Why Dell Wants You to Think Differently About Its Mission
SAN FRANCISCO--Michael Dell came to town Feb. 27, and, as an IT man with a fair amount of gravitas, he commands attention--no matter what his message might be.
At Dell's impressive spring data center press conference here at the marble-floored Julia Morgan Ballroom in the Financial District, the Austin, Texas-based company introduced a few new whiz-bang pieces of data center equipment. But its deeper purpose was to corral key media members and analysts in the same room and remind them of the main corporate message, which is this:
When you think of Dell, you must think of it now as a full-service, end-to-end IT products and services provider.
Oh yes, Dell continues to make notebook and desktop PCs, and it relishes being No. 1 in the world in those businesses. But it also knows quite well that the days of PCs owning the consumer and enterprise end-user markets are numbered.
Dell hasn't been successful at getting its first tablet PCs and smartphones on the sales charts. That may indeed still happen at some point, but right now the company is concentrating on an area it knows a lot more about: the data center. Dell is well into the 12th generation of its bread-and-butter PowerEdge server, which has spanned more than 20 years of evolution.
With Dell morphing more into a full-fledged data center equipment, software and cloud services company with each passing day, Michael Dell and his top lieutenants were in San Francisco to explain to how the company will continue to evolve in the brave new post-PC world.
It's a Hybrid World
"Our customers are telling us that their businesses are changing, that they need new and faster ways to process, analyze and secure their data whether it's on premises or in a public cloud, a private cloud or a hybrid cloud," Dell said. "This is becoming a hybrid world, and Dell is transforming to stay ahead of this.
"We've been on a mission to transform our business, and it's absolutely working," Dell said.
Of course, anybody who's read eWEEK for the last few years is already quite aware of the transformation Dell has undergone since Michael Dell returned in 2007 to run the business as CEO after taking a few years off from the daily grind. In the last two years alone, Dell has acquired 12 companies including one on Feb. 24: application backup provider AppAssure.
In those two years, Dell has doubled the size of its enterprise, services and data center divisions, and those now led by the storage units represent about half the company's net income. In fact, Dell told eWEEK that 93 percent of the company's storage income is now coming from inside Dell itself. For years, Dell resold EMC storage arrays, but it cut off that arrangement last year since the two companies are now direct competitors.
Key data center-related additions include Compellent (multiprotocol auto-tiered enterprise storage, 2011), RNA Networks (memory virtualization, 2011), Force10 (data center networking, 2011), Ocarina Networks (deduplication and compression, 2010) and Scalent (virtualization management software, 2010).
The products of all of these companies can be used in cloud systems. These are clear indicators of Dell's corporate strategy.
As for PowerEdge news, well, there was news, but not a lot of it. For example, Dell's PowerEdge servers already have open, flexible architectures; embedded intelligence (in 3.8 million already in production use); proactive OpenManage system management controls; and virtualization capability.
The 12th-generation PowerEdge is using more DRAM and NAND flash; cooler-running, multicore Intel Sandy Bridge processors and chipsets that save money on electricity and cooling costs; and new plug-ins for VMware vCenter and Dell Lifecycle Controller Integration for MS System Center Configuration Manager. There also are simpler management console controls.
Digitally signed firmware updates are now available, and so is a new data wipe feature that kills data dead to borrow a phrase from an insect repellent company if needed. For more details on the new servers, go here.
Fluid Data Is the Operative Image
Naturally, everything is designed to move the data faster and more efficiently from server to storage to wherever. That's the Fluid Data concept an image stolen, frankly, from the Compellent storage division's marketing department.
Dell is banking that its transition into new markets is going to continue to pay increased dividends as it moves into tighter and meaner competition with IBM, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle as a go-to data center provisioner.
"When you look at the overall IT market, it's like $3 trillion worldwide," Dell said. "With a little more than $60 billion in revenue, we have about 2 percent of that total. So we think we have enormous growth opportunities in all those spaces: IT services, in software and in infrastructure."