Dell Focuses On End-To-End Solutions, Shuns Box Pushing

A spate of acquisitions and steady investment in organic development has helped Dell become less of a box pusher and more of a complete solution provider.

That's the message from Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of the company that bears his name, and several key Dell executives who spoke at a press and analyst conference on Wednesday, the day before the Dell World conference was scheduled to begin.

Dell and his executive team previewed the key themes of the Dell World conference, including a commitment to provide a wide range of customer solutions related to enterprise, services, mobility, and the cloud.

Dell said his company started as a product company, but changed in response to customer requirements. However, he said, unlike a major competitor he declined to name but was understood to be Hewlett-Packard, Dell the company is maintaining its PC business.

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"So you'll see a big focus on end-to-end solutions," he said. "We've become an end-to-end solution provider. And yes, we still care about the client device."

HP is currently in the process of determining whether or not to sell or spin off its Personal Systems Group (PSG) business.

The PC business is a growing business, making it an important part of being a provider of total customer solutions, Dell said. "If you're not in the client devices, you're not able to offer end-to-end solutions," he said.

Dell said his company has made several acquisitions in the past 18 months that help it provide business solutions and not just products, including Kace, which provides software for managing customer devices; Boomi, which provides technology to connect legacy and cloud applications; and managed security technology provider SecureWorks.

Dell the company also has over $16 billion in cash and investments that it can use to continue that push, Dell said. "This gives us the ability to continue to grow via investments and acquisitions," he said.

Dell said that his company looks at a potential 250 acquisitions per year.

Dave Johnson, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Dell, said that his company's acquisition focus is on companies who can add value to customers, and which preferably offer disruptive technology.

As a result, Johnson said, Dell is less likely to acquire a large headline-making company and more likely to acquire a smaller company.

One area important to Dell is mobility, a market where Dell does not provide the mobile devices but instead focuses on helping customers build the infrastructure they need to handle those devices, Michael Dell said.

The mobility market is being driven mainly by consumer-oriented devices, which means Dell focuses on the solution and not the device, Dell said. His company is helping customers manage a wide variety of products whether produced by Dell or its competitors.

Steve Felice, president of consumer, small and medium business for Dell, said that Dell was very prudent in its launch of such consumer products as mobile phones and tablet PCs, and that, even those products did not enjoy market success, they taught the company the importance of the mobility market.

"We've learned it's the ecosystem that's important," Felice said.

Felice said that commercial customers are watching the mobility market, but are beset by multiple issues including how to secure data when accessed by mobile users, how to manage information in mobile environments, how to manage multiple device types, and how to ensure interoperability among users.

"We see a lot of opportunities in this market going forward," he said.

Next: Dell Investments In Solutions Not Just Going To Acquisitions

Dell is investing in a number of areas to help it be a provider of end-to-end solutions to business customers, said Brad Anderson, senior vice president of Dell's Enterprise Solutions Group.

Dell is working to help customers develop efficient physical and virtual infrastructures, and is not depending on acquisitions alone, Anderson said. The company this year has added over 700 software and solutions engineers outside of those it got with acquisitions. "So you'll see us driving across more solutions workloads," he said.

Dell does not care if customers want their IT infrastructures in the form of blade systems, rack system, or clouds, and certainly does not want customers to feel they need to rip-and-replace their existing infrastructures to move forward, Anderson said.

"Unlike the other folks, we don't feel the need to be form-factor specific ... You're going to see us driving much more higher up into the (customer) stack," he said.

Steve Schuckenbrock, president of Dell services, said that his company has no desire to see customers locked into a specific vendor's offerings.

Dell's design principles include offering systems that serve every layer of customer requirements, provide leading or at least competitive capabilities at each layer, and help customers manage each layer, Schuckenbrock said.

Within those principles, Dell is focused on making sure the best technology for the customer comes from Dell, Schuckenbrock said. "But we won't take away from customer choice," he said.