Dell’s CEO Michael Dell (pictured) and COO Jeff Clark have anticipated the biggest threat to Dell’s future and created an impressive response during last week’s Dell Technologies World. During the virtual conference, the company featured Amy Purdy, a double amputee Olympian and Dancing with the Stars alum, who spoke about turning challenges into opportunities — a theme that can be applied to Dell’s approach to APEX, its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform.
The relationship between Purdy’s life challenges and Dell’s pivot to address the cloud threat is fascinating because, just a few years ago, a previous Dell Technologies World speaker predicted the robotics-led future of the technology market — a prediction that many Dell decision makers seemed to have ignored until now. This time Dell is ahead of the curve and ready to execute on Purdy’s message.
Also read: Dell Extends As-a-Service Ambitions
A few years ago, I’d watched Amy Purdy on Dancing With The Stars, but I didn’t know her back story at the time. In her late teens, Purdy contracted a severe illness that cost her her spleen, kidneys, and legs below the knee. The illness defined her future and had a huge impact on her eventual attitude.
Dell Technologies was also faced with future challenges. The emergence of the cloud as an alternative to on-premise hardware and the genuine possibility that cloud providers would build their hardware for server and client solutions could have put Dell out of business. Instead of ignoring this problem or shifting to become the next Amazon, Google, or Microsoft, Dell created a solid alternative for the web with Dell APEX.
The Value of Dell APEX
Dell’s APEX seems like a switch from traditional sales methods to a more old-school IBM-like model where you pay as you go. In many ways, it compares to the future where everything is a service, and the IBM past where, well, everything was a service. It took nearly 40 years to realize that the model that gave IBM market dominance from the 1950s to the 1990s is the model the market still prefers.
When fighting a technology wave, the best path for the defending vendor is providing a good enough alternative so that your customers don’t ride the new wave. Dell’s offering fully embraces the concept of the cloud by using a mix of on-premise and cloud resources all offered under an as-a-service financial construct. It addresses two of the more visible cloud concerns — security and control — while providing the ease of use, OpEx, and automation benefits the cloud promises.
As the entrenched vendor, Dell doesn’t have to have a better offering than cloud providers, but it has to be good enough so that customers lose their interest in the cost and unknown risk of the new platform. IT is known for an unwillingness to change. Dell provides a solution, APEX, that allows them to argue they are providing most of the cloud benefits without subjecting the company to vendor and IT changes. This change could render both obsolete and result in risks that IT cannot mitigate but for which IT would still be responsible.
What Dell is proposing is far less disruptive but still shifts most of the spend on hardware to OpEx, providing an easier path to pass the resulting costs to the divisions and employees using the service.
The Purdy Parallel
In speaking about her life, Amy Purdy showcased how adversity led to outcomes that have defined her and shaped her resilience. Dell’s Project Apex mirrored this, given it resulted from a market change that could have caught many technology vendors unprepared. Instead of complaining about or directly fighting this change with rhetoric, Dell embraced the new related customer needs while preserving the security and control advantages their solutions generally enjoyed.
There is an old saying, “what does not kill you makes you stronger”, that applies to both Purdy and Dell’s moves. It underscores that sometimes the only difference between success and failure is how you perceive and deal with the result.