IT Leadership

From the Edge to the Core to the Cloud, Dell Serves Digital Disruption

At the recently concluded Dell Technologies World 2018 in Las Vegas, Michael Dell shared his vision of technology as the driver of human progress. A tall goal, no doubt, but one that embodies the spirit of the 34 years-old company that has, over the years, successfully evolved to become a technology behemoth touching almost every technology component that goes behind making business possible.

 With a full year and a quarter gone into the completion of Dell’s acquisition of EMC and their combined synergies established, the company has never been more settled and in a better position to take on the competition. Powered by a diverse portfolio, drawing upon the product lines from Dell, EMC, VMware, Pivotal, RSA and other parts of the family, Dell Technologies is ready to deliver on the promise of driving digital transformation for the future.

 However, the road ahead is tough. Market challenges have grown manifold with customers demanding hyper-efficient infrastructure that is ready to run unpredictable and demanding workloads. Then, there are pure play cloud service providers, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and even IBM trying to lure the market with an Opex model. And, on top of it, there are market disruptors cropping up in the form of new age technology startups.

 As part of its “Enablers of Digital” series, Rahul Neel Mani and Shipra Malhotra of dynamicCIO spoke toRajesh Janey, President and Managing Director, Enterprise for Dell EMC India to understand how the company has readied itself for the new world reality where technology disruptions are second nature and being agile is the game changer. He also talks about the company’s strategy around digitally transforming businesses to enable them to drive growth, create new business models and become more customer-centric and innovative.

 DynamicCIO: This year’s Dell Technologies World has an overarching theme “Platform for the Possible.” Perhaps, it’s an indication towards readying the company in the era of hyper growth. How would you interpret it? Tell us about Dell Technologies’ readiness to provide a platform that is super agile, contemporary, complete and future ready?

Rajesh Janey: ‘Platform for the Possible’ resonates with our purpose to drive human progress using technology. We believe that given the technology human beings can achieve far more than what is possible without the help of technology. Ultimately, technology and human beings together drive the human progress. That’s what is the ‘Platform of the Possible’ – making it possible for human beings to achieve things that they could not have done. At Dell Technologies, there’s a lot of development and innovation taking place. We have created a strategically aligned family of businesses consisting of 7 companies, which help customers build a platform ‘from the Edge to the Core, to the Cloud’ to deliver to the new world, which is digitally transformed. And we support the transformation of our customers all the way.

  1. India Inc.’s digital story has just begun. Every organization today wants extreme automation to succeed. CIOs are looking at hyper-efficient infrastructure that gives flexibility of cloud and security/control of on-premise. The infrastructure should be able to run unpredictable workloads to accommodate business demands. How has Dell Technologies readied itself to make it all possible?

RJ: I would say, we are not only ready but also on course of becoming the ideal choice for organisations who are working to digitally empower themselves. My firm belief is that digital transformation is supported by four key pillars:

The first pillar is Digital Transformation itself. You need to have new age applications, which can help in your journey of digitally transformed business.

Second, it should and must be supported by IT Transformation. One cannot imagine a digitally transformed world and applications without a commensurate technology infrastructure supporting it.

Third pillar is Workforce Transformation. The infrastructure should be able to support the workforce of the future. It should support their needs and aspirations, and at the same time the new way of working – whether it is mobile or remote working.

The fourth and the most critical pillar is Security Transformation because while you are doing everything, the information has to be absolutely secure and the privacy also needs to be protected.

So, Dell Technologies, as a technology conglomerate, is well-positioned to deliver on the aspirations of the CIOs through its robust technologies based on the four key pillars explained above.

  1. What does Dell Technologies deliver through these four strategic pillars that you just explained?

RJ: In terms of IT Transformation, we offer numerous choices to our customers. Customers who are tech savvy and have integration expertise can go with the build option. They can buy the best-of-breed components and put them together. For customers who want to focus more on application and software and less on the infrastructure, we have the buy option. And, that’s where our Converged Infrastructure (CI) and Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) offerings like VxRail, VxRack, VxBlock, among others, come handy. Along with this information infrastructure you also need a robust data backup, protection and security. All that is integrated as part of our platforms. We have workforce transformation starting from device to embedded security within the devices, and also mobility solutions coming from various strategically aligned family of businesses. Pivotal offers an excellent way of application transformation and agile application development.

So, if you look at the whole spectrum, we have the ability to offer all the four key pillars and at the same time deliver infrastructure solutions, which will allow them to be agile, provide a ‘cloud-like’ experience, and yet build on-premise or off-premise. This is driven by our belief that we are living in a multi-cloud world where customers will have a combination of certain services and applications on-premise and certain services and applications on different types of clouds. We should allow customers to have the choice and flexibility to deploy something on premise and yet allow them to connect to any kind of cloud service provider that they want to work with.

DC: How would you compare Dell Technologies with the pure play cloud providers, which are there and trying to grab the market including the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and even IBM?

RJ: As I said earlier, technology users are looking at deploying some applications on-premise and some on the cloud. The future is about living in a multi-cloud environment. Hence, we partner with service providers globally, including India to deliver on the expectations of the users rather than pushing our agenda on them. At the same time, through our family of strategically aligned businesses, such as Virtustream, we also offer customers to host their mission critical operations on our cloud. Thus, we have a combination of offerings for both the possibilities and we partner in any which way we can with the various options they want to deploy. The idea is to offer customers the choice and flexibility, and not resist what they want to do.

DC: Enterprise workloads are increasing at an abnormal speed and to have a commensurate infrastructure there would be need for a lot more storage and computing power, and AI-ready infrastructure – and not just for the cloud – for the edge and the core too. How is Dell Technologies addressing this space, specially in the case of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence capabilities?

RJ: It’s my firm belief that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and combined with it IoT will play a decisive role in defining the future of technology deployment and intelligent usage of applications and the underlying IT infrastructure. AI, ML and IoT will be creating an inter-dependent ecosystem. You cannot have IoT devices or sensors embedded without having intelligence embedded into it because then its only collecting data and not converting data to information to knowledge to actionable insights. IoT will have to be something like IoT with IQ and, therefore, it has to be supported by AI and ML.

Most of the future technologies and solutions from our side will have AI and ML embedded into them. Already there are a lot of examples of that within our solution portfolio. For instance, in storage we have now introduced an ML-based engine to move data between tiers of storage depending on its usage. The good part is that within our strategically aligned family of businesses, focusing from Edge to Core to Cloud, we have the ability to offer the customers solutions which are embedded with AI/ML, and finally helping them drive towards Digital Transformation leveraging IoT with IQ built into it.

DC: Technology today is the top agenda for business leaders. Technology strategy is the new business strategy. Where do you, as an industry visionary, see the momentum shifting? How are technology providers aligning themselves to solve these new, unique challenges facing users?

RJ: Technology isn’t developed in isolation. The companies who want to sustain and succeed have to closely work with customers to develop the products required to solve the complex business issues. Given the scenario where data explosion and information growth is the new normal, where more than a million cyber-attacks happen every day and attention spans of human beings has become shorter than ever, one needs a radically different approach to IT altogether. We need technology that is agile, consumes a lot of data and allows customers to choose options to scale up and scale down depending on workloads. That’s precisely what we are doing. We introduced Flash way back and knew it will be an established standard someday. That’s what happened and now we are getting into the next generation of Flash. We also announced next-generation storage products during the recently concluded Dell Technologies World that will allow customers to ingest large amounts of data at a very high speed, analyze it in real time and provide insights back for quicker, intelligent decision making.

Given our focus on the ‘Edge to the Core to the Cloud’, I firmly believe that the intelligence will shift more and more to the edge because that’s where the decision making is taking place and the action is. The Core will be driven more for intelligence and reacting to whatever is coming from the edge. And, cloud will be used more for deep learning. For understanding this concept better, let’s take the example of a modern, high-end car with multiple collision prevention sensors built in it. If the car is going at a particular speed and there is an obstruction ahead, it senses based on the sonar, the distance, etc. and it has the ability to apply the brake. All this decision has to happen in real-time at the edge, which means that the car should have the compute capability to do it in real-time. Now, if it is happening twice or thrice, then it needs to go to, what we call, at the core and come back as to whether a software update is required or everything is ok and driving habits need to change. But, if this happens everyday, twice or thrice on the route and happens consistently over two months’ period, then this knowledge gets into cloud. The deep learning in the cloud can tell that on this route one always finds some kind of collision-like conditions and can come back with suggestions to changing the route or changing the driving habit. That’s the kind of deep learning, which has to come from the cloud. Today, all of our seven strategically aligned family of businesses that make up Dell Technologies help customers take the decision from the Edge to the Core to the Cloud.

DC: One of the biggest challenges for Dell and EMC, when the two merged, was to create a technology conglomerate, which integrates both product families and also the culture. How has it happened? Has the integration resulted in a better, wider product offering giving users a trusted choice?

RJ: It has been exactly a full fiscal year and a fiscal quarter as a combined entity. Having witnessed and being part of two M&As in the past, I can say this is the best of my lifetime so far. I call it the best for multiple reasons. The promise of bringing the technologies together has lived up to its expectations. Firstly, we have been able to bring the strength of both companies and translate that into a customer delight. Secondly, the offerings resonate well with the demands of the customers in the digital age. We get a lot of positive feedback from our customers. Our portfolio of offerings and our story around the four pillars of Digital, IT, Workforce and Security transformation is the bedrock of our success.

Talking about the culture, if you go back to the history, both companies were very strong partners and then they drifted away somewhere and then again came back together. Culturally, there are a lot of similarities and that has eased the integration. The key part of the integration was the intervening one year after the announcement. The kind of detailed planning and execution that was done, ensured that right from day one of the first fiscal, everyone was focused on only one entity, which was customer. Our focus from day one was ‘customer first’ and how to solve their complex business problems. That energized the entire company and the focus never shifted from serving the customer.

In all, the portfolio, the messaging, the customer connect and the cultural alignment are the key factors, which have helped us deliver great results quarter on quarter post the merger. Today, Dell has become the #1 server vendor in terms of both units and revenues. We continue the pole positon on the storage front both globally and in India. We are executing well. In India, particularly, we have had multiple quarters of market share gains. Our Hyper Converged infrastructure or VxRail portfolio is doing exceedingly well. If I were to summarize the last one year in terms of performance, I would say, I am pleased but not satisfied. There is a lot more to be done. A lot more can be done given the portfolio and the width of the offerings that we have.

DC: A lot of new disruptors are cropping up and are showing promising gains both in terms of acceptability and market outreach. How does a 34-years old tech giant keep pace with those disruptors and disruptions? How do you see Dell Technologies evolve organically or inorganically to compete with them?

RJ: We are big and small at the same time. On one hand, we are a $74 billion company that is spread across multiple continents with thousands of employees. But, that is just one aspect of it. If you look at our structure, it is built around seven strategically aligned family of businesses. This allows each one of the strategically aligned family of businesses to work together and yet act independently.

In terms of new disruptors, I would say competition is always part of business ecosystem. Its good from the customers’ perspective to have new companies jumping into the fray as it helps us keep driving innovation and better ourselves. The startups and the new entrants are always welcome because they also keep us young and agile. It’s our relationship with our customers and with partners and also our footprint and presence from a supportability perspective, which makes us a better option. These are the strengths that we retain over the new age companies. It isn’t easy to have that kind of customer and partner loyalty and sustain it year after year. These factors differentiate us from the new age technology companies. From the technology perspective, anyways, we also keep bringing in innovation. Some of our new announcements at the Dell Technologies world 2018 are testimony to the kind of innovation that we have been unleashing.

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