Dell’s End-to-End Play is a Long Way from Personal Computers

As I go back analyze content from Dell’s second annual Dell World conference, one theme in particular stands out – Dell’s E2E (end to end) vision and strategy.  Dell as a CTO (configure to order) PC manufacturer is somewhat of a distantmemory now, which shines an even brighter light on their E2E capabilities.   In a nutshell, Dell has created the capability for end-user apps to be delivered in a managed, secure framework.  While this seems simple, they are doing so for a wide range of client devices and app delivery methods……and they are doing so leveraging datacenter infrastructure through to those client devices with a comprehensive suite of software and professional services.

At a datacenter level, the future of E2E is enabled by building a secure, scalable infrastructure capable of supporting seamless, continuous services delivery.

Dell has long been one of worlds’ two top server vendors, and is now so close to their competitor HP that, as Michael Dell joked in his keynote, if each of the 6,000 attendees to Dell World bought 10 servers, Dell would be #1 measured by unit sales.  And for those customers who don’t want to build out new datacenter capacity, Dell will build, manage, and support one for them, either through their Dell’s own shared cloud capability or through a dedicated private cloud.

Virtualization is now table stakes for converged datacenters, and Dell supports VMwareMicrosoft, and Citrix virtualization solutions.  Dell’s Wyse acquisition gave them desktop virtualization solutions, which play a central role in thin and zero clients, which I’ll return to in a few paragraphs.

Next, Dell has assembled a first-rate datacenter and web security framework based on their SecureWorks products, which enable datacenter network security and managed security services, while allowing their customers the flexibility of using favored 3rd party client security offerings.

Dell may have reprioritized an enterprise play above the PC business, but that doesn’t mean they are any less interested in client computing.  In fact, they have broadened their support for client computing when you factor in standard PCs and comprehend new tablets, thin/zero clients, virtual machines and their entire BYOx offering.

Let me start with PCs.  Dell was very bullish on Windows 8 PC, which was interesting given others luke-warm reception in the industry.  The most interesting thing was Michael Dell’s comment on Windows 8 and the commercial markets where he said interest was exceeding expectations.  When you dig deeper, it makes sense in that certainly bringing a Windows 8 device into the enterprise is a better proposition for IT than an Android tablet or Apple iPad.  Windows 8 tablets look to the enterprise as just another Windows device, so it can leverage the same deployment, provisioning, manageability, and security tools.

Dell’s PCs are as strong as I have ever seen and I could see them gaining momentum as soon as the market comes back to normal levels. The XPS line has been very distinct and gives the Macbooks a serious run for their money in terms of overall experience. The tablets were interesting as well, with theDell XPS 10 providing 20 hours of battery life in hybrid-mode and theLatitude 10, a real enterprise iPad killer. IT, and for that matter, CFOs would be crazy to continue their iPad rollouts.  The Latitude provides IT everything they want in a tablet without the hassle of supporting a device like the iPad.

Dell is also making a client computing play even when it’s not a PC or non-Dell branded PCs.  Here is where it gets very interesting.  Through Dell’s multiple acquisitions like Wyse, SonicWALL, KACE, SecureWorks, and Quest, Dell can now provide the comprehensive deployment, provisioning, manageability, and security tools for any branded phone, tablet or PCs.  This helps take all objections off the table to doing this kind of business with Dell and sets them up to provide to any customer any kind of client-based computing solution.  The essence is that Dell will ensure a secure, managed connection from their customers’ datacenter to any device using .NET, HTML5 and other standards-based application delivery methods.

Returning to Dell’s E2E security story, which is such a crucial part of any E2E strategy, Dell is not trying to reinvent the wheel, and is instead leveraging existing best-in-class products for client devices, networks and network access, and access to both apps and content through existing ecommerce frameworks (Android Play, Apple Store, etc.).  Dell is focused on providing their own best-in-class framework for data security and management, from cloud to client.

Dell’s E2E offering is a long away from the days of Dell just providing CTO-based PCs.  The E2E story is impressive and the real customer testimonials are compelling, too, which of course, makes sense, given it was Dell World.  Dell has “burned the PC-only bridges” and is on its way to providing end-to-end solutions and services that can provide best-in-class datacenter and end-user platforms to its customers.  The key for Dell is momentum and integration.  They have momentum right now on E2E, but is losing some on the PC side as measured by business and market share results.  This is hurting their profile short-term, but if they can turn enterprise into the juggernaut they envision, PC share declines will fade away into the past just as it did for IBM.  Dell also needs to continue integrating their newly-acquired acquisitions at an even quicker pace as end customers want one throat to choke.

Dell now sits at the same E2E table as HP, IBM, and Oracle, which is making competitors very nervous and the E2E game really get a lot more interesting for industry watchers and for enterprise IT.