Dell EMC vs AWS—USD Reveals True Economics

University of San Diego (USD) is one of the top Catholic universities in the nation, recognized for our academic excellence and development of leaders who become change-makers in a variety of fields.

We’re known for the exceptional personal classroom experience we offer students, with world-class professors teaching undergraduate class sizes that are limited to 30 students. But we also leverage technology to deepen and extend our rich academic and extracurricular offerings—such as delivering more than 1,100 online and hybrid courses and “flipping the classroom” to allow professors to share lectures electronically and use class time to engage students in discussions and answer questions.

University students working in computer room
Ensuring that our students and faculty have all the solutions needed to excel isn’t easy and we’ve invested in many different advanced technologies to accomplish this. We thought it would be relatively simple to bring these together and support our own virtual IT infrastructure. Unfortunately, trying to do it ourselves proved to be more costly and time-consuming than anticipated.

In 2011, we turned to Dell EMC Vblock® Systems to become the core of our compute and storage, running hundreds of educational and business applications. And now, four years later, we’re continuing to modernize our IT infrastructure with a new VxBlock™ System 350 to support our four campus data centers. Plus, we rely on a hyper-converged Dell EMC VxRail™ Appliance at our disaster avoidance site in Phoenix, Arizona.

To determine our infrastructure refresh strategy, we performed extensive analyses to compare the cost and efficiency of using Amazon Web Services (AWS) versus our Dell EMC-supported private cloud infrastructure. And what we discovered made choosing to update our Dell EMC footprint a no-brainer.

Dell EMC was significantly less expensive than AWS. Here are some of the details:

Lower cost

  • We spent about $900,000 on our first Vblock System over four years
  • Dividing by 48 months, that works out to approximately $19,000/month, or $30/hour
  • This is the equivalent of about 100 AWS EC2 instances with up to 100GB of attached storage, and that doesn’t include the cost of monthly support from AWS.

Higher capacity

  • Based on these figures, we calculated that we could run 4x the number of solutions in our VxBlock System-supported private cloud for the same cost as the AWS public cloud

Faster access

  • Plus, by utilizing an on-site Dell EMC solution, we can connect the VxBlock System to our other three campus data centers at 10 Gbps and provide on-campus access to users at a head-turning 1 Gbps—compared to AWS’s Internet-speed connections

It’s true that I could purchase AWS EC2 Reserved Instances for one or more years and reduce my public cloud costs a bit, but AWS still wouldn’t be cheaper than Dell EMC!

At USD, users rely on the IT infrastructure to be continuously available so they can use the latest technologies without thinking about it. Our goal is to achieve a mindset of, “We’re in the higher education business—we just happen to use IT to deliver services.”usd-1

Since we implemented our first Vblock System, our IT Services team has been able to focus on innovation and adding value, rather than on simply keeping the lights on. A key component of this has been the converged and hyper-converged support, which enables us to get assistance anytime we need it with a single phone call—without the finger-pointing one experiences when dealing with multiple vendors.

I was just talking with some colleagues about our plans to roll out our new VxBlock System, and it’s nice to be able to say I’m investing in my second Dell EMC solution because I’ve determined it’s one-quarter of the cost of AWS. Sweet!

About the Author: Mike Somerville