Resiliency is an essential quality in the ever-changing technology industry. Since its inception in 1984, Dell has proved its resiliency many times, reshaping its strategy and offerings to stay ahead of the technology curve.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas. This year’s event coincided with the latest tectonic shift in the industry: the recent, exponential acceleration of AI, fueled by generative AI—which is poised to reshape the technology world yet again.
Both Michael Dell and Chuck Whitten, Dell’s co-chief operating officer, discussed the pressure on companies to apply generative AI securely and ethically, the challenges of operating edge infrastructure at scale, and the need for embedding security in core solutions. And of course—Dell’s strategy to help them on this journey. Throughout the event, Dell executives discussed the transformative power of AI, both for individual productivity and organizational-level advancements, and its plans to build AI into Dell products to help customers reap the benefits.
Here are my top takeaways on Dell’s latest strategies to refresh and stay in synch with AI and other top trends in the industry.
Multi-cloud by design
As a leading computing infrastructure provider, it’s not surprising that Dell announced new, managed services for a hybrid, multi-cloud world.
In his keynote, Dell vice chairman and co-COO Jeff Clarke noted that the “multi-cloud world must be a single distributed system that is agile, elastic, dynamic and easily consumed.”
To that end, Dell announced its largest expansion of Dell APEX, its multi-cloud platform, designed to enable seamless integration across public and private clouds and edge environments. Built on a common storage layer that connects the cloud, workflows, and data, Dell APEX Storage for Public Cloud is well-positioned for burgeoning AI data storage requirements.
Dell APEX Storage for Public Cloud brings a collection of new offerings spanning block, file and data protection into the APEX portfolio, including the introduction of APEX Navigator, which provides the “connective tissue” to manage storage across AWS and Microsoft Azure clouds, and monitor across public cloud and their on-premises systems.
Dell also plans to expand these capabilities to other public clouds. Working with Microsoft, VMWare, and RedHat, Dell is also bringing Dell APEX Cloud Platforms to market. In addition, the vendor plans to embed AI capabilities into this portfolio to provide customers with further insights.
Dell APEX—aka Dell as-a-service
Like other hardware vendors, Dell has seen the ascendance of the as-a-service market in the software sector—and is betting that the mass market will increasingly see the benefits of this model for procuring and managing hardware. Dell APEX, which Dell initially introduced in 2020, is Dell’s moniker for solutions that it offers as a service. Dell APEX solutions are designed to provide customers with more choices, enable them to buy through easy-to-use commerce models—from flexible subscriptions to usage-based consumption—and #help them to optimize their cloud environments.
Dell shared that active Dell APEX customers are growing over 100% year-over-year. Building on its existing portfolio, the vendor announced:
- Dell APEX Compute, to deliver scalable, secure bare metal compute resources to support customers’ choice of operating system or hypervisor for the virtualized or container-based environment. This offering is available through a predictable monthly subscription with three, four, and five-year term options and simple order configuration through the Dell APEX Console.
- Dell APEX PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) enables enterprises to deploy the latest client technology with predictable costs. Enterprises can customize offerings across the entire PC portfolio—including devices, software, and services, with flexible one- to five-year terms and the ability to scale up or down as needed.
In addition, Dell recently debuted Dell APEX Managed Device Service (AMDS), which I wrote about in detail here. This service is designed to provide customers with an accessible, affordable, and flexible subscription service to manage, secure and support PCs.
Teaming with Nvidia to help customers create custom AI models and infrastructure
Nvidia president Jensen Huang joined the event via a pre-recorded video, in which he said that “nothing is nearly this amazing, nearly this impactful” as generative AI. Because it’s easy to use and can understand almost every input, he predicted that companies will use it to revolutionize their businesses.
Dell announced that it is teaming with Nvidia on Project Helix, a platform designed to enable enterprises of all sizes to build and run their custom AI models. Jeff Clarke posited that many large companies will want to use their proprietary data in AI models, but may be concerned about security and performance issues, as well as surprise bills when they “run up the meter.” Project Helix will provide them with a blueprint, expertise, pre-built tools, and the Dell and Nvidia infrastructure and software they need and provide faster performance as the amount of data flowing through their AI models grows.
However, at this early stage, many of the leading public cloud vendors are providing customers with assurances that they will safeguard proprietary data that companies run through public AI models—saying that they’ve put the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure that their public AI models won’t retain, remember or reuse private data.
Since generative AI has taken off so quickly, most of these large customers are probably only just starting to figure out their AI strategies—including where they want their AI operations to reside. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, Dell is betting that many large customers will want to build their own models but will need a turnkey approach to make this viable.
Taking the edge off edge computing
Dell has been a big proponent of the benefits of edge computing for a long time. It announced Dell NativeEdge (formerly Project Frontier), an edge operations software platform designed to reduce complexity and increase scalability with remote management, multi-cloud connectivity, and secure device onboarding.
Dell NativeEdge provides automated workflows to simplify installation and management of hardware, software and applications, enabling users to simultaneously deploy a new edge solution to thousands of devices across multiple locations. The platform is open by design, so customers can plug-in software applications, tools, and IoT frameworks from third-party vendors.
This should provide huge time savings benefits in industries from agriculture to retail—or any industry that is distributing more of its computing closer to the physical location of users and/or data sources. By eliminating the need for repetitive implementation tasks at every location, and providing users with a unified way to monitor and manage them remotely, Dell NativeEdge can eliminate a lot of tedious, error-prone, and time-consuming work.
Keeping pace with the evolving future of work
Dell is integrating new collaboration, device management, and AI capabilities into client devices, tailored to employee personas and their evolving needs as the future of work continues to evolve.
Among other things, Dell highlighted its recent client announcements including new PCs built for hybrid work, and new Precision workstations for AI development. It also showcased its Secured Component Verification (SCV) offering, designed to tamper-proof the PC supply chain.
These new clients underscore that Dell has succeeded (in my opinion) in building the PC hardware that’s needed to compete against Apple. However, to rival the vertically-integrated Apple experience, it also needs to continue to push ahead to provide a more seamless experience between its PCs and Microsoft Windows. Dell noted that it’s currently collaborating with its long-time partner on enhanced security, next-gen intelligence, and seamless integration between Windows 11 and Dell devices.
In 2024, Dell Technologies will turn 40 years old. It has come a long way since Michael Dell started building PCs out of his dorm room. Successfully navigating through the ups and downs of the industry, Dell has grown into a $102.3B company (FY23) and is ranked #34 on the Fortune 500.
Dell Technologies World provided an excellent view into the company’s strategies to steer through the AI revolution and other key industry trends. From desktop to data center, Dell’s announcements and plans highlighted its commitment to building these new technologies into its offerings in a way that enables customers to take advantage of them with less heavy lifting.
© SMB Group, 2023
Note: Dell is an SMB Group client.