I’m still at Dell Technology World this week and watching Jeff Clarke’s keynote. As CEO Michael Dell moves on to become more of a statesman, Clarke, vice chairman, products and operations, is moving in to increasingly run the company. This is an interesting transition because the two men are close personal friends, reminiscent of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, but unlike those two men, who were very different, Clarke and Dell are far more similar in background and focus. This is the second time Michael Dell has attempted to move on and, this time, his choice of a successor is obviously far more measured. I’m not anticipating a problem.
These are the major points he made in his talk.
Matching Tools to Employees
Clarke opened talking about how tools are important to millennials and that the clear majority of them will choose or change jobs based on the tools they are given. I find these discoveries interesting because back in the 1980s, I watched my own company churn engineers at 200 percent per year because they refused to give them the tools they wanted. Then, after I left, I watched that firm fail. I know how the industry lost the connection between workers and their tools and am pleased that virtually every major company has come around to the idea that matching tools to the people who use them is far more important to productivity and employee satisfaction than the old “one size fits all” approach was to cost savings.
Clarke spoke about the emergence of real-time decision making surrounding hundreds of billions of new devices and sensors in the Internet of Things. His example was his Ford F250 and as that moves to self-driving, how important the lack of latency will be.
Public to Private Cloud Transformation
This has been circulating the industry for a few months. Apparently, much of the activity Dell is tracking, and I’ve heard similar things from other firms, is that it is moving away from the public cloud and back to private cloud services. Now, this is generally for the largest firms, which find that not only at this scale is the private cloud cheaper, but they are better able to manage and secure the result. Hybrid cloud remains the most common standard and this appears to be more of a rebalancing of the priorities as work loads and costs are better understood.
This is something that was also covered by Pat Gelsinger in his talk last night. Networking and storage have joined servers as software-defined platforms. Dell’s hyperconverged infrastructure is still the gold standard, though I miss the old VCE effort which, at one time, defined the industry.
AI and Machine Learning
This is the area where massive amounts of investment are going from inside companies like Dell and going forward in the companies they serve. This will likely define the competitive nature of companies in the future. Dell is deploying the technology in manufacturing and supply chain and the result has sharply reduced costs, increased quality, and improved logistics efficiency significantly. They have applied this to the design of precision workstations, improving performance a several times.
PowerEdge R840 R940xe
Clarke announced the launch of two new servers targeted at deep learning and that these servers are setting records in deep learning workloads. The performance increases are percentages but multiples of their predecessors. This apparently reflects the beginning of deep learning products being used to develop their successors. It won’t be long until these things learn how to build themselves. We are seeing even more advancement with 3D printers but imagine what will happen when the two technologies have combined.
REO Grand Pacific Corporation
Moving to customer examples, the first one is a railroad company. (Back story, Clarke is a railroad hobbyist and has an impressive large-scale steam train set that occupies most of his back yard.) This is an interesting customer because railroads have long been thought to be unprofitable and excessively regulated cost centers. They are apparently using Dell technology to massively improve efficiency and change the railroad from being on life support to being once again able to invest in their future.
McLaren Technologies Group
Last year, Jaguar was featured at the show and the showcase car was the iPace, which I ordered. This year, it is McLaren and they pulled a beautiful blue roadster on stage. My wife is going to be really, really pissed. Fortunately, it was the entry-level car and I’m up to my armpits in sports cars at the moment. Anyway, they spoke to how important data is to their race and production car efforts and how important securing that data has become. By working with Dell, they were able to execute a major business transformation, which now connects digitally the car driver, engineer, pit crew, team leader, and analysts into a collaborative group. This covers the development of the race cars and the race itself. This immediately solved what was a six-week delay between those developing a new car and what was being learned on the track, massively improving the competitiveness of the team. They used applied AI to help prioritize what needs to be done next.
It is particularly interesting that they have taken this learning and applied it to health care. Using sensors on a patient and similar collaborative and AI capability, they can showcase more effective cures more quickly.
They had a nice Alienware demo. A lot of the folks in the audience are gamers and Alienware is one of Dell’s early acquisition successes.
NVMe – PowerMax
Clarke transitioned into enterprise-class products for the back office. This is a new area for Clarke and clearly an area he is learning. He transitioned to the explanation nicely, focusing on the Flash dominance that EMC has traditionally enjoyed and this new higher performance memory. This was a PowerMax showcase and clearly a massively important effort for the company.
Performance like this is becoming a requirement for machine learning solutions, often cutting the time needed to make decisions to fractions of what they were with earlier Flash technology.
This is a new small form modular software-defined blended converged solution. It is targeting loads like blockchain, where proximity of all major components and physical size are important. This is a brand-new, ground-up design that was envisioned to showcase Dell’s software-defined everything vision. Apparently, this is teasing the launch of this product, which will happen sometime later in the year. From what I can see, this appears to be the closest thing to completely rethinking the server so far this year.
Wrapping Up: Solid Succession Appears in Place at Dell
Clarke did nice work, and appeared to have a good grasp of the breadth of products and solutions that Dell Technologies now has. He has always presented well, and the topics were entertaining and had decent content, with elements of vision and actual product interwoven into the talk.
In the end, I think Dell is in good hands with Clarke and so are its customers, something I didn’t feel the last time that Michael Dell attempted to shift responsibilities.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+