Last week I attended the first (of its name) Dell Technologies World — the annual conference previously known as EMC World and then Dell EMC World. The name change reflects Dell EMC’s focus on delivering “better together” customer solutions across the entire Dell Technologies portfolio of companies — particularly VMware and Pivotal. The change is also appropriate considering the evolving perspectives of Dell EMC’s enterprise infrastructure customers.
The Dell Technologies portfolio of companies.
Cloud computing has enabled digital disruption across industries with such impact that it is forcing companies to rethink their approach to development, infrastructure, and operations. As enterprises adopt cloud computing for areas of their application portfolio critical to their digital transformation initiatives to address and take advantage of digital disruption, decision-makers who once focused purely on compute, network, and/or storage infrastructure are increasingly adjusting their scope to include more of the cloud platform software stack. This shift in scope is so broadly applicable and challenging that groups of IT leaders have formed to pool best practices and requirements input to vendors (such as the ONUG organization, representing firms with more than $100B in aggregate annual IT spend).
For Dell EMC, this means their enterprise IT infrastructure buyers are seeking solution stacks that address cloud infrastructure platform (e.g., VMware) and application management platform (e.g., Pivotal) layers. I went into Dell Tech World 2018 wondering how well Dell EMC could demonstrate full stack solutioning alignment with VMware and Pivotal to these leaders, after a somewhat bumpy start last year. I came away impressed at how much progress Dell Technologies has made in the combined value of its portfolio in the following three ways.
Broadening the Appeal of Pivotal Cloud Foundry
Many cloud platform vendors have been able to sell into Early Majority adopters who are willing to staff technical expertise necessary to adopt and customize technology to their needs. Far fewer excel in selling into the Late Majority. Among the customers talking about their use of Pivotal Cloud Foundry (CF) at Dell Tech World 2018, it was clear that the combination of Pivotal, VMware, and Dell EMC is delivering a compelling solution to the Late Majority, where many appreciate prescriptive full stack guidance. Pivotal has already done very well with Early Majority enterprise cloud platform adopters — more than half of the Fortune500 have adopted Cloud Foundry, and many of those deployments are based on Pivotal’s offering. The support for full Dell EMC and VMware solution stacks for private cloud deployments, along with coordinated go-to-market strategies across the Dell Technologies family could boost this substantially. Virtustream provides another example of a Dell Technologies portfolio company contribution to Pivotal. Virtustream will deploy and manage Pivotal CF in its public cloud for customers developing cloud-native applications that leverage data from the mission-critical Oracle and SAP types of applications that Virtustream also manages for customers (such as government agencies and healthcare firms).
This broader Dell Technologies support for Pivotal should be helpful amidst the current cloud management platform battle between those based on Cloud Foundry and those based on Kubernetes. While Pivotal recently introduced general availability of its Container Service (PKS) based on Kubernetes as a compliment or alternative to its Cloud Foundry-based Application Service offering, Pivotal seems to lead with its Cloud Foundry-based offering for the breadth of stateless applications while messaging PKS as ideal for stateful (i.e. data stores) and containerized ISV applications. In contrast, competitors like Red Hat and Mesosphere position more on a container-native approach, unifying stateless and stateful applications on a single platform.
Positioning as a Top Hybrid / Multi-Cloud Provider
Determining a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy ranks very highly in most enterprises’ cloud priorities. Hybrid environments of public cloud and private infrastructure are a given in enterprise since the vast majority adopt public cloud while attempting to maximize utilization of the private infrastructure in which they already invested. Multi-cloud is a term often applied to describing hybrid environments, but it is also meant to include use of multiple public cloud providers (e.g., at least two of AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, etc.) for tactical feature preference reasons and/or strategic use in disaster recovery and multi-sourcing for optimal price and SLA negotiation.
Dell Technologies wants to be a leader in infrastructure and platforms for hybrid and multi-cloud use, serving traditional and emerging cloud-native applications, from the edge to the core to the cloud. Pivotal has always served this need at the application platform level. At Dell Technologies World, VMware continued to position itself well as a top hybrid cloud infrastructure platform provider with the announcement of the Virtual Cloud Network — as its solutions approach combining its VeloCloud SD-WAN acquisition into the existing NSX product line for networking across public and private infrastructures. VMware is betting big that NSX is the big bet of VMware as the networking capability key to lighting up the full value of its vRealize hybrid cloud platform, enabling seamless hybrid use with its Cloud on AWS offering, and adding the same value to the infrastructure layer supporting Pivotal CF and PKS deployments.
VMware Virtual Cloud Network with NSX
The Dell Technologies keynotes outlined the must-haves for a multi-cloud strategy but left out the specifics of how Dell EMC works with customers on strategy beyond private infrastructure needs. As unintentionally understated as it was, the Dell EMC contribution to customer strategy comes from its Consulting Services practice, where it has developed tools to automate the analysis of customer application portfolios to provide recommendations on public versus private infrastructure selection. You might expect bias in those recommendations from a company that derives far more revenue on private than public infrastructure, but Dell EMC’s Services organization claims to isolate the Services organization incentives from the infrastructure product businesses to focus on customer requirements often centered on private versus public hosting of their data in terms of control of costs, security, compliance, and auditing. As Jeff Clarke summarized from his themes of Dell Technologies investment in his keynote, “it’s all about your data.”
Progress on Private / Hybrid Cloud Offers
Core to the overall Dell Technologies business is success in private infrastructure, where its messaging focuses on modernizing the data center with an emphasis on cloud solutions. The portfolio companies have made strong progress in aligning their cloud solution stacks. The leadership described at the event how it literally mapped out all the offer conflicts across the portfolio and resolved them over the past year. For example, Dell EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud and VMware’s Cloud Foundation previously offered overlapping capabilities (e.g. backup, disaster recovery). Now Dell EMC is delivering its VMware-based cloud infrastructure product, VxRack SDDC, based on VMware Cloud Foundation instead of its prior EMC-developed tools. VxRack SDDC can be used for a private cloud deployment or in a hybrid configuration with a VMware Cloud on AWS deployment.
Customers can also opt to deploy Pivotal CF on Dell EMC’s tested and validated Pivotal Ready Architecture on the VMware solution stack. For customers requesting a Microsoft cloud platform-based solution stack, Dell EMC provides its Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack for hybrid cloud use with Microsoft Azure public cloud (with Pivotal CF support expected later this year).
Dell Technologies Acting as Family of Companies
The Dell Technologies portfolio of companies is firing on all cylinders as a family now. This was much more evident at Dell Technologies World than it was last year at the Dell EMC World and VMworld events. I have provided three examples focused on cloud solutions, and there are others, such as the unified Dell EMC and VMware IoT business unit. I expect we will continue to see much stronger presentation of full solution stack offerings and consultative strategic engagement from Dell Technologies to respond to the changing needs of its customers.
IT infrastructure and operations leaders are increasingly seeking solutions for cloud transformation spanning cloud infrastructure and application management platform layers, and I expect to see a growing emphasis on comprehensive cloud solutions in the years to come. I am looking forward to specifics that emerge from groups like ONUG, which will be discussing this in depth at its spring conference event this week.