Project APEX Pushes Dell’s IT Services To New Heights At Dell Tech World 2020

By Patrick Moorhead - November 13, 2020
Michael Dell

This week I tuned into Dell Technologies’ annual Dell Tech World conference, held virtually like all other major tech events this year. The shindig is Dell’s big chance to showcase the latest and greatest from its extensive family of companies, so I always make a point of attending (see my coverage of last year’s conference here if interested). Today I’ll do a flyby of what I consider to be the more impactful announcements from the event. Let’s jump in.

Dell joins the Everything-as-a-Service game

Over the last five years, we’ve seen as-a-Service offerings go from being a unique consumption model to one that’s fairly ubiquitous. Many IT departments employ some shade of as-a-Service, whether we’re talking Device-as-a-Service (DaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or other variations on the theme. These flexible consumption models give organizations the ability to pay for only what they use while also giving them the freedom to scale up or down as business requires (of particular import during these times of market insecurity). And by handing off IT deployment, management and maintenance to third parties, companies can better focus on their strategic business goals. 

Now that these programs have become commonplace, the big players in the IT infrastructure game have their eyes on a new goal: deliver all of their portfolios as-a-Service, or everything-as-a-Service. HPE started talking about this with its GreenLake offering, announcing in 2019 that it would move all of its offerings to an on-demand model by the year 2022. Now we have Dell’s official everything-as-a-Service offering called Project APEX. Don’t think for a second Dell hasn’t been offering many of its offerings as services- it has. It has $6B in annual recurring revenue. I know for a fact it has been doing storage as a service for years. Think of this as going mass market to everyone and everything as a service. 

Essentially, Project APEX is a unification of Dell’s various as-a-Service offerings, cloud strategies, technology and go-to-market abilities under a standard interface. The company says this will simplify how customers consume Dell technology on-demand, providing a more consistent experience across all on-prem infrastructure, edge environments and public clouds. 

The heart of Project APEX is the new Dell Technologies Cloud Console that delivers the unified Dell Technologies experience. This console is where customers deploy workloads, manage their cloud resources, monitor their usage (and associated costs) and shop for new cloud and as-a-Service solutions. One of the good things about the simplicity of the interface is that it’s entirely self-service—you won’t have to deal with salespeople speaking technical jargon and trying to sell you stuff you don’t need. Customers know best what their respective organizations need, and Project APEX provides all the flexibility they need to design, deploy, monitor their custom mix of IT infrastructure.

Along with Project APEX comes a new, on-prem as-a-Service offering, the Dell Technologies Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) portfolio, managed via the new Dell Technologies Cloud Console. Designed for OPEX transactions, the Dell STaaS portfolio includes various scalable and elastic storage resources, with various enterprise features and block and file data services.  

Dell’s IT innovation, broken down

I also gleaned some valuable big picture insights from the conference. COO Jeff Clarke detailed Dell’s strategy for hybrid IT innovation, breaking it down into six different areas. 

The first innovation area, which Project APEX is an excellent example of, is hybrid cloud operating models. Playing into the theme we discussed earlier, more and more companies opt to have their IT managed, end-to-end, through cloud platforms. These organizations are undoubtedly drawn to the added simplicity these services bring and the benefits that flexible consumption models bring to the bottom line. Dell’s goal is to provide a hybrid, multiple-cloud system, spanning public, private and edge environments. It’s easy to see how Project APEX’s unified cloud and as-a-Service platform fits into that vision.

Second, Clarke stressed the need to extend and optimize hybrid cloud for edge environments. This way, data workloads can be managed and analyzed for insights in real-time, close to the source, instead of transmitted back to the datacenter. Third, innovation must occur on the network architecture to support 5G and enable its high speeds and low latencies. 

Fourth, IT architecture requires built-in AI and Machine Learning capabilities. High levels of automation and intelligence are a must for the high-speed data processing that needs to happen in cloud and edge environments. Are you starting to see how all of these fit together? That brings us to the fifth area—perhaps not so much an area unto itself, as it is the sum of all the previous parts. All of these different areas must interconnect and work together as a “cohesive data management system.” This system must function across multiple cloud environments, processing and connecting data as it moves from here to there. 

Last—and I truly believe this should be at the core of every new technology and offering that comes out of the industry at large—is security. The world increasingly revolves around harnessing data and leveraging it to obtain valuable business insights. We’re talking about health data, financial data, critical business data, government data—all manner of data that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands. And though the benefits of cloud and edge computing are huge, it also opens up new attack surfaces for bad actors. IT infrastructure must have built-in security at every juncture, and that security must be predictive rather than reactive, self-defending and generally resilient. Software alone just doesn’t cut it anymore.  

Dell and Covid-19

I am impressed with the tech industry’s ongoing efforts to combat Covid-19 and manage the fallout. Dell has been one of the leaders in this regard, and I’ve written several columns about the company’s efforts (see here and here), but I wanted to mention a couple more that Dell highlighted at the conference. 

We learned that the University of Pisa, a Dell EMC PowerStore and PowerScale customer, supports a nearby hospital’s Covid-19 research with the help of Dell’s all-flash capabilities. At the same time, the University is leveraging Dell’s technology to support a multi-cloud shared service for Tuscany-based agencies, cities and hospitals.

Additionally, Dell shared that drug diversion analytics company Medacist leverages Dell EMC PowerEdge servers, PowerScale storage, CloudIQ storage monitoring and PowerProtect DD within its SaaS-based Genesis platform. Powered by AI, Genesis analyzes healthcare data for abnormalities to spot drug diversion.

I believe technology is at its most compelling when leveraged to help society and the greater good. Dell isn’t the only company that does this, but it is very good at it. Covid-19 is perhaps the most significant challenge we’ve had to face in generations. Whether it’s providing technology to research the virus or helping businesses digitally transform their infrastructure to support remote work, Dell is a crucial player in the tech industry’s battle with the pandemic. 

Wrapping up

Dell’s hybrid and XaaS vision is coming together very nicely, and that seems to be the overarching takeaway from Dell Tech World 2020. I believe the broad Dell Technologies family of companies, including Dell, Dell EMC, VMware, Secureworks, and more, makes the company uniquely suited to address these six crucial considerations for an effective, powerful and secure hybrid cloud model. Data is now king, and the ability to leverage it for intelligent business insights is what’s going to separate the wheat from the chaff in the coming years. Companies hoping to digitally transform and survive tomorrow’s competitive business landscape should consider Dell’s portfolio—now easier than ever to dive into, thanks to Project APEX. As for Project APEX and its potential to simplify and streamline service delivery—it’s what everyone wants, but it’s a lot easier said than built. I’ll be watching with interest.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

+ posts
Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.