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Dell Technologies World 2019 Keynote: Technology Optimism

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I go to this Dell Technologies World event every year and it is fascinating how it has changed. It used to be a comparatively small event. Now, post EMC merger, it is huge. I also attended EMC’s event every year and it interests me how these two events have merged. It has the size of the EMC event, but it still has a lot of the feel of the smaller event. For instance, CEO Michael Dell opened talking to the audience, not at it. What I mean is that he made the audience a part of the talk.

Dell opens with a very positive statement on GDP growth and some of the incoming technologies like 3D-printed houses, drone delivery, and autonomous cars as “table stakes,” shifting to some of the medical advances like overcoming blindness and infant mortality as the big coming gains. Dell argues that while technology can do harm, it can also provide for better lives on a global scale. He argues that this is why Dell is in this business, to drive a better world.

This is one of the unique things a founder can do: Talk about the bigger picture and be believable because they built the company. This is something subsequent CEOs struggle with these days because so much focus is on their excessive compensation plans, which makes them appear disingenuous.

Draper Labs

Dell opens showcasing Draper Labs, which provided a video that showcased how it is using satellites, often the size of toasters, to determine where problems exist and how to better fix them. This ranges from scanning after disasters to exploring for as-yet unfound sources of clean water and other resources to assure the world not only progresses but progresses in a way that benefits the populations that live on it.

Every Company Needs to Reimagine Itself

I agree with this comment – every comment needs to reimagine itself -- because often firms become locked into what they are and miss what they should be. Technology can provide the data, analytics and recommendations as to action that can help companies do this. Dell reminded me of something Thomas Watson, Jr. at IBM once said: “Be willing to change everything but who you are.” It appears Dell has embraced this concept.

He uses autonomous cars as an example of why these new emerging markets need solutions that encompass solutions from the edge to the cloud. These cars will certainly have built-in AIs, but they will rely on AIs positioned near them, often in other cars and vehicles, as well as AIs in the cloud, which are constantly monitoring the vehicle and the events occurring around it.

He argues that only Dell has the breadth to offer something like “Dell Technologies Cloud,” something it just announced, which goes to this requirement of edge-to-edge computing. One of his strongest arguments is on security and he highlights Dell resources like RSA and SecureWorks as examples for why Dell has the unique capabilities that firms will need to operate in this new, highly connected and very highly distributed world.

Bank of America

Bank of America is showcased as one of the most technology forward financial institutions in the market. It is trying to balance use and accessibility, trust and safety. Company reps spoke to how they are using Dell’s technology to better secure the bank while making it easier to work with. They argued that the bank’s cloud strategy is expected to keep it on the leading edge of its industry and they anticipate that this will drive success long term. They rely on Dell not only to help supply it but to provide it with intelligence on where things are going, so the bank can can better anticipate market changes in its space and use these changes as advantages rather than the more typical disaster.

Jeff Clarke

Jeff Clarke, vice chairman, products and operations, basically runs Dell day to day, and I’ve known him for some time. He’s a solid player who loves the company as much as if he’d created it. The heir apparent, Clarke has blossomed into his new role. Given the number of successors I’ve seen fail over the years, including Dell’s last successor, Clarke has been a shining example of how to transition into a leadership role.

Clarke spoke to what IT needs to do, and is doing, to embrace the transition to data- and analytics-driven decisions and how this function is now critically entwined with the technology market like never before. While he covered this quickly, I think he meant that technology companies are aggressively and much more comprehensively using the data captures from IT to drive future products and initiatives. The level of coordination between firms like Dell and its IT customers is unprecedented in any market and this will only increase going forward.

Pat Gelsinger

Clarke brought on stage Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Dell company VMware. I’ve known him for some time, as well. (Gelsinger really should have been the CEO of Intel, but the company treated him so badly that he’ll never go back.) Gelsinger has revitalized VMware and turned it into a force to be reckoned with. He and Clarke argued that employees increasingly are specifying what tools they want, and IT still needs to assure these tools are secure and manageable. They are announcing the “Dell Technologies Unified Workspace,” a new offering assuring that employees get what they want, and that IT gets an easily managed result that also meets the highest security and deployment requirements, all powered by the cloud. This, apparently, is available now.

Dell Technologies Unified Workspace appears to be a very aggressive, evolving, solution to the problems facing IT, ranging from BYOD to the need to support multiple clouds, changing technology landscapes, changing regulatory requirements, and structural changes in the company itself. The goal of this offering was to not only address today’s workloads but the potential workloads of tomorrow. One of the biggest driving requirements for this offering is to be massively flexible and massively automated so that the firm isn’t constrained but enabled for future change instead.

This is wrapped up in the argument that it is “time for a better cloud,” taking us back to the Dell Technologies Cloud, which they argue is hybrid done right. The goal is to provide a user experience so that the user doesn’t know or care where the work is done; it just gets done seamlessly with minimal IT impact.

Gelsinger spoke to another new offering, code-named Project Dimension (now called the VMware Cloud), which is a fully managed, on-premise, IT in a box solution coming to market this year. It is an on-premise, cloud-like experience. What is interesting about this is that the “cloud” doesn’t scale well to the very largest companies because they can buy hardware and services at the same price as cloud providers. So, by eliminating this unnecessary middleman, they can reduce costs, gain greater control, and better assure themselves the security of the result. They then did a demo showcasing that the user interface for this offering was virtually the same for this on-premise solution and the firm’s external cloud resources. The audience appears to love this thing. This collects software, hardware, support and services into a single offering, simplifying invoicing and vastly reducing the headaches of managing a lot of diverse services that don’t interoperate well and that invoice separately. This appears to be a massive simplification of the concept of the “hybrid cloud.”

Satya Nadella

Clarke left the stage and Michael Dell has returned, opening with the comment that this (what they just announced) showcases what Dell Technologies is capable of. He is now talking about how to drive interoperability between leading companies, bringing Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella up on stage. Nadella has been kicking butt of late, with Microsoft crossing into the trillion-dollar valuation range. Nadella is a huge cloud advocate and Microsoft Azure is his baby.

Nadella expressed his fascination at how companies are embracing digital transformation and he is announcing a partnership with VMware for a combined offering from both companies. This is kind of fascinating because VMware and Microsoft (Azure VMware solutions) are huge hypervisor competitors and the old Microsoft would have never done this. But the new Microsoft is all about interoperability and doing what customers want, and customers want interoperability partnerships like this because they hate to play mediator between two uncooperative vendors.

Nadella spoke to two other announcements, VMware Workspace ONE integration with Office 365, and VMware extending the new Windows Virtual Desktop to provide what appears to be a far stronger cloud-based desktop solution than either company could have done alone. (Before Nadella took over Microsoft, something like this would have been impossible to execute.) Nadella correctly argues that partnerships like this provide customers with the kind of solution that they have long said they wanted, a vendor-bridging solution that just works out of the box. This isn’t just VMware on Microsoft’s cloud but Azure capabilities on VMware’s on-premise solutions so that both together seamlessly provide a similar set of capabilities and the user isn’t disrupted by the ever more minimized differences.

As a side note, the best partnerships are those where both parties benefit equally. This appears to be one of those announcements.

Karen Quintos

Karen Quintos, chief customer officer, is one of my favorite people at Dell because she is not only one of the most powerful people at Dell, she has been focused like a laser on driving a better customer, partner and supplier experience globally. Quintos spoke to a young, active girl who had a congenital limb disorder and was born without an arm. Deloitte worked with Dell to create a unique prosthetic design process so that they can print at scale for people around the world. They then partnered with eNABLE, an organization that focuses on providing prosthetics for emerging countries, driving down cost and scaling up production to help children (and others) globally. They honored the team that created this solution on stage.

Quintos went on to talk about the number of times an individual with an idea has been able to work with Dell and others to solve unique problems like this. Michael Dell, who remained on stage, once again pointed out that these were the things he kind of lives for: making a difference and making the world a better place.

Wrapping Up: More Collaboration Going Forward

One of the big changes in the industry is a shift away from engineering-driven product and services development to customer-focused development. This was always the goal but the ability to collect, analyze and advise at scale has always been problematic. The rise of AI as an analytical tool at scale has resulted in an industry shift, particularly in the tech industry, but in other areas as well. Executives now have an alternative to their gut and the loudest engineer on their staff regarding funding, partnering and making acquisitions. The result is far more focus on what customers want and it is driving massive changes in every technology company I cover. Dell is arguably the biggest in that group and, based on this keynote, it is all in. It is interesting to note that EMC was far ahead of Dell in this effort when the companies merged, and the blending has allowed the combined firm to gain the benefits.

The partnership with two heavy competitors, VMware and Microsoft, is just one of many examples of things that were impossible in the last decade that are a matter of course this decade. We are seeing a level of collaboration that I’ve never seen before. I wonder if this isn’t somehow a partial backlash to what we are seeing on the political stage as the industry sees the disasters that the lack of collaboration and cooperation create and are partially recognizing there is a far better path. Regardless, IT has always wanted vendors to better collaborate and we saw that in spades at the opening of Dell Technologies World.

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