Dell Fills Out Cloud Plans

Announcing a spate of cloud partnerships, Dell begins to firm up its new identity.

Michael Endler

December 13, 2013

6 Min Read
Network Computing logo

10 Jobs Destined For Robots

10 Jobs Destined For Robots

10 Jobs Destined For Robots(click image for larger view)

If taking his company private hasn't made Dell CEO Michael Dell more relaxed and confident, he put on a convincing facade during his opening keynote Thursday at Dell World.

"Shazam!" Dell exclaimed after Dell Servers VP and GM Forrest Norrod demonstrated the company's Fluid Cache for SAN storage product achieving over 5 million IOPS, which Dell claimed is a world record.

"When you go cloud, go with Dell. KABOOM!" Dell said in another of his more exuberant moments, many of which also included references to the R&D freedom the company can enjoy now that it's no longer subject to Wall Street's quarterly scrutiny. Dell can operate like "the world's largest start-up," the CEO declared, repeating a line that company executives have used since the buyout was finalized.

Figure 1: Dell CEO Michael Dell speaks at Dell World 2013Dell CEO Michael Dell speaks at Dell World 2013

But showmanship is par for the course during major tech keynotes. Many among the thousands of Dell customers in attendance seemed engaged by the CEO's feisty tone, but many were no doubt asking the same question: What does all this mean for me and my business?

Dell executives have addressed this concern in recent weeks, but largely in broad terms. On Thursday, the company revealed specifics, announcing a variety of cloud partnerships and innovation initiatives that CEO Dell said would return the company to its heritage: bringing customers the products they need at disruptive prices.

The announcements were highlighted by an OEM alliance with Red Hat in which the two companies will jointly engineer systems that run Red Hat's version of the open-source OpenStack cloud platform. The company also announced partnerships with a variety of public cloud vendors, including Google, Microsoft Azure, and CenturyLink. It's an impressive roster, even if it omits the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Amazon Web Services.

The gist is that Dell, unlike competitors such as HP and IBM, doesn't see the benefit in building out its own public cloud. Instead, the company has opted to partner with others, which allows it to focus on simplifying cloud management and orchestration instead of building out the underlying infrastructure.

[Is Dell's Venue Pro the right Windows tablet for you? Read Microsoft Surface vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals.]

The partnerships announced Thursday also include a deal with Dropbox. Dell will offer Dropbox for Business through its sales force and pair it with Dell Data Protection Cloud. Dell's technology encrypts data as it moves in and out of public clouds. Dropbox says more than 4 million businesses are using its product. Ross Piper, the company's VP of Enterprise Strategy, told InformationWeek it hadn't yet been determined when the Dell-backed offering will roll out.

Other Dell announcements included the Dell Research Division and the Dell Venture Fund, two projects intended to spur innovation. The Dell Research Division will focus on organic growth with a long-range focus and will collaborate with leading research universities to harness emerging technologies, Michael Dell said. The $300 million venture fund will identify and support early-stage startups from around the world.

Dell executives also emphasized that though the company's future is in software and services, it remains committed to the PC market. Dell is one of several companies that have taken a beating, both financially and in the press, as the PC slump has worn on. But Michael Dell emphasized the promise of new products, such as its Venue tablet line, and claimed the company is seeing growth in notebooks.

Dell promised the company would release 4K monitors in early 2014 for "well under" $1,000. Such a price would be extremely aggressive for the displays, which typically cost several thousands of dollars. With four times the resolution of typical HD models, 4K monitors offer obvious appeal to artists, gamers, and stock analysts -- but with sub-$1,000 pricing, the user base could grow much larger.

In addition to announcing new products and services, Dell execs reiterated messaging points they've been using throughout the year. These points include the four major pillars around which the company is organizing its efforts: Transform, which Dell said involves moving clients off of mainframes and onto modern architecture; Connect, which pertains to securely linking and managing devices, including cross-platform BYOD environments; Inform, which revolves around big data and analytics; and Protect, which encompasses the company's security efforts.

Figure 2:

Dell execs alluded to future developments in each of these areas. Michael Dell said the company would produce a new x86 server that will support up to 6 TB of DRAM, for instance, and that the company is working with SAP on optimized HANA offerings. But in talking up the pillars, Dell leaders also seemed to emphasize that the company has continued to advance, even as the buyout process overshadowed its activities since February.

Dell Software President John Swainson said it's "only been a year since we took seven or eight acquisition and started to rationalize all the great technologies." The company hasn't spent billions of M&A dollars in 2013 like it did in 2012, in other words, but that doesn't mean operations came to a standstill while the buyout process wore on.

Indeed, the company's cloud partnerships illustrate the progress it has made implementing new intellectual properties. When Dell purchased Enstratius in May, for example, InformationWeek's Charles Babcock noted that "Dell can start to realize more of its ambition to be the link to and management agent between many cloud users and their service supplier." With the new announcements, this strategy is precisely the one Dell has followed.

Swainson foreshadowed other upcoming refinements to the company's software portfolio. He noted, for example, that technologies from its Wyse and KACE product lines will be blended into a single Dell Enterprise Mobility Management product to help companies manage devices and protect data.  

"It will do what Dell does best -- [provide] strategic tech and IP to a hard customer problem, and allow them to find the way they want to operate in that environment," he said.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. Michael graduated from Stanford in 2005 and previously worked in talent representation, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher.

Cloud Connect Summit, March 31 - April 1 2014, offers a two-day program colocated at Interop Las Vegas developed around "10 critical cloud decisions." Cloud Connect Summit zeros in on the most pressing cloud technology, policy and organizational decisions & debates for the cloud-enabled enterprise. Cloud Connect Summit is geared toward a cross-section of disciplines with a stake in the cloud-enabled enterprise. Register for Cloud Connect Summit today.

About the Author(s)

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox
More Insights