Dell Technologies World took place in Las Vegas on May 22, 2023. The latest show was my eleventh successive attendance at an annual Dell event, and it was one of the most decisive and inspiring events I have attended in a while. One of the first things I do at these shows before I sort through the various announcements is to gauge the confidence of the senior management team, and in this case CEO Michael Dell, co-COOs Chuck Whitten and Jeff Clarke and others were confident and accessible.
Over the years, Dell has been a company that has learned how to weather the storm. Today, I believe Dell has the wind in its sails, and I think you will agree as I sort through the various announcements and initiatives from the show
Approaching hybrid cloud from a position of strength
Regular readers will know I have advocated for hybrid multi-cloud for more than a decade—since way before it was cool. It was good to see Dell creating a managed services portfolio for customers to use multi-cloud. Strategically, Dell is using a position of strength in storage as its starting point. Parlaying storage into data and data into AI across multi-cloud is a winning strategy. Dell APEX Storage for Public Cloud applies Dell’s block and file enterprise storage performance and features to AWS and Microsoft Azure for management, data mobility and security. Customers can move data seamlessly between on-premises environments and Dell APEX Storage for Public Cloud deployments.
It must have warmed many enterprise hearts to see Dell embracing all the major players in the cloud space. APEX is Dell’s as-a-service brand for pretty much everything that it offers as a service. Announcements centered on seamlessly extending public cloud operating environments to on-premises IT deployments. New jointly engineered offerings with Microsoft, Red Hat and VMware joined the portfolio of Dell APEX Cloud Platforms. These are integrated, turnkey systems integrating Dell infrastructure, software and cloud operating stacks.Meanwhile, Dell APEX Navigator‘s new SaaS software will address data mobility, storage and container management across multi-cloud environments and Kubernetes storage management.
Dell is the largest commercial PC provider, and enterprises want everything offered as a service—so of course this makes sense. Dell APEX PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) will enable enterprises to deploy the latest client technology with predictable costs. Enterprises can customize offerings across the entire PC portfolio—including devices, software and services—with flexible one- to five-year terms and the ability to scale up or down as needed.
As we all expect these days: the AI discussion
Dell is collaborating with Nvidia on Project Helix to make it easier for enterprises to deploy generative AI on-premises. The initiative will deliver full-stack solutions with expertise and pre-built tools based on Dell and Nvidia infrastructure and software. It will include a blueprint to help enterprises deploy generative AI responsibly and accurately using private datasets.
Since enterprises are now trying to figure out the best compute location for AI training and inference, Dell’s biggest challenge will be to convince folks that these AI operations are best performed on the private cloud and at the edge. That said, Dell is looking to join the AI arms race by providing the infrastructure that is going to be required to train models and deploy enterprise AI. The hyperscalers are offering this as a service. Still, large enterprises also need to determine how to do it on-premises, with data privacy, security and governance as significant considerations.
Project Helix is interesting as a means to preconfigure, build and image out servers and devices to be leveraged for generative AI applications. I expect this initiative to be something that eventually launches across the industry. Dell already has many of the core technologies and other requirements to be a big player in this transition.
Software to transform edge operations
Dell has released Dell NativeEdge (formerly Project Frontier), a new edge operations software platform. The software will enable remote management, multi-cloud connectivity and secure device onboarding at scale. The new platform ensures that the solution is installed consistently and consolidates multiple applications and use cases into one architecture. Even better, users can apply automated workflows simultaneously to thousands of devices across all locations.
For example, let’s say a retailer wants to roll out an edge solution across hundreds of stores to run a new retail application. Traditionally, experts would need to pre-stage and deploy infrastructure, software and applications at each store, which requires local teams to run the implementation process at every site—something that can take months to complete. Additionally, there must be a central management process across all stores, usually separate for infrastructure and applications. This introduces a variety of risks to ongoing operations, from degrading customer experience to becoming vulnerable to a security breach or system failure.
In contrast, Dell NativeEdge allows customers to run applications sourced from the platform’s catalog, synchronized with a continuous integration and deployment pipeline. Each store receives a shipment of NativeEdge-enabled devices requiring no specialist support to install. Pre-configured applications are automatically deployed on the new devices, then monitored and managed remotely throughout the lifecycle.
Analyst Wrap Up
All in all, Dell Technologies World 2023 was an excellent show. I think Dell scored some points and threw the multicloud gauntlet down in a new way that I liked.
Ten years ago, my company said that the future would be hybrid multicloud. Today, every large organization I talk to has multiple IaaS providers. The problem is that they have a different AppDevSecOps team for every IaaS provider. This reminds me of the “good old days” with separate mainframe, minicomputer, RISC server and X86 server team. Very complex. AWS, GCP or Azure will never provide a magic API to work together so for the next decade so enterprises will be on their own, current course and speed.
Dell Tech wants to be the “go-to” vendor to help simplify this, using what I call hybrid, multicloud “fabrics” to connect the on-prem datacenter, colo facility, edge and multiple IaaS providers. And do this as a service with APEX. Dell is starting with storage and a few data fabrics like DR and Ransomware Protection and is moving into compute fabrics. These starting points make sense as this is an area of Dell strength. While Dell doesn’t have as many on-prem as a service offerings as its competitors, I am convinced, over time, that these areas will be filled in. And let’s not forget that Dell spans datacenter, edge, and PCs, unlike most of its competitors. The natural product progression would be to add specific horizontal services followed by vertical capabilities. Horizontally, I’d like to see the company create more IP for the data management layer. Companies like Cloudera could be a great partner for this and is what I consider a need in the portfolio. Alliances with companies like Snowflake, databricks, Starburst, and Teradata are nice, but none of these solve the data management problem across the hybrid multicloud.
As I step back and look a what got Dell to where it is now, its multicloud strategy reflects that. It’s pulling disparate partners capabilities together for end customer benefit. That’s what Dell did on day one and this is what its doing in the cloud. The only thing we can debate with that approach is profits. My response is that no one should worry about that knowing Michael Dell and the leadership team.