The highlight of day two at the EqualLogic User Conference in San Diego was the involvement of Michael Dell, whose company acquired EqualLogic in 2007. Mr. Dell walked the halls talking to end-users, presented a lively keynote and participated in a small Q&A for bloggers. The presence of Mr. Dell, an industry icon, delivered this message to conference attendees: EqualLogic customers are important.
Mr. Dell opened his keynote by reminding the audience that Dell started as a storage company--building hard disk drive upgrade kits for the first generation of IBM PCs that had only floppy disk drives. He then joked about his switch to selling computers and how he ended up doing "okay." But he followed with a serious litany of Dell storage accomplishments. Since the acquisition of EqualLogic, Dell has installed over 46,000 arrays; achieved a run-rate over $800 million in EqualLogic revenue; added 22,000 customers; lowered storage costs by an average of one third; and achieved 98 percent customer satisfaction. He inferred that as a result of this success, Dell EqualLogic is now installing huge petabyte configurations that position the company to scale into larger enterprises.
Mr. Dell then looked forward. He talked about expanding the Dell storage franchise to include block and file services based on Exascale technology, and he talked about Dell's intention to be a leader in Ethernet storage that features lossless Ethernet based on Data Center Bridging (DCB). Lastly, one end-user asked Mr. Dell to comment on the attempted 3Par acquisition. After several comments about the exorbitant premium paid for 3Par, he summarized by saying, "at some point, winning equals losing."
Events of this type are hardly known for inspirational moments, but this event was an exception. During the Q&A with about a dozen end-user bloggers, the room went silent as one blogger described how he was visually impaired, and how difficult it was for him to use the EqualLogic GUI. He politely, but boldly, asked Mr. Dell if EqualLogic would consider doing something to make the GUI more friendly for him and others like him. Before Mr. Dell had a chance to answer, a Dell software engineering executive in the room said that after a major re-write, version 5.0 of the EqualLogic firmware was compliant with certain parts of Section 508 standards for IT accessibility. The smiles on the faces of everyone in the room said it all. Afterwards, I spoke briefly to the visually impaired end-user and I'm hoping to write a follow-up article about his specific needs and the 508 standards.
While center-stage, Mr. Dell mentioned the need to take risks. As a result, I'm looking for Dell to continue its aggressive acquisition of components needed to strengthen their storage portfolio. Later this week, I'll wrap-up my coverage of the Dell EqualLogic User Conference.