Dell's headquarters are located in Round Rock, TX which is a short drive from Austin, being the biggest IT vendor hailing from the Austin area, I, as part of Tech Field Day #7, had the wonderful chance to visit their huge campus and sit down in their Executive Briefing Center with some of the most interesting tech heads of the industry, many of which joined the Dell family by means of acquisition during the acquisition spree that Dell sparked in 2008 with the purchase of Equallogic.
First off we started with Carter George, Executive Director for the Dell Storage Strategy, that joined the company after the Ocarina acquisition (where he was VP of Products) last year. Carter is an entertaining presenter and showed us what Dell has in mind for its evolution path from being a mere box mover to a full-featured Enterprise IT innovator in the storage space.
This slide depicts all the acquisitions that Dell made in the last three years, they started with Equallogic back in 2008 acquiring the hottest storage startup at the time, up until the small RNA networks that has been "borged" last June. If you notice, 4 out of 7 acquisition were in the storage startup space: Equallogic, Exanet, Ocarina and Compellent. To me this say a lot about how important is storage these days to Dell.
The leitmotiv here is "Fluid Data". This tagline, that originally was used by Compellent (the term was coined by one of the earlier Italian Compellent customer), has been adopted for all the storage lineup, bringing the fluid concept to the whole Dell storage ecosystem,
by integrating all the acquired tech in a single common platform: Ocarina will be the dedupe engine, Exanet will be the scale-out NAS engine, RNA networks will provide an interesting cache coherency technology to the mix while both Equallogic and Compellent have a different targeted automatic tiering solution for traditional block storage.
Small digression, during our Tech Field Day presentation we had the chance to get a sneak peek at the new Equallogic models that were announced a few weeks ago, you can check out these posts from fellow TFD delegates Matt Vogt and Roger Lund.
We can also add Caringo to the mix, which is an object storage provider from which Dell OEM its DX series that looks pretty good on paper and I'm betting on a coming acquisition of their technology from Dell as they're lacking an in-house object storage proposition.
This sounds pretty exciting on paper, and it looks like Dell is putting a gigantic effort in this transition from being an OEM partner (they used to resell EMC gear) to a proper Storage player, and the latest IDC numbers show that Dell emerged from the "Others" category up to the fourth place in the competitive "External disk storage systems" arena. This is encouraging even though it's not an easy task, many have failed at the integration game before (see the Spinnaker / NetApp saga) and their mountain is possibly even higher than NetApp's so I guess that we'll just need to wait and see.
Aside from the storage battlefield, Dell is pouring a lot of money in the cloud bandwagon, they invested in Openstack, a billion dollar in Datacenter spending for their own Cloud offering (based on VMware's vCloud) and they started dipping their toes in the stack arena with the vStart bundle aimed at the SMB/SME segment (I already wrote about vStart in the past).
And talking about cloud-scale deployments, Dell is continuing their effort in datacenter energy efficiency with their new "Fresh Air" solution, that for the "unwashed" means to run your DC equipment at a higher temperature than what is usually done, by having products (servers, storage, switches) designed to run at a room temperature up to 45°C (113F), with minimal chilling equipment or with just a conditioned "fresh air" coming from the outside. This is, in my opinion, a double win situation where you can spend less in operational expenditures (less cooling equipment) and be more fault tolerant in the event of a chiller equipment failure (and you know that it happens more often than not).
Dell is increasingly becoming a real, 360° degrees, enterprise storage player, with real IP and R&D in their products, this is exciting news from a customer perspective because as competition increase every other vendor need to push the envelope farthest than the others and this ultimately drive innovation and lead to more choices for the customers, but before starting this rush Dell should focus on delivering its promise (especially on storage).
DISCLAIMER: Dell was a sponsor of Tech Field Day 7, and as such was partly responsible for my airfare and hotel accommodations. In addition, they provided lunch and the use of their facility for our sessions. Dell rewarded all the delegates with a small backpack and a TFD shirt. Dell did not ask for, nor did they receive any consideration for this article. Cinetica, the company for which I work for, is a Dell premier partner but the opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.