By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. September 12, 2016
Pushing hard for competitive advantage is hardly unusual in business. In fact, it’s commonplace for many companies to attempt to advance their own interests by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about their competitors’ strategies and efforts. Common or not, some of these exercises go to extremes.
A case in point: Ever since Dell announced its plan to buy EMC last October, HPE’s CEO Meg Whitman has tried to dump FUD onto the deal as if she were driving a manure spreader. Whitman decried the size and complexity of Dell’s plan, saying it would result in “chaos” and insinuated that financing the deal would “keep them from better serving their customers.”
Whitman also said that Dell is “getting bigger, leveraging up, and mostly doubling down on legacy technology. While our strategy is to get smaller.” In fact, Whitman claimed that HPE’s spin-offs and “spin-sales” of underperforming business units, including PCs, professional services and application software have placed it “two years ahead of the game.”
That’s strong stuff so it’s worth taking a look at organizations that literally aren’t buying it. Businesses, including HPE customers, aren’t just ignoring Whitman’s FUD. In many cases, they are actively purchasing solutions from Dell Technologies to replace their HPE data center gear.
The following is a profile of one such enterprise that I interviewed to discuss the business and technology challenges it faced, and why it decided to invest in Dell Technologies’ solutions. Please note that the representative I spoke with, a technical lead in the company’s IT organization, asked that its name and location not be disclosed for practical and competitive reasons. I’ve honored that request.
The customer, a Global 500 retailer with dozens of distribution centers and hundreds of stores, is facing numerous pressures. Those include managing increasingly complex IT and supply chain environments and contending with growing competition, especially from companies leveraging online, mobile and other non-traditional channels. As a result, the company has embraced a digital transformation effort to renew its IT infrastructure and related processes.
The technical challenges are significant. The company’s existing IT solutions were too big, cumbersome and slow to support the adaptive processes it envisioned. Expensive legacy systems comprised too large a part of the whole, and contributed to increasingly siloed compute, storage, networking and virtualization functions. Its IT infrastructure included a significant proportion of equipment from HPE, as well as other enterprise vendors.
Looking ahead, the company determined that a converged infrastructure platform would allow it to consolidate numerous applications and workloads. It also believes that converged infrastructure solutions would simplify its IT environment and management processes and measurably lower the overall impact and cost of potential risks to its business.
After initial study and research of four converged platforms, the company invited HPE and VCE (now Dell EMC) to a “bake-off” demonstrating the solutions they proposed. Following that process and some additional tire-kicking, it picked VCE’s Vblock as its converged platform of choice, then purchased and installed new systems in its primary data center.
Delivering the goods
Why choose Vblock? According to the customer, for both short and long term benefits. In the former case, the customer was impressed by VCE’s guarantee that the new pre-engineered, validated Vblock system would arrive at its facilities ready for commissioning and adding capacity within 6-7 weeks, far faster than what HPE could offer. That allowed the company to accelerate its digital transformation strategy.
The longer term benefits Vblocks offer are multi-dimensional. For one thing, they support numerous operational enhancements, including a simplified view of capacity and utilization that eases management tasks. The customer also cited the Release Certification Matrix (RCM) as a primary driver behind its choice. RCM is a service that automatically delivers documented, pre-tested, pre-validated firmware patches and other system updates to customers throughout a Vblock’s lifecycle.
Prior to working with VCE, the company’s update process was time consuming, inefficient and rarely up to date. RCM removes those problems and their associated risks, and updates are typically performed by junior admins who usually finish-up early. That frees senior administrators and system architects to focus on complex projects supporting digital transformation and core business processes.
Calculating the benefits
The new Vblocks have provided the customer notable material, scalable benefits. For example, since the systems were deployed, the company has increased the number of workloads it supports by over 10% and grown the number of virtual servers it employs by about 80%. The customer is also seeing significant savings on both smaller and larger workloads, resulting in TCO that is 25%+ lower than what HPE and other competitors projected.
Not surprisingly, the company’s Vblock experience sparked other engagements with VCE. In fact, it recently took possession of a new VxRack system to support its supply chain and distribution environment. The customer also believes that Dell brings “something new to the core of EMC” that will result in innovative hybrid cloud, and converged and hyperconverged solutions, along with opportunities to extend cost-effective compute and intelligence to the network edge.
Near the end of our discussion, the customer’s representative mentioned the critical role of IT in challenging, rapidly changing circumstances, and how important it is, “To make sure that whatever the business wants to do, IT will not be in the way.” The company’s adoption of Vblock and VxRack converged infrastructure solutions reflects the crucial, continuing role VCE, as part of Dell Technologies, will play in that process.
Actively spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt among competitors’ customers may qualify as common wisdom among some vendors. However, it can be easily overturned with superior offerings, negating any short term benefits FUD-happy executives and companies might capture.
It’s also a remarkably out-of-date mechanism to rely on in sophisticated, data-driven IT markets and among companies that need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Instead, as the case study presented here suggests, vendors are best served by developing offerings that support the critical business, computing and financial goals of their customers.
Since its founding in 2009, VCE has pursued just these sorts of solutions and services. The engagement with the enterprise described here, along with the Vblock and VxRack systems the customer purchased are good examples of why VCE enjoyed remarkable success as part of EMC, and why that is likely to continue with Dell Technologies.
© 2016 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.