which Apex services across the breadth of the portfolio they wish to deploy. They can then choose service options based on their optimal performance, and request a quote. Once subscribed, Dell claims it’ll handle everything else from set-up to deployment of hardware to your own data centre or co-location facility.

At this stage, administrators can use the Apex console to track performance metrics in order to understand the health of the service taken up. Analytics and reporting also provides visibility to scale cloud and infrastructure capacity, as needed. The Apex console also gives real-time feedback for expenses, with overall business spend better aligned with IT costs. The hub also allows businesses to add more compute instances, regardless of the services they’re subscribed to.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.