Once upon a time, the running joke in enterprise technology was that even if using a really compelling new product might deliver a competitive advantage, no one ever got fired for buying IBM. Dell Technologies now appears to want that mantle for itself.
The first Dell EMC World event since Michael Dell engineered one of the most complex and expensive deals in tech history kicked off Monday in Las Vegas, and Dell and fellow executives described a comfortable, familiar world of IT based around servers, storage, and networking managed by in-house professionals. The company made several announcements of new gear, but the overall goal was to convince tech buyers that despite the surge of interest in enterprise cloud computing, building and maintaining your own infrastructure is still way cool.
“Cloud is not a place, but a way of doing information technology,” said Dell in his opening remarks highlighting the scale of Dell Technologies.
The conglomerate — which includes PCs from Dell, servers and storage from Dell EMC, virtualization software from VMware, and cloud services through Pivotal and Virtustream — does indeed offer an impressive array of products and services for companies that want to maintain their own technology on-premise. TechRepublic has a good rundown of the hardware-related announcements Dell unveiled at the event, and Bloomberg has a separate story on Dell’s corporate venture capital division coming out of “stealth” after having invested in over 70 companies.
Dell has a minor point, in that a lot of modern data center management and application development practices like containerization and devops get described as “cloud.” This is probably how the term “private cloud” came about, in that you can apply a lot of the breakthroughs in modern software development to servers that you own and control.
But the “cloud” really is a place: it can be found in the managed data centers of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Bluemix, and others. Nearly all the growth in information technology spending over the next several years will flow to the public cloud, according to IDC.
Michael Dell, of course, knows all this. The company was smart enough to tout its relationships with big cloud providers across all the as-a-service acronyms, and Virtustream and Pivotal are options for certain customers who want to outsource workload management. Yet the massive financial engineering project that he undertook to create Dell Technologies mostly hangs on the notion that enterprise customers who want to run workloads in house — for reasons that may or may not make sense — will buy gear from the conglomerate instead of moving their data and workloads into the public cloud.
So, Dell Technologies is a bet that enterprise computing won’t move as quickly or as fully into the cloud as many people believe it will. Three companies that have thrived in the period after the decline of the first iteration of Dell Computers — Amazon, Microsoft, and Google — clearly see the world differently.