Dell Enterprise Execs: Up Close & Personal (Part 2)

AUSTIN, TEXAS:  One of a number of recent hires from other vendors, Paul Perez, Chief Technology Officer, , came to the company from similar roles at Cisco Systems and Hewlett Packard, the other two companies I’ll be visiting in the next few days. As part of his presentation, he talked about the “future-ready enterprise”, customer choice, and application programming interface (API) computing.

He said customers see the future as bright, but they’re concerned about how to get there. They’re looking for someone to make the right infrastructure, and then make it disappear — i.e. get rid of, or at least mask, the complexity. As for the API economy, Perez said we’re all technology businesses, looking for speed to value.

In a one-on-one briefing he said that prior to joining Dell he had been hearing from large customers that Dell had cool products and were willing to do special things for us, and do them very quickly. Shortly after arriving he was called up by four very large household brand businesses asking him “What he saw in Dell?” He told them their business applications.

In another anecdote, he was at a large manufacturer last week talking about Dell’s software tools. They wanted to know how to establish a pairing relationship with Dell, but that Dell would have to prove they could bring value, not just product.

A recent meeting with BT (British Telecom) involved Dell services, and based on that, he ended up scheduling another meeting with them and Michael Dell. Then there was the healthcare customer that he had a relationship with for 10 years. HP was their vendor of choice, and he followed up on them when he moved to Cisco. They called him up and he’s scheduled a meeting with him and Michael for next week.

Perez said there are multiple examples like this, enterprises looking to Dell for help. “About 60% of the companies we talk to have IT budgets that are flat or declining.” So in a world where total cost of ownership — not just the lowest purchase price — is becoming more important, Dell is gathering momentum, he said.

Although he’s been with Dell for more than two years, Dr. Jai Menon, Chief Research Officer and VP, spent 30 years with IBM, most recently as CTO. He is responsible for ‘driving organic, long-range, disruptive innovation that bridges across all of Dell’s focus areas’. “The timing was just right to create a research group.”

He noted that the cooperative efforts between Dell’s storage and server groups on flash tiering was an example of the type of collaborative efforts he had been trying to foster at IBM. Another storage area he is focused on is next-generation non-volatile flash memory. Still a couple of years away, Menon said if a task in DRAM takes one second, flash would be 1 hour, disk would be 1 week and tape would be 1 century. The new technology would take the equivalent of 10 seconds, but would be 5X cheaper than DRAM.

Another area that holds huge promise, is the carrier space and NFV (network functions virtualization). He said it will provide tremendous savings for carriers and enterprises, enabling them to do the switching on Dell servers, rather than requiring specialized switches. Menon said a recent trial with the city of Austin involved a quarter-rack Dell server handling 1 million customers’ communications.

“I really think that will change the server TAM coming to Dell… $150 billion opportunity with telcos, coming to servers.” That’s a huge opportunity, considering that the current server market is $50 billion, he said

Dell was the first to create a POC (proof of concept) new standard, new products and new customers. And it was all done within 18 months, and as a private company.

Once the R&D has identified a solution, then its time for the likes of , said Jim Ganthier, VP and GM, Dell and Cloud. “Then we engage the machine!”

With Dell for 5 months, he spent the previous 20-plus years at HP. Ganthier said Dell is pretty good when it comes to that. He added that one of the things that makes them smile is that at the end of the year, Dell will be the only end-to-end vendor still standing.

There are basic differences between the hyperscale and enterprise customers, i.e. the typical HS customer runs 1-3 applications on thousands of servers while enterprises run thousands of applications on millions of servers. However there are also similarities. “At the end of the day customers want to set up infrastructure really fast.”

It’s somewhat similar with the cloud, said Ganthier, which can be anywhere — public, private or hybrid. But customers still want access to it.

A Compaq veteran, Ashley Gorakhpurwalla, VP and GM, , Dell Server Solutions, has held this responsibility for the last 8 months, but has spent almost 16 years with his Texas competitor, and 20 years in total on servers. He said the market had changed over the last decade, evolving more to looking for help moving to agile IT.  The movement accelerated internally when the company set up DCS 8 years ago. “We bring the benefits of hyperscale to anyone’s scale.”

Dell has been pushing the software defined networking (SDN) agenda for the last few years, in addition to NFV and open networking standards, and that falls under Tom Burns, VP and GM, Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure. For the most part, the market is focused on trials. Some customers want to jump on it right away, but he said most are just trying to figure out the implications.

The company offers a variety of options, but the key is that they can start how and when they want to, without having to do a rip-and-replace when they do decided to enable SDN on Dell’s networking products, he said. The market appears to be broken into two camps: companies with CTOs are exploring SDN, while traditional IT shops aren’t. Burns expects the market to continue to grow, but the real growth won’t take place for another 18-24 months.

As the research numbers indicate, Dell is selling a lot of storage right now. “We’ve gained share in the last three quarters,” said Alan Atkinson, VP and GM, Dell Storage.

The company has been pushing total storage shipped — external and internal storage in the server — and he expects internal storage to continue to grow at the expense of external. External won’t go away because it’s better for some specific workloads, but he thinks the compound annual growth rate will continue to shrink over the foreseeable future. Internal storage is growing at 30-50% CAGR annually, and that’s on a significant base in the billions of dollars, added Atkinson.

The other major change is flash memory, which will continue to grow strongly, especially on the server side. It’s still early days for software defined storage (SDS), and he believes Dell is done very well with products like Blue Thunder. However Atkinson believes there will not be a one-size-fits-all SDS, so Dell will support as many as customers demand on their server platform.

DISCLAIMER: Still here on Dell’s dime.

Author: Steve Wexler

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