Dell EMC World 2017 – Helping Customers Realize Conscious Transformation

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.

Big ideas are common currency in the IT industry but they take on even larger roles at vendors’ annual customer and partner conferences. That’s certainly the case at Dell EMC World 2017, the second such event hosted by the company since Dell completed its acquisition of EMC last September.

For the 13,500 customer and partner attendees looking to see what the company has planned for the coming year, the catchword is “REAL-IZE.” The primary focus rests on how Dell EMC aims to help customers achieve and make real what it calls “digital transformation.”

Don’t be surprised if this sounds familiar. The concept of digital transformation has been around for a while, as has the related notion of “democratizing” IT so that effective new technologies and solutions are easily accessible in a broad range of organizations and industries. However, Dell EMC has an interesting take on how this is likely to occur and what it will do to facilitate the process for customers and partners.

Dell EMC – a transformative history

Some may consider “digital transformation” a cliché, but that’s a cynical rejoinder for something that has been so central for so long to the success of both IT vendors and their clients and partners. As Stella Low, Dell EMC’s SVP of corporate communications succinctly put it, digital transformation enables businesses to achieve three notable goals:

  1. To pursue new routes to market
  2. To develop new forms of customer engagement
  3. To offer customers new experiences

As an aside, one could argue that these points have been keys to the success of technologically-enabled businesses since the Industrial Revolution. But more recently, they also played central roles in the early and continuing evolution of both Dell and EMC.

For example, as a young entrepreneur, Michael Dell recognized that he could use technologically-enabled supply chain capabilities to enable customers to easily customize and buy PCs that cost less than competitors’ rigidly designed, mass produced products. EMC pursued a similarly technically-enabled evolution, moving from its initial focus on producing computer memory to developing its innovative Symmetrix storage systems for IBM mainframes and turning enterprise IT on its ear.

Those transformational processes progressed and evolved as the two companies grew into multi-billion dollar entities, and continues today as Dell EMC embraces emerging new innovations. In other words, Dell EMC isn’t just exhorting the value of digital transformation for strategic gain. Since the company has continually evolved and prospered by actively embracing digital transformation, it can provide insightful guidance for organizations hoping to achieve similar benefits and success.

The transformative process

So how does Dell EMC envision its place in customers’ digital transformations? According to Jeremy Burton, Dell EMC’s CMO, the process follows two dynamic, parallel paths driven by specific challenges and enabled by the company’s individual business units.

Central to these efforts is a transformation of IT that improves end user experience and provides greater insights into computing assets and investments. This includes efforts to modernize data centers, automate service delivery and transform IT operations, efforts that are being driven by the company’s core system, storage and networking BUs. Additionally, it can incorporate solutions and services from Dell EMC’s Virtustream and VMware organizations.

But the company’s IT transformation effort also extends to solutions for two other areas: workforce and security. The former is experiencing unprecedented changes due to the hiring of millennials whose familiarity with new and emerging technologies offers their employers remarkable potential benefits and can result in considerable challenges. Dell’s client/endpoint business is the leading edge of the company’s efforts here.

Security transformation is being driven by a host of serious factors, including the fundamental shift in customers’ security requirements and related solutions, an increasingly dangerous and complex threat landscape, and the continual evolution of cyber criminals, threats and attack vectors. Dell EMC’s RSA and SecureWorks businesses provide critical solutions that address a range of customers’ growing security concerns.

Finally, the company associates “digital transformation” of customers’ core business processes with its Pivotal organization. That may seem a bit counterintuitive for a group that is best known as a provider of developer-focused tools, like Spring and Cloud Foundry. But Pivotal’s focus on cloud-native apps and enhancing development processes is changing the way companies develop, deliver and support business applications and services.

Practical transformation

Why is Dell EMC’s transformation strategy important?

Marketing rhetoric aside, what practical new solutions have been introduced at Dell EMC World that can help customers digitally transform their businesses and organizations? Since my friend and colleague, David Hill of the Mesabi Group, provided insights on the company’s new storage solutions, I’ll focus my attention on other areas.

On the server/systems side, Dell EMC introduced the 14th generation of its venerable PowerEdge server line, highly scalable solutions that offer up to 19X more Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) low latency storage than the prior generation. That significantly improves application performance and response time. For example, the company noted that the new solutions can support up to 50% more VDI users per server than previous PowerEdge offerings.

The new systems offer a next-generation OpenManage Enterprise console designed to simplify and unify system management processes. They also support new security features for enhanced protection against malicious threats and unwanted internal changes. These include System Lockdown, which prevents configuration changes that create vulnerabilities and expose sensitive data, SecureBoot and BIOS Recovery capabilities; and System Erase, which securely erases user data from drives and wipes non-volatile media when a server is retired.

Complementing the new PowerEdge offerings are new releases and enhancements in Dell EMC’s Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) portfolio, including VxRail Appliances, XC Series and VxRack Systems solutions. Note that deeper dives on these offerings can be found on the Virtual Geek blog written by Chad Sakac, president of Dell EMC’s Converged Platforms and Solutions Division (CPSD).

Disruptive transformation

A more radical approach to transformation can be found in the new “flexible consumption models” announced for Dell EMC’s enterprise and client solutions. In essence, Flexible Consumption enables a “100% OPEX” option to acquire, test and utilize the company’s data center and client solutions, and to pay as they use the systems. That significantly lowers acquisition barriers and eliminates large up-front capital expenditures (CAPEX) that can disrupt many businesses.

Moreover, Dell EMC is committing to rewarding customers committing to long-term contracts by lowering the cost of monthly payments declining 20% to 35% every year. For example, if a customer acquires an HCI appliance valued at $50,000, first year payments are approximately $1500 per month, second year payments are $1125 per month and third year payments are $850 per month.

That is likely to attract numerous CAPEX-sensitive customers but it also offers intriguing alternatives to public cloud services. For example, it is becoming increasingly obvious that hybrid cloud environments have become the norm for most businesses, particularly large enterprises. In addition, though public cloud service costs do tend to drop over time, cloud providers seldom (if ever) guarantee the degree or timing of those reductions.

In other words, Dell EMC’s “flexible consumption models” seem likely to cause significant disruption. In the case of the company’s competitors, that disruption is likely to be considered negative since it will require them to reconsider existing pricing models or risk losing their own customers. But for organizations considering or pursuing digital transformation, Dell EMC’s pricing disruption will result in new, attractively priced pathways for flexibly acquiring and benefitting from innovative new technologies.

Final analysis

Evolution happens whether you believe in the concept or not. However, in the case of businesses, consciously embracing evolutionary concepts and efforts often results in achieving related benefits more quickly than they might accrue by passive means.

That is an essential point at Dell EMC World 2017, including the “REAL-IZE” catchword and messages around digital transformation. There are obvious competitive benefits that the company hopes to achieve if these messages resonate with customers. But messaging without substance tends to suffer in markets populated by knowledgeable consumers and wily competitors.

What separates Dell EMC’s message from the pack here are the company’s longstanding, continuing, successful experiences in technologically-enabled self-transformation. Coming from some vendors, “digital transformation” would be little more than empty rhetoric. Coming from Dell EMC, it translates to: “Do as we have done. Achieve what we have achieved.”

© 2017 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.