Dell has had all of the pieces for a number of years to be a next generation technology company that does more than just sell products but to actually integrate them and solve the broader, real world problems that enterprises face. However, to date, Dell has been trapped in the world of “1+1+1=1” where organizations only get the individual value that each Dell product has to offer but no broader synergistic value that using all of their products together could potentially and ideally collectively deliver. Yet at this year’s Dell World 2014, I saw more tangible evidence that the bigger value proposition that Dell has the potential and technologies to deliver is getting much closer to being a reality.
Anyone who has been paying any attention to Dell over the last few years would have noticed it has purchased a slew of other technology companies that are now part of its portfolio. Just a few of the companies that is has acquired during this period of time include AppAssure, Compellent, EqualLogic, Ocarina Networks, Quest Software and SonicWall along with many others.
But Dell, like many other large companies that have gone on acquisition sprees, has largely failed to bring these disparate technologies together in a meaningful way that benefited organizations. While individual products within Dell’s technology portfolio obviously did well as standalone solutions within Dell – EqualLogic and Compellent particularly come to mind – Dell really did not ship as an end –to-end, integrated solution that harnessed the best of what all of these respective technologies had to offer and delivered them in a way that was easy for organizations to understand, digest and then use in their environments.
While Dell is not there yet (and may never be from the perspective of having these technologies “perfectly” integrated together,) it has made huge strides in the last year toward achieving this objective. Some integration is already in action and has been shipping for some time. Case in point, it has been leveraging the deduplication technology that was part of its Ocarina Networks acquisition a number of years, incorporating that into its Compellent and EqualLogic lines of storage arrays, DR series of deduplicating backup appliances, DL series of integrated backup appliances and its various backup software offerings (AppAssure, NetVault Backup and vRanger) to enable all of these different products with data deduplication capabilities.
Yet the broader integration that organizations really want companies like Dell to deliver is the end-to-end integration of their various software and hardware products so that their deployment does not result in the complex, discombobulated data centers that exist in too many of today’s enterprises.
Sure, there is value in each of these respective hardware and software products whether they come from Dell or another provider. But where Dell is really positioned and poised to set itself apart is that it can do more than offer each of these respective products. It can deliver them in such a way that the initial implementation and then their ongoing management do NOT become a long term distraction to the company’s business.
Evidence that this type of integration is happening throughout Dell’s entire product portfolio was apparent everywhere at this year’s Dell World. For example, all of the respective backup and recovery teams for the respective data protection products are closely working together to leverage the best technologies of what each product has to offer so they may be managed as one. While each product will remain separate and distinct, enterprises that need more than one for their unique business requirement will be able to realize distinct benefits by acquiring all of them from Dell.
Already enterprises can get access to all three of Dell’s backup software technologies (AppAssure, NetVault Backup and vRanger) by acquiring a single, capacity-based license. This option frees enterprises to select the best data protection technology for each of their applications without having to determine which product trade-off they want to live with. This also gives enterprises the flexibility to swap one out with another in the event that the product they initially implemented does not meet the application’s needsshort or long term. In other words, the “fear factor” associated with implementing these technologies is greatly reduced or even implemented.
These are good first steps by Dell but what is more encouraging is all of the “off the record” conversations that I had with product managers in the hallways, lobbies and restaurants in and around Dell World. One could just sense an energy that was missing at previous Dell Worlds (I have been to the last two.)
They are palpably excited about what the new private Dell is doing. People are talking to one another. Departments are working with one another to share technologies and do more than to protect their own turf. There is a free flow and exchange of ideas going on. Integration is happening that is going to fundamentally turn data centers upside down by making them easier to manage even as they add more value to the business.
These are heady times for Dell. While Dell still has to execute on these plans, dreams and visions that it has about the future, the good news is that it already owns many if not all of the core technologies it needs to make these dreams, plans and visions a reality. Now it just has to deliver. Based upon what I saw at Dell World 2014, that execution is happening and, when it is finished (which may be sooner than its competitors anticipate,) Dell is going to give them a run for both corporate data centers and their money.